I love to think about what New York looked like before it was New York and before the U.S. was colonized. Yesterday, my dog, Phineas, and I got to walk through a living breathing example of it. Riverdale Park in the Bronx is what’s known as a protected 50-acre Forever Wild area. The southern part of the park where we went is covered by the same type of forest that existed in pre-colonial times with tulip, 5 species of oak, black birch, and hickory trees as tall as 110-feet. The woods are on their way to becoming a mature or “climax” forest – a forest whose shade-tolerant seedlings will survive beneath their parents. Twenty-seven species of birds are also found here, including the screech owl.
The Raoul Wallenberg Forest is located across the street from Riverdale Park, and is named in honor of a Swedish diplomat who is credited with saving tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis during World War II. His death and disappearance after being imprisoned are a mystery, and for his courage and acts of heroism he was named an honorary U.S. citizen. This forest contains many trees with trunks more than 30 inches in diameter. Dozens of species of birds, including downy woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, and white-throated sparrows, can be found there.
The bedrock of Riverdale is 1-billion-year-old Fordham gneiss, the oldest rock formation in New York City. On top of the gneiss, lies Inwood marble, which was once quarried in Riverdale for the production of lime. The Palisades cliffs that you can see across the river were carved by glaciers during the last ice age that started 2.6 million years ago.
Phin and I are looking forward to exploring the northern part of the park and the historic section of Riverdale very soon!