Governors Island National Monument: Fort Jay and The Hills


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.


Governors Island has over 200 years of history as a military outpost. It began as a colonial militia base in 1755 and defended the harbor entrance to New York City during The War of 1812. During the Civil War, Confederate prisoners were held here. In peacetime, it was a training ground and administrative base for first the US Army and then the Coast Guard.


While parts of the island are managed by the National Park Service, the majority of it is managed by the Trust for Governors Island and the City of New York. For ten years, the Trust developed the abandoned section of the island into a hilly park with commanding views of New York City and the harbor.


Built on the debris of buildings that were once here, The Hills first opened in 2016. It has accessible paths to stroll up to the top, large stone block steps to climb up and in one section, you can slide down.


After exploring The Hills, we walked back to the historic district, where we still hadn’t seen everything our guide wanted us to see.


The South Battery was the last of the three forts built on Governor’s Island. Built during the war of 1812, it stood guard over Buttermilk Channel, which separates the island from Brooklyn. Later, it became a barracks, and then the officer’s mess hall.


Next, we strolled through Nolan Park with its 15 pretty yellow houses. These were built between 1845 and 1902 as quarters for officers with families. Today, they are leased by non-profit organizations who keep the houses preserved.


At the end of this row stands the Governor’s House. This is a misnomer because no governor ever lived there, but it did serve as the commanding officer’s house.


For the final stop on our tour, we re-entered the domain of the National Park Service and toured Fort Jay. Fort Jay is the earliest of the three forts on the island and is undergoing repairs to its facade. The entrance is a medieval-looking gate over a dry moat with a sculpture of an eagle standing guard at the top…that eagle has lost a wing and the NPS is in the process of trying to reattach it.


The largest of the three forts, Fort Jay is of the same star-shaped design as the one across the bay, upon which the Statue of Liberty now sits. We went into the cellar to see an odd display of earth borings. This cellar, had the British not been deterred by New York’s defenses during the War of 1812, would have served as a bomb shelter.


When I visited Governors Island in the late eighties, it was a decaying Coast Guard base. It was nice to see the progress the NPS has made towards restoring some of the historic structures as well as the Trust for Governors Island’s success in turning the unused areas into a beautiful urban park.

To see my other Governors Island posts, please click below:

Location: New York Bay

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 1/19/2001

Date of my visit: 9/11/2018


Ringwood State Park: Skylands


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Skylands, in Ringwood State Park in northern New Jersey consists of the historic Skylands Manor and the New Jersey Botanical Garden. The estate was built in the 1920s by a wealthy business man from New York.


In 1966, the State of New Jersey purchased the estate to form its State Botanical Gardens. The Manor is available as a venue for weddings and offers tours on Sundays from March to November.


The gardens are open to the public every day of the year and are on 96 acres in the Ramapo Mountains. They are maintained by the non profit Skyland Association.


I visited with a photography class. There was an event being held at the manor that day, so we explored the gardens, practicing with different settings on our cameras.


Location: 2 Morris Rd, Ringwood, NJ 07456

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1966

Date of my visit: September 20, 2015




Waimea Valley


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Waimea Valley was  known as “the valley of the priests” in the time of the ancient Hawaiians as it was home to the Kahuna Nui (high priests.)  It was the site of first contact between the Hawaiians on Oahu and European explorers in search of fresh water. This encounter did not go well and ended with the execution of the HMS Daedalus’ captain.


Today Waimea Valley is a park that includes several historical structures. It is also home to botanical gardens and a waterfall with a swimming hole. Scroll to the bottom of this post for a video of the waterfall.


The trail to the waterfall is about a mile on a wide path through the botanical gardens, with many signs naming the various tropical plants. On the day that we were there, a section of the trail was blocked off because a movie crew was there filming Jumanji 2.


In its modern history, Waimea Valley was a County Park and then was managed by the National Audubon Society for five years. In 2008,  Hi’ipaka LLC, a non-profit organization created by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs took over management of the park.


When I’d visited in the eighties, swimming in the deep pool at the base of the 45 foot waterfall was a free-for-all and a little scary to me at the time. On this visit, we were handed life vests before we could go in the water. Apparently, there have been drownings, so the rules have changed.


Oahu Posts:


Location: 2055 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

Designation: Military Reservation

Date established/designated: circa 1904

Date of my visit: April 2019



Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center


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Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center has been rescuing sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in Oregon for nearly 40 years. Established as a non-profit organization in 1981 by David Siddon, his work continues today under the leadership of his son and hundreds of volunteers.


The center rehabilitates and releases an average of 50% of the animals it takes in each year which is higher than the national average of 33%


Those animals that cannot be released into the wild become educational ambassadors or permanent residents. While staying in the Grant’s Pass area, we took the 90 minute guided tour of the facility.


We saw all sorts of birds of prey, river otters (in an actual river habitat built through the center of the park), some wolf-dog hybrids, a cougar and two Kodiak bears. The bears are no longer native to Oregon, but came to the center from Alaska when they could not be released into the wild.


The center is adjacent to the National Wild and Scenic Rogue River which we toured later that day on a Hellgate boat excursion. You can see my post about that here.


Location: 11845 Lower River Rd, Grants Pass, OR 97526

Designation: Non-profit wildlife rescue

Date designated or established: 2004

Date of my visit: 8/25/2016


Hamilton Grange National Memorial


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Hamilton Grange National Memorial preserves the mansion of Alexander Hamilton. Built in 1802 on Hamilton’s land in Harlem, the structure has been relocated twice. In 1889, St. Luke’s acquired the home and moved it 500 feet to sit next door to the church where it functioned as a chapel. In 2008, the National Park Service restored the home to a natural setting, moving it to nearby St. Nicholas Park.


The Grange is the only home Hamilton ever owned. Hamilton was a penniless orphan from the Caribbean. He came to America as a shipping clerk, took up the cause of the American Revolution and is considered one of the founding fathers of the United States.

This wine cooler is a replica of the one George Washington gifted to the Hamiltons.

Hamilton was George Washington’s Aide for most of the war and a hero of the decisive Battle of Yorktown. He was instrumental in the ratification of the constitution and became our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury in George Washington’s cabinet where he founded the National Reserve, the US Mint and our currency.


In semi-retirement from his political career, Hamilton purchased a tract of land near the Hudson River in Harlem. Back in those days, this was the countryside…it was nine miles and 90 minutes by carriage to New York City.


Hamilton commissioned an architect to build a mansion on the property. He provided legal representation for the builders so that they could keep working on the Grange after they were arrested on suspicion of murder.


The Grange was completed in 1802, but Hamilton would live there with his family for only two years before his fateful duel with Aaron Burr. Upon his death, Hamilton’s political rivals sought to dismiss or take credit for his accomplishments. But Hamilton’s widow, Eliza, who survived Alexander by 50 years, spent the rest of her life ensuring that Alexander Hamilton’s legacy would not be forgotten.


Now in the midst of a public park, visitors can view a brief film on the life of Alexander Hamilton in the theater on the ground floor. There is also a small museum and gift shop on the ground floor, which is where the kitchen would have been. Tour the historic floor with a ranger or during one of the open houses…in the home’s original location, the Hamiltons could see the Hudson River from their dining room.


Hamilton Grange Posts:

  • Hamilton Grange National Memorial
  • Hamilton Grange: Eliza Tour (Coming soon)


Location: 414 W 141st St, New York, NY 10031

Designation: National Memorial

Date designated or established: April 27, 1962

Date of my visit: August 23, 2014


Zion National Park: Zion Lodge


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When visiting Zion National Park, we stayed in the Watchman building of Zion Lodge. These were reasonably priced accommodations with a rustic motel vibe and common areas in each building with fireplaces, seating and board games.

The convenience of being inside the park made staying here worthwhile…there are long lines to get from Springdale to the Visitors Center each morning and then more lines to board the shuttles since no cars are allowed on the park drive.


The original lodge was built in 1924, but had to be rebuilt quickly after a fire in 1966 destroyed it. Remodeled in the nineties, it was restored to its appearance from the twenties, but it lacks the charm and grandeur of other classic park lodges. Convenience and the breathtaking surroundings are what make it.

Location: Springdale, Utah

Designation: National Park

Date designated/established: 11/19/1919

Date of my visit: April 2017