Stony Kill Falls Nears Completion

Stony Kill Falls in Spring

It all started over 15 years ago, when the Open Space Institute and the New York - New Jersey Trail Conference acquired a parcel of land off a dead-end road in Kerhonkson known as Shaft 2A from the Napanoch Sand and Gravel Company. Trail Conference members started planning, and trail builders in the region took note; including Eddie Walsh, founder and owner of Tahawus Trails, LLC. Planning to develop trails on this new land began, but didn't get far. Fast-forward eight years, and the Trail Conference had transferred the land over to the Minnewaska State Park Preserve under the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. By this time a new Master Plan to improve public access to the preserves numerous sites had been approved. It would take years for funding to become available to carry out that plan. In 2016, funding was awarded from the NY State Recreational Trails Grant Program to fund part of it and bidding went out to formalize trail access to the increasingly popular southwest flank of the Park: Stony Kill Falls.

As a locally based professional trail building company, Tahawus Trails, LLC was thrilled to be awarded the bid for the project in 2016 and began formulating a plan to involve volunteers to productively contribute to the construction effort. Since 2011, Tahawus Trails already had an ongoing relationship with a unique Hudson Valley based volunteer organization that specialized in stone work: the Jolly Rovers. Together with Parks staff, Walsh reached out to the Rovers' executive director, Chris Ingui, and asked for the Rovers to supplement construction efforts on the ascent up Stony Kill Falls. After a scouting session onsite it was agreed that the Rovers would tackle the initial ascent from the last creek crossing through the lower boulder field to the first viewing area of the falls itself, from there, Tahawus would tackle the remaining ascent up the incredibly steep bedrock ledge to the summit of the Falls providing a view of the valley below. The overall trail plan would involve, as Walsh says, “a little of everything in a short span”, including crushed stone tread, timber bridges, dozens of stone steps of all shapes and sizes, stone paving, retaining walls and even ladder embedded in bedrock to ascend the steepest portion of the climb. In the end, both groups couldn't have been more excited about the work site: a beautiful birch forest grove accented by thick layers of moss and ferns next to an 87-foot waterfall; the abundant source of beautiful stone close to home didn't hurt either.