The dance floor at Vroman’s Nose
The Catskill Geologists; The Mountain Eagle, Jan. 2017.
Robert and Johanna Titus
The local geological news, this week (July 2017), is that Vroman’s Nose, a hill that is found a short distance southwest of Middleburgh, has become the property of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The hill has long been recognized for its scenic beauty. If you look up at it, you will see a distinctive profile. The south slope is steep, almost a cliff. It rises about 600 feet above the floor of the Schoharie Creek Valley. And that gives the hill its other scenic aspect. If you look down from the edge of this south facing slope you will obtain a sweeping view of the Schoharie Creek Valley (see, our photo).
Vroman’s Nose had been, for decades, the property of a group called the Vroman’s Nose Preservation Corporation (VNPC). The hill, back in the early 1980’s, had been threatened. There had been talk of the building of a restaurant at its top. That would have ruined both scenic views so, not surprisingly, the VNPC came into existence. The group raised the money needed to buy the land and has managed it as a local park ever since. In recent years much larger numbers of visitors have been climbing the Nose and the VNPC began looking to the DEC for help in managing the site. Now the DEC will take over responsibility for the 139 acre property. It will now be known as the Vroman’s Nose Unique Area and the State will protect its natural resources and accommodate public use.
Today we would like to describe why you should plan a future visit and what you will see there. To get there, take Rte. 30 south from Middleburgh and turn right at Mill Valley Road. Nose parking can be found about a half mile up the road. The Nose Loop Trail climbs 600 feet but it is rated as an easy hike. At the top you will find yourselves at what is commonly called “the Dance Floor.” That is a substantial ledge of Devonian sandstones (again, see our photo).
You don’t have to be a professional geologist to notice that there is something very interesting here. The Dance Floor is remarkably flat, and so smooth it looks polished. If you take the time to walk around and look it over you will soon notice that there are long straight scratches in this surface. There is not a professional geologist anywhere in the world who would not immediately see the ice age history recorded here.
The Dance Floor is the product of the Schoharie Creek glacier that, perhaps 15,000 years ago, flowed across its surface. Glaciers possess large amounts of sand, especially at their bottoms, and that makes them behave in a fashion that reminds the two of us of sandpaper. The Schoharie Creek glacier was, in effect, a large, thick and very heavy sheet of sandpaper. As it flowed across Vroman’s Nose, it ground into the bedrock and smoothed out the Dance Floor.
That same sheet of ice dragged cobbles and perhaps even boulders across this same surface. In so doing those long straight scratches came into existence. They are called glacial striations. They are oriented roughly north to south and that records the down-the- valley motion of the ice.
The Dance Floor is one of the very best locations to see such ice age features and it is well worth the hike to do just that. We like the site so much that we have started to call similar glaciated bedrock locations “dance floors.” You should become familiar with such things; there are a lot of them.
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