Exploring Inwood Hill Park – An Old Growth Forest in New York City

J.J. Murphy
J.J. Murphy, naturalist

For a half-century, writer and passionate naturalist JJ Murphy, has been providing nature programs, original curricula, articles, product reviews, books and open discussion to children and eco-aware adults across the USA. She lives in Harriman, NY.Creative Content for Your Nature Endeavors….Since I live blocks from Forest Park in St. Louis, I can really relate to this vignette of a city park and thank JJ for appearing here. –JGR

Besides being the only natural (non-landscaped) park on Manhattan Island, trees in Inwood Hill Park have not been cut since the late 1700’s, when the American forces built Fort Cox.

Popular folklore has it that Peter Minuit made his legendary purchase of Manhattan Island from the Lenape people living here in 1624; lnwood Hill officially became a New York City park in 1916, saving more than just the native trees.

A network of trails makes exploring this park a historical, as well as a nature adventure. The caves, which had been home to the original Lenape residents, are a great way to beat the summer heat. At dawn or dusk, the salt marsh ideal for bird watching – raptors, waterbirds and migratory species are easy to observe in this urban sanctuary. There’s also a nature center with interactive exhibits and a recently built Algonquin-style shelter.

Watching an immature bald eagle perched on a branch for three or four minutes before spreading its wings in flight is my idea a delightful way to spend a summer afternoon in New York. That was one of my foraging hikes.

It has not been a good season for berries, but every salad I eat has more wild edibles – lambs quarters, Asiatic day flower, wood sorrel, purslane, wild garlic, mustard seed – than cultivated vegetables.

I do come out of the woods to enjoy some of Manhattan’s other offerings, but having Inwood Hill Park as my temporary back yard convinces me that New York has succeeded in offering the best of both worlds.

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