Geology and Topography
With dramatic cliffs and a glacial pothole, Fort Tryon Park’s geology is remarkable by any standard, and it is certainly unique among New York City parks.
Located on the second-highest land in Manhattan (the highest is a few blocks south in Bennett Park), the park is a fusion of natural treasures and highly landscaped terrain. One of the original Olmsted Brothers design features of the park is the Alpine Garden, on the park’s eastern expanse, transforming the coarse terrain into a series of pathways and plantings that meander up and down the 150-foot rock-faced slope between Broadway and The Met Cloisters.
The landscape design firm was made up of John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who designed Central Park with Calvert Vaux. The team converted land John D. Rockefeller had acquired from multiple estate owners and made them into Fort Tryon Park in 1935. The genius in the landscape design is a realization of the potential for a rough, almost impenetrable rocky slope. Decorative rocks – walls, boulders, and stone borders – are part of a complex design and compliment the outcroppings of metamorphic Manhattan schist, containing minerals such as quartz, feldspar, mica, and garnet.
According to the NYC Parks, the garden’s decorative rocks, including walls, boulders and stone borders, were meant to “complement the outcroppings of metamorphic Manhattan schist, containing easily seen minerals such as quartz, feldspar and mica, while garnet is found at scattered places.” Some of the decorative stone used in the construction of this garden came from rock excavated when making the park and the nearby subway tunnel.
The Fort Tryon Park Trust holds lectures and tours throughout the year on the features and geological history of the park. Please see our Events Calendar.
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