Fieldwork in Palisades Park


Palisades Park, NJ comprises a narrow strip of land along the western bank of the Hudson River, stretching for about ten miles in the north-south direction between the George Washington Bridge and the NJ/NY stateline. Our dendrochronologic sampling takes place on the forested clifftop of the Palisades Sill, an igneous intrusion that formed about 200 million years ago in the Triassic period. The sill is a textbook geologic example of fractional mineral crystallization with olivine-rich layers at its base. The top of the sill stands approximately 400 ft above sea level, and offers sweeping views of the Hudson River and New York City. The rocky substrate, thin soil cover, and efficient water drainage make the trees in this park sensitive to moisture stress, and good candidates for responding to drought.The forest is mostly deciduous hardwoods (white and red oaks are common), with sparse conifers (eastern and shortleaf pines, some norway spruce). The park is a sanctuary for birds (hawks are a common sight) and other wildlife. Sampling of trees has been carried out by several student groups from the College of Staten Island/Macaulay Honors College, CUNY. We gratefully acknowledge the Palisades Interstate Park Commission-New Jersey Section for permission to sample.


(Left) Panoramic view towards the northeast over the Hudson River from the Alpine Lookout, Palisades Park. Photo taken in summer 2003.
(Right) North view from the same vantage point, in fall 2006

Macaulay Honors Students gazing out over the Palisades cliffs

White oak

Students sampling a white oak

  Students examining a shortleaf pine

Students in the field

Shortleaf pine core

Students extracting a core from an eastern white pine

A student group coring a northern red oak... 

 ... a tulip poplar, 

 ... and a sweetgum tree

Forest understory


A toppled white oak blocking the trail. A common reason of white oak mortality in this region is decay of the heartwood which compromises structural stability. The decay proceeds faster in wet climates such as in the northeast US.

Stephan and Cary coring a white oak

Students marking core samples and taking notes

Jessica coring a tulip poplar. Read about Jessica's experience here.

Student group at Alpine Lookout area

Student group at Alpine Boat Basin area

Students at the Rockefeller Lookout area

Hudson River and the City of Yonkers from the Palisades