|Bear Mountain State Park|
View of the Hudson River from Bear Mountain
|Location||New York, USA|
|Nearest city||Jones Point, New YorkNearest city: Jones Point, New York|
|Area||5,067 acres (20.51 km2)|
|Established||1913 Established: 1913|
|Governing body||Palisades Interstate Park Commission|
Bear Mountain State Park is located on the west side of the Hudson River in Orange and Rockland counties of New York. The 5,067-acre (20.51 km2) park offers biking, hiking, boating, picnicking, swimming, cross-country skiing, cross-country running, sledding and ice skating as well as a zoo, trailside museums, a hotel called Bear Mountain Inn, a carousel and a dining facility. Bear Mountain State Park is a separate entity from the adjacent Harriman State Park.
During the American Revolution when control of the Hudson River was viewed by the British as essential to dominating the American territories, the area that was to become the park saw several significant military engagements. In 1777 British troops routed Patriots at Fort Montgomery. Anthony Wayne's attack of the British fort at Stony Point moved colonial troops to the west of Bear Mountain.
In 1908 the State of New York announced plans to relocate Sing Sing Prison to Bear Mountain. Work was begun on the area near Highland Lake (renamed Hessian Lake) and in January 1909, the state purchased the 740-acre (3.0 km2) Bear Mountain tract. Conservationists, inspired by the work of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission lobbied successfully for the creation of the Highlands of the Hudson Forest Preserve. However, the prison project was continued.
Mary Averell Harriman, whose husband, Union Pacific Railroad president E. H. Harriman died in September of that year, offered the state another 10,000 acres (40 km2) and one million dollars toward the creation of a state park. George W. Perkins, with whom she had been working, raised another $1.5 million from a dozen wealthy contributors including John D. Rockefeller and J. Pierpont Morgan. New York state appropriated a matching $2.5 million and the state of New Jersey appropriated $500,000 to build the Henry Hudson Drive, (which would be succeeded by the Palisades Interstate Parkway in 1947).
Bear Mountain-Harriman State Park became a reality the following year when the prison was demolished and a dock built for steamboat excursion traffic; the following year a new West Shore Railroad station was built near the dock. In 1912, a replica of Henry Hudson's ship, the Half Moon was built and moored at the dock. Major William A. Welch was hired as Chief Engineer, whose work for the park would win him recognition as the father of the state park movement (and later, the national park movement).
The park opened on July 5, 1913. Steamboats alone brought more than 22,000 passengers to the park that year. Camping at Hessian Lake (and later at Lake Stahahe) was immensely popular; the average stay was eight days and was a favorite for Boy Scouts. By 1914 it was estimated that more than a million people a year were coming to the park. The Bear Mountain Inn was completed the following year; rooms were $4.50 and included three meals.
Winter sports were added in 1922 and ski jumping was added in 1928. The latter drew big crowds as recently as the 1960s; on February 11, 1962, 35,120 spectators turned out to watch the New York State Junior Ski Jumping Championship. More jump competitions were held at Bear Mountain than at any other ski jump in the United States; however the ski jumps have not been used since 1990.
The first section of the Appalachian Trail, taking hikers from Bear Mountain south to the Delaware Water Gap, opened on October 7, 1923 and served as a pattern for the other sections of the trail developed independently by local and regional organizations and later by the federal government. The Bear Mountain Zoo, through which the Appalachian Trail passes, is the lowest elevation on the 2,100-mile (3,400 km) trail.
In the 1930s the federal government under Franklin D. Roosevelt was developing plans to preserve the environment as part of the Depression-era public works programs; the Civil Works Administration and the Works Progress Administration, spent five years on projects at the park. Pump houses, reservoirs, sewer systems, vacation lodges, bathrooms, homes for park staff, storage buildings and an administration building were all created through these programs.
A scenic drive to the top of Bear Mountain, called Perkins Memorial Drive, was constructed almost entirely by hand. Although powered construction equipment and newer easier-to-work-with building materials were available for use at the time, planners wanted the buildings constructed with the same principles and designs used to build the original lodge in 1915. Workers used stone, boulders and timber to construct the new buildings.
Bear Mountain also regularly hosts cross country running events during the fall season. High school cross country teams compete on the 3.0-mile (4.8 km) course, which is comprised mostly of paved walkways. Bear Mountain is the location for the County's Championship race.
Bear Mountain remains popular today, and welcomes more visitors annually than Yellowstone National Park.
The park is referenced in the Bob Dylan song "Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues". Some believe Kate Smith wrote her 1931 theme song “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain” while at the Bear Mountain Inn. If so, the mountain in question might be Anthony's Nose which lies to the east across the Hudson River.