John Boyd Thacher State Park is a state park located 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Albany, New York near Voorheesville, in Albany County on State Route 157. Located mostly atop the Helderberg Escarpment, the park has several hiking trails that offer panoramic views of the Green Mountains in Vermont and the Hudson Valley.
The park is open year round, 8:00 am until sunset. The Indian Ladder Trail is open from May 1 to November 15, weather permitting. All other trails are open year-round. It is located on the Helderberg Escarpment, one of the best fossil bearing formations in the USA. There are over 12 miles (20 km) of trails in the park including the famous Indian Ladder trail. The park has an Olympic sized swimming pool, volleyball courts, children’s play areas and numerous cooking/barbecue areas both open and covered.
Nearby at Thompson Lake, is the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center which opened in July 2001 and has permanent and occasional displays for the public to view. The center also offers educational programs and visitor information.
From the top of the escarpment, which reaches 1300 ft (400 m), there are fine views of the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys as well as spectacular panoramas of the Adirondacks and Green Mountains of Vermont.
It was here that in 1777, at a spot known as Tory Cave, Jacob Salsbury found refuge from settlers during the Burgoyne Invasion
The region is very well drained as all surface water runs into the limestone, making it an infertile area for farming. There are some fertile areas along the streams and Dutch settlers were brought in to the region by Patroons to whom they paid heavy rents until they freed themselves of the burden through the so called Helderberg War (also called the Anti-Rent War) of 1839.
The park is named after Albany mayor John Boyd Thacher whose widow, Emma Treadwell Thacher, donated the land in 1914. Since opening the area was designated a State Park The park soon became popular with the residents of Upstate New York and many amenities were added. The purchase of 500 acres (2 km²) of land in 2004 with a State grant of $750.00 from the Environmental Protection Fund and a donation of land from the Nature Conservancy of 81 acres (320,000 m²) and the further purchase of on 3 August 2006 took the total area of the park to .
It is most likely that the most prominent feature of the park, the Helderberg escarpment got its name from the Dutch Helder meaning bright or light and Berg meaning mountain.
There are over 12 miles (20 km) of trails in the park, the most famous trail being the Indian Ladder Trail.
From the Indian Ladder parking lot, the visitor descends 60 ft (18 m) to the base of the escarpment via a metal ladder. From here the visitor can walk along the base of the escarpment passing under the Minelot Falls and by the stream exiting from a small cave in the base of the rocks. This water is actually from Thompson Lake, some two miles (3 km) away and which makes its way through the porous limestone until it exits here. At the end of the trail, a further series of metal ladders take the visitor back to the top of the escarpment, where they can walk back to the parking lot observing the excellent panoramas.
On the opposite side of the road to the Indian Ladder Trail, this trail is available all year round although in snow conditions, it can be a hard trail. The trail is a circular trail about 6 miles (10 km) long through wooded areas.
The Long Path proposed by Vincent Schaefer of Schenectady is a long-distance hiking trail began in the 1960s. It is a long distance trail running from the George Washington Bridge in New York City. It ends at Thacher Park, a distance of 347.35 miles (559.01 km)
NOTE : The park is designated as a wild life preserve, there are strict regulations on the non-removal of fossils, rocks, plants, animals and birds from the park. There are also rules on the use of snowmobiles during winter and damage to the park. Breach of the regulations can lead to prosecution.
In April 2004, the then New York State Governor George Pataki, announced that of Thacher Park and nearby Thompson Lake were to be turned into a bird conservation area. This conservation area was modelled on the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Areas Program which was signed into law in 1997.
There are some 171 species of bird, many of which are in the of concern status that can be seen in the park, including
There is also a prolific variety of flowers, plants and trees within the park. As the park is a preserve, all species are protected within the park boundaries. The area has some of upland forest with mainly northern hardwoods predominating but there are also
There are several habitat types preserved in the park including, 3,700 m of calcareous cliff, bur black oak swamp, red maple swamp and emergent marsh/scrub swamp.
Amongst flowers that can be seen are
Ferns and their relations are also found in cool damp areas especially along Indian Ladder Trail
The Helderberg plateau is comprised mainly of a series of limestones of early Devonian age and is one of the most fossiliferous regions in the United States. The plateau also has rocks of the Upper Silurian and Upper and Middle Ordovician ages resting below the Devonian rocks