The Shawangunk Mountains―the Gunks―are renowned for stunning landscapes on and off the ridge in a region that has remained a favorite destination for visitors since the middle of the nineteenth century.
While the mountain elevations are not high―nowhere exceeding 2240 feet―they present rugged topography with glistening grey-white escarpments, jumbled boulders at the base of cliffs, deep crevices, as well as precipitation-fed "sky lakes."
Arnold Guyot, the first Professor of Geology and Geography at Princeton University, remarked in 1887 that "Few spots on our continent unite so much beauty of scenery, both grand and lovely, within so small a compass, to be enjoyed with so much ease," a sentiment echoed by many today.
Three magnificent Victorian hotels were constructed in the northern Shawangunk Mountains in the decades after 1869, one situated along Lake Mohonk and two others on cliffs above Lake Minnewaska.
Only the grand Mohonk Mountain House remains. Framing the Gunks are the valleys of the Rondout Creek and the Wallkill River where one finds New Paltz, which lays claim to being "one of the oldest towns in America" because of the stone houses aligned along Huguenot Street, as well as quaint hamlets like Gardiner, Rosendale, Accord, High Falls, and Marbletown.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Ronald G. Knapp is a historical-cultural geographer at State University of New York at New Paltz, where he taught from 1968 to 2001. For the past forty-five years his research has focused on China's frontier history and Chinese vernacular architecture, with many books that celebrate these traditions.
Michael Neil O'Donnell, a landscape photographer, pairs a modern aesthetic with classic principles to create simple, bold, ethereal interpretations of the Hudson Valley's natural beauty. His images have been seen at exhibitions throughout the Hudson Valley and he is a contributor to the publications of the Mohonk Preserve, Open Space Institute, and Riverkeeper.