Harriman & Bear Mountain State Parks

Lake Skannatati during fall. (Photo by Alan Wells)

When

May and June are best, but worthwhile throughout the year.

Directions

Approximately 35 mi N of New York City on W side of Hudson River. From Palisades Interstate Parkway, exits 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18. From I-87 (NYS Thruway) at Suffern.

Description

The Palisades Interstate Park Commission operates jointly the over 51,000 acre Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks.   The two parks encompass a variety of habitats including mountainous, forested areas, over 30 lakes and reservoirs, and with numerous streams and wetlands.  The parks stretch from the Ramapo Hills near the NJ border NNE to the Hudson River. Elevations range from sea level to about 1,400 ft.  While much of the two parks is undeveloped, other areas contain hotels, campgrounds, swimming pools, bike paths, ice-skating rinks, boat launches and other facilities. Usage can be heavy in these areas, especially in the summer.  Two of the most productive birding areas within the Park are Doodletown and Iona Island.

A short description of the natural history, geology, history and an extensive listing of the flora can be found on the Torrey Botanical Society web site.

Flora

Varied plant cover.  Over 90% forested with mixed hardwoods, including oaks, maples, ash, tulip tree, beech, birches, hickories.  Mountain laurel, rhododendron, sheep laurel, shadbush, etc., in understory.  In many places being displaced by the exotic Japanese barberry.  Extensive flora survey conducted by Mitchell, Tucker and Barbour (1995), NYS Museum Botany Research Report #95-1.

Birds

Over 250 species of birds have been reported from the Parks. A checklist is available from the Park Office.  Eagles (in winter), turkey vulture, red-tailed, broad-winged and other hawks, owls, pileated woodpecker.  Nesting warblers include: worm-eating, black-throated blue, black-throated green, blackburnian, hooded, Canada, cerulean, and Louisiana waterthrush. Flycatchers, vireos, swallows, woodpeckers, finches, cedar waxwing, scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, northern oriole, ruby-throated hummingbird, etc. Waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls can be observed on larger lakes and along the Hudson River.  Bear Mountain summit is good for migrating hawks in the fall.  Lakes Silvermine, Tiorati and Welch are good for fall waterfowl.