Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park
The park commemorates “The Cradle of American Industry."
The Great Falls of the Passaic River, located in Paterson, N.J., is the site of an early, successful initiative to establish a “national manufactory” in post-revolutionary America. As part of the Mercantilist vision of Alexander Hamilton, the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Paterson become America’s earliest planned industrial city with the incorporation of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.) in 1791. The 77-foot-high Great Falls (the second highest waterfall in the East after Niagara Falls), provided water power to cotton mills through a network of narrow canals or raceways. In 1913-14, the S.U.M. hydroelectric station was completed at the base of the falls, one of the earliest such plants in the country. The building still stands, as do the raceways carrying water.
Over the passage of time, as cotton textiles gave way to silk, Paterson became known as “Silk City.” The mill district that is now (partially) incorporated into the Great Falls National Historical Park also included manufacturers of Colt revolvers and some 12,000 railroad steam locomotives.
The area’s labor history is as significant as its industrial history. Between 1880 and 1900, workers organized 140 strikes against mill owners in concerted actions intended to improve their wages and working conditions. Historically, the most momentous strike occurred in 1913 when local silk workers walked off their jobs and fiery leaders from the radical Industrial Workers of the World union (I.W.W.) brought national attention to the workers’ struggles. The American Labor Museum at the Botto House in nearby Haledon, N.J. commemorates this transformative event in Paterson’s history. The Paterson Museum, a partner with the National Park Service, and Lambert Castle, situated near the top of close-by Garret Mountain, both focus on Paterson’s industrial history and feature one of its principal mill owners.
The Great Falls National Historic Landmark District, designated in 1976, encompasses 119 acres. The Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, established in 2009, includes 35 of these acres.
There is no fee for admission to the national historical park, but local museums generally charge modest entrance fees.
The National Park Service offers Guided Introductory Tours seasonally -- it takes roughly one hour and covers one mile. See the Park's website link in Contact Information on this site for a schedule, follow the "Plan a Visit" tab.
“Trails” largely consist of city sidewalks with uneven surfaces. A pictorial map of the park (use Web Map link on this site) identifies such major features as the Great Falls, mills (both standing and in ruins), the S.U.M. Hydroelectric Station, the upper, middle and lower raceways, street names (for navigation), smaller local parks, cultural centers, several public parking areas, and (important in an urban setting) public restrooms.
The self-guided Mill Mile tour starts introduces visitors to the remarkable history, geology, social and cultural importance of the area.
An on-line brochure describing the 10-stop tour – which includes a map -- is available, as is a free downloadable audio tour app (from I-Tunes and Google Play Store) and a number to call using a cell phone along the way. The Tour is an educational project of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson.
To complement a visit with a more woodsy hiking experience, Rifle Camp Park and Garret Mountain Reservation, two interconnected Passaic County parks just a short drive from the mill district, have a combined trail network of 13 miles on roughly 800 acres of parkland.
Park Acreage:35.00 acres
The park commemorates “The Cradle of American Industry."
The Great Falls of the Passaic River, located in Paterson, N.J., is the site of an early, successful initiative to establish a “national manufactory” in post-revolutionary America. As part of the Mercantilist vision of Alexander Hamilton, the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Paterson become America’s earliest planned industrial city with the incorporation of the Society for...
Park Acreage:35.00 acres
Web Link:National Park Service, Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park
Dogs in park:Dogs on leash
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.