Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

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Press Release: New York State Funds Carriage Road Rehabilitation

Important Message for Equestrians: Please read before bringing your horse to the Park.

Address
125 Phelps Way
Pleasantville, NY 10570
Latitude 41.112919
Longitude -73.836517

Rockefeller State Park Preserve offers quiet countryside walks of all lengths through forested hills and valleys surrounding sunlit pastoral fields. Thirty miles north of New York City, the property is the former Pocantico Hills and Rockwood Hall country estates of John D. Rockefeller family and William Rockefeller. Since 1983, the Rockefeller Family has generously donated over 1771 acres to the State of New York to safeguard these lands for present and future generations. Managed by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the Preserve is open to the public year-round, sunrise to sunset.

The trails of the Preserve are crushed stone carriage roads laid out by John D. Rockefeller Sr. and Jr. in the first half of the 20th century. Designed to complement the landscape, the 45 miles of scenic carriage roads are wide and easy to walk. Popular for walking, riding, jogging, and carriage driving, combinations of trails lead through varied landscapes and past natural and historical features, such as Swan Lake, the Pocantico River with its wood and stone bridges, gurgling streams, colonial stone walls and rock outcroppings. Trail maps of the carriage roads are available at the Preserve Office.

The Preserve is primarily hardwood forest dominated by huge oak, tulip poplar, maple, and beech trees. The forests, fields, streams, and wetlands support a high diversity of native species of resident and migratory birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, reptiles, fish and aquatic species, some of which are in decline and now uncommon in Westchester County. With 202 recorded species of birds and its Important Bird Area designation by the National Audubon Society, the Preserve is a must-visit area for birders. Over 100 species of native wild bees frequent spring and summer wildflowers. In the fall, Monarch butterflies stop to feed and lay eggs during their southward migration. An on-going environmental stewardship is underway to favor native biological diversity.

Rockwood Hall is a distinct bucolic section of the Preserve with commanding views of the Hudson River and Palisade Cliffs. Between 1886 and 1922, William Rockefeller's estate was 1000 acres with a 202-room mansion, a working farm, and a landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, father of American landscape design. While the house and buildings are now gone, massive rock walls around the former house site and extensive grassy fields with magnificent specimen trees harken back to the heyday of the estate during the gilded age.

While in the preserve, stop in the Preserve's Gallery by the entrance where rotating exhibits feature contemporary art and natural history exhibits. In the entrance courtyard between the Gallery and Preserve office is the Tree Peony Garden.

Please Note: Bicycles, mechanized vehicles, drones, metal detectors, snowmobiling, camping, and open fires are strictly prohibited. Dogs must be leashed.

Permits Required:

  • Organized running groups with over 7 people
  • Geocaching
  • Scientific research
  • Film shoots
  • Fishing
  • Equestrian


Volunteer Opportunites

From NYC by train: Metro North Hudson Line to the Tarrytown Station. From there you can take a short taxi ride from train station to the Preserve Office on Rt. 117 in Pleasantville. At the Preserve Office you can obtain a map and other important area information.

Don't miss these popular destinations and attractions within or near the park preserve:

  • 13 Bridges Loop Trail-1.9 miles of even to moderate grade, leading to 13 bridges on the wandering Gory Brook
  • Fern Garden-located at the entrance, this garden is volunteer maintained
  • Tree Peony Garden-located next to the art gallery, these beautiful flowers were donated by a town in Southern Japan (the town of Yatsuka in the Shimane Prefecture).  The peonies bloom every spring in late April through early May.
  • Swan Lake-located a short walk from the art gallery, a 22-acre lake
  • Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site-located 15 miles south, a museum of history, art and architecture, as well as host to community organizations, meetings, educational programs and special events.
  • Rockefeller Art Gallery-gallery of two-dimensional arts.  Rotated every six weeks.  See the calendar of events for the most updated exhibit.
  • Rockwood Hall-it was once the county estate of the late William M. Rockefeller
  • Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park-0.9 miles of the Old Croton Aqueduct travel through the preserve.

 

Pet Policy: A maximum of two pets are allowed in day use areas unless prohibited by sign or directive. Pets are to be supervised at all times and either be crated or on a leash not more than 6-feet in length. Proof of rabies inoculation shall be produced if requested by staff. Pets are not permitted in playgrounds, buildings, golf courses, boardwalks, pools and spray-grounds or guarded beaches (this does not apply to service animals).

Hours of Operation

  • The Preserve is open year round, from 7am to sunset. The office hours are from 9:00 AM- 4:30 PM, closed Christmas Day.
  • Day Use Activities: Hiking, recreational running, bird watching, snowshoeing, XC skiing, sledding, snowboarding, photography, painting, geocaching (with permit), all allowed in season.
  • Picnicking: Extremely limited. No picnic pavilions on premesis.

    There is no picnicking allowed in the area of the carriage trails--the area that begins at the visitors' center and spreads both east and west. There are, however, several picnic tables opposite the equestrian parking lot which is just before you enter the general parking area. The public may use those tables. There is also a table opposite the VUF booth, and in the back of the paved parking lot, in the woods.

    At Rockwood Hall the public may picnic on the grounds, however BBQs are not permitted. There are no restroom facilities available at Rockwood Hall.

  • Equestrian use and carriage driving is allowed by permit only. Please contact the Preserve Office for details.
  • Freshwater fishing is permitted in season with a free Preserve fishing permit available at the office and a NYS Fishing license available from town halls and most sporting good stores.

Fees & Rates

Most New York State Parks charge a vehicle use fee to enter the facility. Fees vary by location and season. A list of entry fees and other park use fees is available below. For fees not listed or to verify information, please contact the park directly.

The easy-to-use Empire Pass card is $80- and your key to all-season enjoyment with unlimited day-use entry at most facilities operated by State Parks and the State Dept. of Environmental Conservation including forests, beaches, trails and more. Purchase online or contact your favorite park for more information. Learn more about our Admission Programs including the Empire Pass.

  • Vehicle Entry Fee (VUF)
  • $6.00 per vehicle 
    Bus permits: $35 for non-profit orgs, $75 for commercial - per visit

    Collected:
    April - October, daily
    November - March, weekends & holidays

    *Collected via automated pay station.

  • Equestrian Permits
  • Annual Equestrian Permit: $40 plus empire passport for vanning horses
    One Day Pass Equestrian Use Permit: $15 plus vehicle entry fee

    Trailer & horse: $65 season/empire passport; $6/visit

Highlights of Rockefeller State Park Preserve:

  • Despite being less than an hour from Manhattan, the park’s wooded valleys still offer the peace and quiet described two hundred years ago by Washington Irving in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He wrote, “Not far from (Tarrytown), perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley, or rather lap of land, among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail, or tapping of a woodpecker, is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquility.”
  • RSPP encompasses forested hills and valleys cut by the Pocantico River and several streams along with a pastoral landscape of hayfields and pastures. The beech-maple, oak-hickory, and mixed hardwood forests contain towering trees, some over 150- 200 years old. Hemlocks can be found at the base of the cool slopes along the 13 Bridges and Witches Spring Trails. These forests are rich in wildlife that nest and feed in old trees with snags and hollows, such as bluebirds, owls, woodpeckers, wood ducks, and flying squirrels.
  • To highlight its value as natural area, Rockefeller is designated by the State as a “Park-Preserve.” Park preservation areas identify and conserve and protect portions of state parks that possess outstanding ecological values, including assemblages of flora and fauna that are unique or rare in the state. A park preserve allows passive recreation use within the park.
  • Mixed flocks of warblers pass through in waves during the spring and fall, leading one birder to call the park “warbler heaven.” Over 34 species of warblers have been recoded here, including two uncommon species for the Hudson Valley, the Kentucky and worm-eating warblers; the latter nests on the ground in the deep forests of the park.
  • Swan Lake, in addition to being extremely scenic, has a fragrant diversity of shoreline wildflowers, such as swamp azalea, tall meadow rue, sweet pepperbush, and swamp milkweed, and rafts of fragrant water lilies. The lake attracts diverse waterfowl including migrating buffleheads, hooded mergansers, and diverse waterfowl, including the occasional loon.

What will you see? Plan your trip today!

Look and listen for these birds at our Park:

Everyone is a Steward: Be a Rockefeller State Park Preserve Hero!

  • Know the rules and concerns for the area you’ll be visiting.
  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Respect other visitors and their experience. Avoid excessive noise.
  • Share the trail. Keep to the right except to pass. When in doubt, give the other user the right of way. Warn people when you are planning to pass.
  • Respect wildlife and observe from a distance
  • Use extra caution when using headphones. You may not be able to hear warnings.
  • Don't litter.
  • Hike on established, durable trails.

For more information, please read our Trail Tips!

Ask a Naturalist!

Q: What is the black bird with the long neck sitting on the log in the lake?

A: That is a cormorant, a fish eating bird species. Cormorants stop to dive for the fish in Swan Lake during their annual migration. They spread their wings to dry out after swimming, because they do not have oil on their wings like ducks do.

Q: Can you see the Hudson River from the Park?

A: Yes, there are spectacular views of the Hudson River and Palisades from the hilltop at Rockwood Hall. This is also a good place to view bald eagles in the winter.

Q: Are there fish in the lake and rivers?

A: The warm waters of Swan Lake support large-mouth bass, crappie, pumpkinseeds, bluegills, and bullhead catfish. Pocantico River is habitat for caddis fly larvae, which are the favorite food of the stocked brown trout. Trout fishing season is from April 1 to October 15. In Bass Lake, fishing season runs from the third Saturday in June to November 30. Anglers 16 years and older must have a Rockefeller State Park Preserve fishing permit, obtained for no charge at the Preserve office, and a valid NYS fishing license.

Q: Do I have to worry about ticks?

A: RSPP carriage roads serve as wide trails so visitors do not brush against tall grass and brush, the habitat of ticks. Over 40 miles of carriage roads enable visitors to safely and easily access most parts of the park-preserve. However, you should still check your skin and clothing for ticks after being outdoors. Showering soon after being outdoors gives you an opportunity for a full body tick check and can help wash off unattached ticks. If you find a tick, you should remove it and speak with you doctor if any signs of illness occur.

Q: What is the vine with the mottled turquoise blue berries?

A: It is Porcelainberry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), an ornamental vine with grape-like leaves that was introduced to the US from northeast Asia in 1870. Spread by birds, it is now very abundant and forms thick walls of vines draped on trees in the park and along Westchester parkways. It is considered to be an invasive species that outcompetes many native wildflowers, trees and shrubs.

More Interesting Facts about Rockefeller State Park Preserve:

Folklore:

  • Buttermilk Hill, a high rocky ridge at the northeastern part of the preserve, is said to get its name from the turbulent period of the American Revolutionary War, when local farmers hid their dairy cattle on the ridge to protect them from marauding soldiers. The hill is referred to in an adapted Irish song:

   Here I sit on Buttermilk Hill,

Who should blame me cry my fill?

And every tear would work a mill,

Johnny has gone for a soldier.

Flora:

  • Rockefeller State Park Preserve boasts 1,400-acres of forests, fields, a lake, and wetlands, including nearly 260 acres of Oak-Tulip Tree Forest.
  • Ferns are a conspicuous part of the flora in RSPP. Most ferns prefer moist shaded areas, but a few, such as hay-scented fern, grow in open sunny areas on relatively dry soil, and the marginal woodfern is found in crevices on dry rocks. To date, 22 species of ferns and fern allies, fern-like seedless plants, have been found in the Preserve. Pocantico River Trail, Brothers’ Path, 13 Bridges, and Eagle Hill Trails support the greatest diversity of ferns in the preserve.

In 1886, William Rockefeller bought the 200-acre estate and castle, Rockwood, from the heirs of William Henry Aspinwall. Seven years later, John D. Rockefeller bought land in 1893 at Pocantico Hills.

Since 1983, over 1,000 acres of their estate at Pocantico Hills have been deeded to the State of New York. Laurance S. Rockefeller donated the property to New York State in 1999, as part of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve.

Rockwood Hall History

Rockefeller State Park Preserve will conduct a controlled bow hunt this fall. To participate, hunters must commit to a minimum of five days of effort. Applications and conditions of the hunt may be obtained in person at the Preserve Office, on the park website (below), or via email to laurence.gill@parks.ny.gov. Questions can be directed to the Preserve Office at 914-631-1470, ext. 120. 

Bow Hunt Application

Controlled Bow Hunt Program

Fri 12 Apr
Art Gallery: Where Have All the Flowers Gone
Friday, April 12, 2019 until Sunday, May 5, 2019 09:00 AM - 04:30 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
(914) 631-1470

A series of paintings expressing concern with the steady destruction of our environment. The pollution of air, water and soil can lead to the destruction of ecosystems, habitats and the extinction of plants and wildlife. In the oil paintings, the plant is absent with only the memory of its color or habitat remaining. Each oil painting is detailed by drawing with sterling silver or "silverpoint", which will continue to tarnish and age forever thus making the work "alive". The exquisitely detailed watercolor paintings remind us of the beauty and importance of preserving our natural environment and native wildflowers.

An exhibition of botanical art featuring Corinne Lapin-Cohen with artists; Lenore M. Adams, Rochelle Auslander, Phyllis Chadwick, Ann J. Goodman, Gloria Goren, Linda Jbara, Norma Kurman, Anna Rudnicki, Kristen Tomithy-Lankster and Yona Shilling-Wiesen

Fri 03 May
BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY FIELD TRIP (FRIDAY)
Friday, May 3, 2019 01:30 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
(914) 631-1470

Come and learn the best techniques for photographing birds. Join wildlife photographer Bill Golden for a bird photography field trip on May 3rd at 1:30 PM. The field trip will be 2 hours. The first ½ hour will be instructional. Bill will explain what settings are most effective in photographing birds and other wildlife and share tips on how to photograph birds in flight. The remainder of the time will be spent in the field giving participants hands-on supervised experience. Participants will meet in the Rockefeller Park Preserve Gallery which can be accessed from the main parking lot on Rt 119. The field trip is free but requires advanced registration. Parking is $6. Bill’s photographs have been shown in exhibitions at the Rockefeller Park Preserve Gallery as well in the New York Hall of Science. He has published photographs and articles about birds in publications such as the Preserve Observer and the River Journal. His bird photographs have been used by the Saw Mill River Audubon.

Register for this event at www.rockefellerstateparkpreserve.eventbrite.com or by calling Rebecca at 914-631-1470 x106.

Registration: Required
Sat 04 May
I Love My Park Day
Saturday, May 4, 2019 10:00 AM - 01:00 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
(914) 631-1470

Register
Start time: 10am
End time: 1pm
Ages: All ages welcome

Volunteer Project #1: Bench Builders: Our new Park Manager Peter Iskenderian, and Maintenance Supervisor Tim Howell, will be leading you in a bench building project to restore this once treasured area of the Park. By the end of the day, we hope to transform a rusted, out-of-use outdoor classroom into a brand-new, inviting place for both children and adults to immerse themselves in nature and learn about its wonders.  Light colored long pants and sleeves are recommended to protect you from pesky thorns and help reduce your exposure to ticks. Light snacks will be provided at each station. Please bring: Garden gloves and water.
Meeting Location: Visitor Center Courtyard

Volunteer Project #2: Free the Fields! Join our team to tear down rotting split rails along our newly acquired land off of Bedford Rd. Rehabilitating this area is high priority because of its ecological promise. Park along Bedford Rd/Rt 448 before Stone Barns. Light colored long pants and sleeves are recommended to protect you from pesky thorns and help reduce your exposure to ticks. Light snacks will be provided at each station. Please bring: Garden gloves and water.
Meeting Location: follow this link: https://goo.gl/maps/7Gj8ZMSvuR12

Registration: Required
Sat 04 May
BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY FIELD TRIP (SATURDAY)
Saturday, May 4, 2019 01:30 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
(914) 631-1470

Come and learn the best techniques for photographing birds. Join wildlife photographer Bill Golden for a bird photography field trip on May 4th at 1:30 PM. The field trip will be 2 hours. The first ½ hour will be instructional. Bill will explain what settings are most effective in photographing birds and other wildlife and share tips on how to photograph birds in flight. The remainder of the time will be spent in the field giving participants hands-on supervised experience. Participants will meet in the Rockefeller Park Preserve Gallery which can be accessed from the main parking lot on Rt 119. Parking is $6. To register call the park office at 914-631-1470 x0. Rain date will be May 5th, same time and place. Bill’s photographs have been shown in exhibitions at the Rockefeller Park Preserve Gallery as well in the New York Hall of Science. He has published photographs and articles about birds in publications such as the Preserve Observer and the River Journal. His bird photographs have been used by the Saw Mill River Audubon.

Free, but registration for event is required at www.rockefellerstateparkpreserve.eventbrite.com or by calling Rebecca at 914-631-1470 x106.

Registration: Required
Sun 05 May
SUNDAY MORNING SPRING PHOTO WALK WITH FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHER HEIDI FUHRMAN
Sunday, May 5, 2019 10:00 AM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
(914) 631-1470

Heidi is rejoining us as our special guide for a Spring Photo Walk, contributing her unique talents to lead another once-per-season tradition at the Preserve (following her popular Fall and Winter Photo Walks). As always, Heidi will not burden the walk with an instructional class; rather, she will help point out photographic subjects and approaches during an energetic 2-hour jaunt through our carriage trails in search of both broad vistas and close-ups. Heidi’s enthusiasm has guided numerous photography groups through natural settings. Trained as a lawyer, she displays attention to detail and nuance in her photography. As a long-distance runner, she also uses her cell phone to photograph sunrises and wildlife deep in the woods. Heidi has exhibited in many private and public venues in NYC and Westchester. Currently, a popular NYC museum (New York Hall of Science) has installed more than 50 of her fine art photographic prints in a 3-month solo exhibit titled “Celebrating Water.” She has shown her works at Rockefeller Preserve Gallery exhibits including the “Winged Jewels of the Forest” (wild birds found in the Preserve) and “Wild Life: Carnivores of Rockefeller Preserve.”

Register for this event at www.rockefellerstateparkpreserve.eventbrite.com or by calling Rebecca at 914-631-1470 x106.

Registration: Required

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Did You Know? The principle crops on the Rockwood Hall estate were hay and potatoes.

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