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This area was found to have rich deposits of iron ore in the 18th century and was owned by the Sterling Iron Works and later the Ramapo ore company, mining ceased about 1920. Initially the deposits were superficial but eventually more extensive mining was conducted under the lake. At the time of the Revolutionary War the Sterling Iron Works was known to manufacture the finest iron in North America and was commissioned by George Washington to forge the Hudson River Chain to protect West Point, 25 miles away, from the British Fleet. It was completed in 1778 deployed in the river and remained unbroken during the war,despite Benedict Arnold,a few links that were saved remain on the grounds of West Point Military Academy. The state of New York acquired the property and created a state park in 1998.
Within Sterling Forest State Park located in the Ramapo Mountains, Orange Co. New York near the New Jersey border. By taking the Lakeville iron works trail and the Sterling Mountain Fire tower trail via the connector trail this provides a way to explore nature and the historic area. The Frank R. Lautenberg visitor center, 8 to 4:30 daily has trail maps , water and restroom facilities, there is no fee and dogs are allowed if on leash.
Started hiking on the Sterling Lake Loop trail, in front of the visitor center and in a short distance the site of the Sterling Iron Works furnace is visible below you and on the left. When you walk to it your actually briefly on a portion of the the Lakeville Iron Works trail, the sluice diversion from the lake, to power the furnace waterwheel for the bellows was flowing rapidly by the reconstructed furnace and a portion of the lake is visible as well as the DAR plaque.
Returning to the Sterling Lake Loop it soon joins a paved road which then ends at a gate on your right which you go around if you want to continue the 4 mile lake loop, instead I took the Fire Tower connector trail on the left to join up with the Fire Tower trail. This road appears to have provided vehicle access to the Fire Tower, it is steep, rocky and at least today wet.
The route has minimal views due to heavy tree canopy and vegetation, would be better later in the fall, the trail info warns about bears and rattlesnakes but saw neither. By the time I finished this hike I was soaked not from rain but humidity. There was a register in the mailbox at the locked observation cabin, the stairway for the 60 foot lookout tower was open but the door at the top to access the tower platform was padlocked. This tower and cabin were erected in 1922 and are on the National Register of Historic Places. From the top of the stairwell are views of Sterling Lake, Greenwood Lake, the ridgeline the Appalachian Trail follows and New Jersey forest land. Returned the same way to the paved road then took the Lakeville Iron Works trail to return to the visitor center. When on the Fire Tower lookout trail saw no other hikers, one entry in the register from the day before, maybe half dozen from the past week though it has been rainy all week. I enjoy hiking areas of historical significance.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.