Catskill Flags

The broadened valley of the Delaware extends a short distance above Port Jervis, the canal and railway rounding the ponderous battlements of Point Peter and then proceeding up the river, one on either bank. About three miles above the “Port,” as it is familiarly called, the valley contracts to a rock-enclosed gorge, for here the Delaware emerges from its great canyon in the Catskill series of rocks, in the bottom of which it flows from Deposit, at the northern boundary of Pennsylvania, eighty-seven miles above. The remarkable change seen in the surrounding topography indicates the presence of a different rock formation from that passed below, and the river runs out of the Catskill rocks over the ” Saw-mill rift.” For thirty miles above, to the northern line of Pike County, at Narrowsburg, the river banks mostly are only mere shelves a few rods wide, and frequently present nothing but the faces of rocky walls, rising perpendicularly from the water to a height of six hundred feet or more. From the expanding limestones below, the valley here suddenly contracts in the flags and ledges of the Catskill series. All the small streams coming from the bluffs back of the cliffs descend with rapid fall, and frequently over high cascades. These Catskill flags, built up in vast construction, rear their gaunt and weather-beaten jagged walls and wood-crowned turrets on high.

Perched far up on the New York side, at the narrowest part of this remarkable gorge, is an eyrie called the ” Hawk’s Nest,” which gives a wonderful view, reached by a road carved out of the rocky side of the abyss. This road, hung on the perpendicular wall five hundred feet over the river, is the only available route to the part of New York north of Port Jervis. The canal and railway, far below, are each set on a shelf cut out of the rocky banks. The enclosing cliffs rise higher as the river is ascended, sometimes reaching an elevation of twelve hundred feet; and here for miles are seen the famous Delaware and Starucca flags, rising hundreds of feet in a continuous wall of bluish-gray and greenish-gray flaggy sandstones. They are extensively quarried and shipped to New York. Both railway and canal construction through this deep cleft were enormously costly.