Last month, passengers on the Metro-North Railroad trains that run along the Hudson River looked up from their tepid coffee and their iPads to find the familiar view transformed. Just south of Hastings-on-Hudson, it looked as if a giant hand had carved a gash in the umber face of the Palisades, the wall of jagged cliffs that towers over the west bank of the river, depositing a huge mound of boulders below.
An enormous slab of the Palisades had crashed to the ground on May 12, on a warm, otherwise uneventful Saturday evening. A rumble was reportedly heard for miles around, and a large plume of dust was visible from the opposite shore.
The rockfall occurred immediately south of a scenic overlook in Palisades Interstate Park, created in 1900 amid concern over rampant quarrying of the cliffs, which run north from Jersey City to Haverstraw, N.Y., above the Tappan Zee Bridge. The overlook, called State Line Lookout (it is near the New Jersey-New York border), is situated at the highest point on the New Jersey Palisades, 532 feet above the river, but because of the steep angle, the ocher scar left by the rockfall is barely visible from the viewing platform here.
The rockfall closed part of a popular hiking trail at the base of the Palisades. Within days, Cub Scout dens, hiking clubs and armchair naturalists on both sides of the Hudson were swapping photos and making plans to get a closer view anyway.
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