Location: 65 McBride Avenue Extension, Paterson, NJ
Designation: National Historical Park
Date NPS designation declared: 11/07/2011
Date of my visit: 2/4/2017
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February 2017 was the second time I visited this park since it was designated a National Historical Park. Those of us who live in the area have always heard there were some big waterfalls nearby in the midst of a scary neighborhood, but were never really inclined to go find them. Now, with the presence of the National Park Service, there are plenty of visitors in and around the falls and at least by the light of day, it seems as safe as any other city. With an amazing waterfall right in the middle of it. The only other comparable place I can recall seeing the incongruity of nature’s raw power and beauty next to apartment buildings and abandoned warehouses is Sioux Falls, SD or maybe Willamette Falls in Oregon City.
Once the NPS built a welcome center, I called ahead, found out when there would be a tour and my husband and I made the short drive to see the new park. That tour was led by Ernie, a Paterson native and retired Marine. His enthusiasm for the city of Paterson and its historical significance was catching. The Industrial Revolution in America sprang up here, around the power of the Great Falls. After the tour, Ernie showed me the best place to set up my tripod for an iconic shot of the falls. At the time, Ernie was a volunteer. Now, I believe he is a ranger.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2017. I arranged a group tour for my Instagram/Photo meet-up group with volunteer Terry. Terry is another local with a passion for Paterson’s history. He led us on a walk on the raceway trail, winding around some industrial revolution era factories and then back up to the falls. Also a photography hobbyist, Terry timed our arrival at the falls with the midday sun which created a rainbow over the falls.
The park has received a grant for the NPS 100 year anniversary fund to restore some other areas (I think maybe by the riverbank) to make the experience even better. I can’t wait to see what they do with it.