Just outside Altamont, New York, lies Thacher Park, one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world. There’s actually two aspects of the Park: The park itself, home to miles of hiking trails, snowshoeing, a swimming pool (the opening of which is always under scrutiny with State Budget Cuts), playgrounds, ball fields, and hundreds of picnic and fireplaces. The park is open year round. Indian Ladder is seasonal.
The other aspect of this wonderful treasure lies underneath, over sixty feet below the surface: It is called Indian Ladder, and is an old Indian Trail dating back to the 1500’s, used by the Mohawk Indians to reach the trading post run by Henry Hudson.
To reach Indian Ladder, enter the park (small charge) and follow the signs. You will make your way to a steep—steep—metal staircase, that brings you down to the actual trail.
What you will find is awe-inspiring. You will look up and find huge limestone formations, literally walls of limestone dotted and broken with intermittent caves. This limestone is one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world, and removal is strictly forbidden. You will actually see fossils in the rocks on the ground and in the limestone formations.
There are two wonderful waterfalls and an underwater stream that cascades out of the limestone and under a footbridge.
Do be careful. The rocks are very slippery in spots. The rest of the trail has a few—few—fences separating you from a terrible drop.
Yes, that’s snow in May <!–[if !vml]–><!–[endif]–>
On the left, you will see the Helderberg Escarpment, and all the way to the Green Mountains of Vermont. In 1777, Jacob Salsbury hid during the Burgoyne Invasion of the Revolutionary War. His hiding place was the “Tory Cave” and he stayed hidden away until American Forces gave up their search for him while the battle raged below.
The trails back to the parking lot also overlooks the Helderberg Escarpment, and is lined with firplaces and picnic tables.
Season (from web site):
The park is open year round, 8:00am until dusk. The Indian Ladder Trail is open from May 1 to November 15, weather permitting. All other trails are open year-round.
Thompson Lake and Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center (see related article under Nature Centers)
This place is difficult to get to, but the trick is to find your way to Altamont, NY (Fro Route 20, take 146 to Altamont). Thereafter, follow the signs. DO keep track of te lefts and rights, because the way back is not as well marked.