You’d be forgiven if in your mind Paterson, NJ isn’t a city typically renowned for its beauty. It isn’t.
Once famous as the birthplace of the industrial revolution, this city’s once massive factories have long since shuttered their doors, giving way to the urban sprawl, decay and mass immigrant populations making up the current cityscape you probably know it as, spilling over into downtown Clifton.
It can be hard to believe that this city is home to the second largest waterfall in the US east of the Mississippi River – second only to Niagara Falls!
Recognized in recent years as a National Park, so long as you don’t have grandiose visions of Yosemite or the Grand Canyon in mind (read our trip report about that HERE), you can definitely take a quick trip with your kids to see this amazing sight!
Yes, we took the above pictures, and you can too!
Head to the New National Park Visitors Center across the road, and meet with Park Ranges, purchase souvenirs, and learn about the history of the area as well.
Across Spruce Street from the Falls, you can take the short hike along the ‘raceway’, a stream of water from the Upper Passaic River that once went under this building, powering a factory and mill.
Note, though, that the area and trails in this section were somewhat dilapidated and did not have a very safe feel with the clientele who were loitering there.
Best advice: Look before you leap.
Have more time? Head down the block to the Paterson Museum. It’s FREE!
The Great Falls and adjacent S.U.M. power plant once gave power to the many factories that surround the area, much of which you can see the history of for yourself here.
The entire surrounding are was famous for its HUGE factories that made locomotives, airplane engines, and silk respectively, and also was home to the Colt gun factory as well.
Due to parking constraints in the area, we suggest that you leave your car in the Great Falls Parking lot and take the two-minute walk.
You’ll know that your in the right place when you see the huge steam locomotives at the rear of the building, which is also the museum entrance at the rear of the building.
Did you know that the first submarine was launched in the Passaic River, just a few blocks away from the Falls?
Don’t miss this fun story about it:
Then see the submarine for yourself!
Some teenagers recovered the sub some fifty years later in 1927… It’s right there for you to see in the museum!
Be aware the the museum is more interesting for the older children and adults, so if you have little ones keep a close eye on them, as antique machinery, airplane engines and other antique manufacturing memorabilia are all over the place and easily accessible.
You don’t want any little fingers going into where they shouldn’t be, and could get stuck in…
The whole museum is on one floor, and you can depending on the level of interest, could be gone through in as quickly as 20-30 minutes, or quite a bit longer if reading all the signage and information about each exhibit.
After your last locomotive climb and pictures on the way out…
take your car the few blocks up to see the submarine launch site and marker plaque.
Finally, print out our exclusive area guide and map for your trip!
(click the map above to enlarge and print)
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