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Vroman's Nose
view from the south
Middleburgh, New York

PHOTO DYarrow 6/8/02

Vroman's Nose

NY Route 30
Middleburgh, New York

Surveys: June 8, 2002
Data Sheet: June 8, 2002

Much of the information below
is from an article by
Vincent J. Schaefer Sc.D.
(certified meterorologist, research consultant, science advisor)
printed in the Fall/Winter 1983
Schoharie County Historical Review

Vroman's Nose Preserve is a significant landmark that dominates the skyline of the middle section of Schoharie River Valley, visible for a few miles up and downstream. Bounded on the east and south by NY 30 and Schoharie River, and the north by Mill Creek, this distinctive island of high ground is crowned by cliffs, and extends into Schoharie Valley just west of the Village of Middleburgh. Vroman's Nose summit, high above the valley lowlands, affords spectacular views of the vast expanse of rich, flat, fertile alluvial floodplain farmlands along Schoharie Creek.
Survey Team Visits
June 8, 2002
Aerial Photo
Vroman's Nose
click to enlarge

PHOTO www.nysgis.state.ny.us

The very steep south face of Vroman's Nose rises 600 feet above the Schoharie floodplain, to an elevation of 1220 feet above mean sea level. To the west of Vroman's Nose, the land dips steeply to 960 feet in a saddle ridge, then rises over a distance of three miles to a higher summit of Table Mountain at elevation 2060 feet. The summit of Vroman's Nose is rather flat and level, with an area of roughly 10 acres, and the long axis oriented east-west. This rocky, wooded island has few counterparts in the Northeast.
Topographic Map
Vroman's Nose
click map to enlarge

MAPS www.nysgis.state.ny.us


Vroman's Nose is composed of numerous layers of sedimentary bedrock. The uppermost and youngest layer is Hamilton Sandstone from the Devonian Era. Underlying this are older layers of softer shale and harder, more durable limestone.

This unusual geological feature is undoubtedly the result of glacial action about 50,000 years ago, when a lobe of the great continental glacier moved across this part of New York and carved the slopes which form the present Schoharie Valley. This massive ice sheet gouged out the broad and deep valley, which was later filled with sediments deposited by a river of post-glacial meltwaters. This combination of glacial scouring and riverine erosion left an island of rock cutoff from the main body of bedrock that today is the plateau named Table Mountain. And Vroman's Nose is that isolated island of bedrock.
Wally Van Houten
Steward of Vroman's Nose
Vroman's Nose summit in the background

PHOTO DYarrow 6/8/02

Data Details
June 8, 2002

One striking feature of Vroman's Nose summit is that its flat surface rock of Hamilton Sandstone is covered with glacial graffiti—scratches (called striae) and chatter marks produced by stones protruding from the bottom of the moving glacier. These scratches show that the glacier was moving westerly. Very likely much, if not all, of the rock surface on the summit is covered with such glacial marks, but a thin layer of soil a foot or so thick covers most of this cap rock. A small area on the western summit was cleared of soil decades ago and (according to local legend) used as a dance floor. In addition to these glacial marks, many names, initials and dates have been carved by visitors—human graffiti that has become excessive, obnoxious and unwelcome. The oldest of these man-made inscriptions is dated 1863.
Dwarf Red Cedar
Daniel Karpen inspects a 150-year-old tree
Wally Van Houten's house is at lower right

PHOTO DYarrow 6/8/02

This Hamilton Sandstone beautifully exposed in the south-facing cliffs is quite rich in fossils from the mid-Devonian Age—mainly brachiopods, pelycepods and trilobites. Thin sheets of the Hamilton Sandstone were popular for use as flagstone sidewalks in Albany, Schenectady, Troy and other New York cities.

The slopes of Vroman's Nose are heavily wooded, but its height, and its variations in slope and soils create distinct zones of forest types from bottom to top. The north and west slopes are gradual, with thicker soils that nurture a tall forest dominated by white pine, hemlock and maple. Many of these trees exceed two feet in diameter. The south and east slopes are very steep, with little soil and extensive rocky talus, which limits the size and diversity of species growing there. Wally Van Houten remembered when he moved to the foot of Vroman's Nose 45 years ago, the eastern slopes had been largely clear cut.

As elevation rises, soil becomes thinner and drier, the trees shorter, and white pines and maples are gradually replaced by pitch pine, oaks—especially chestnut oak—and hickory. Near the summit, bur oak, hickory and red cedar become the principal species, and these are stunted—even dwarf—in their stature. The survey team even observed a dwarf staghorn sumac clinging to the edge of the summit.
Schoharie Valley
looking south from the summit

PHOTO DYarrow 6/8/02

It was these cedars on the summit that first attracted the Eastern NY Survey Team to visit Vroman's Nose. The team hoped to discover these undersize trees were not only old growth, but perhaps even a few centuries old. (For more about ancient cedar forests, read: Cliffs as Natural Refuges.)


The rich famlands stretching south, east and north of Vroman's Nose were settled by prehistoric native Americans, who had villages and campsites on small rises along the creek. Early native settlers were the Mohegans, a tribe primarily from the upper Hudson Valley. Later, the region was settled by Mohawks of the Iroquois Confederacy centered in the Finger Lakes.

In 1713, Adam Vroman from the Dutch settlement of Schenectady established the first farm in the area. Shortly after, the German Palatines settled in the area from their earlier settlements in the lower Hudson Valley. During the American Revolution, Schoharie Valley was raided by Iroquois mercenaries led by Joseph Brant, and several settlers were massacred, including the Vroman Massacre of 1780. The village of Middleburgh began as a fort built in the Revolutionary War, and is visible from the east end of the summit.
Harold B. Vroman
34 Davies Lane
Cobleskill, NY 12043-1412

Wally Van Houten
Route 30
Middleburgh, NY

In 1983, several local residents formed the Vroman's Nose Preservation Corporation to preserve this natural area as a unique place in the Northeast and safe-guard it against all commercial development and any other actions which would alter its condition or limit its access to all who appreciate natural beauty. The corporation intends that Vroman's Nose be kept "forever wild" for the use and enjoyment of all hikers.

Vroman's Nose is on the Long Path, a hiking trail that extends from the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson River at New York City to Whiteface Mountain in the northern Adirondacks. This trail was originally sponsored by the Mohawk Valley Hiking Club of Schenectady in 1929, and was gradually built in successive segments over many years. The trail enters Schoharie Valley at Gilboa Dam, and follows the east side of Schoharie Valley to Keyser Kill Falls. The Long Path then crosses Schoharie Valley to the west ridge and continues north to the summit of Vroman's Nose. From this lofty site, the Long Path descends the steep eastern slope to cross Schoharie Creek at Middleburgh and head for the Helderbergs south of Albany. The Long Path is maintained by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. Another site surveyed by NYOGFA—Schunemunk Mountain—is also on the Long Path.

The summit can be reached by three trails. The easiest route (green trail: .6 miles) is an old wooded road that is well graded and relatively smooth, with a few rather steep pitches. This trail begins from a parking area on West Middleburgh Road in Mill Valley north of Vroman's Nose. The medium steep trail (blue trail: .4 miles) begins near the white church on the dirt road along the east side, and ascends the northeast corner of Vroman's Nose, then turns south to climb to the summit, where it meets the green trail at the southeast end of the summit. The steepest and shortest route (red trail: .2 miles) to the summit is at the southwest end of Vroman's Nose; it begins on Route 30 and interesects the green trail after it turns east to ascend to the summit. A fourth trail (yellow trail: .2 miles) connects the blue and green trails along the north edge of the summit.
Lower Schoharie Valley
looking south from the summit
Hamilton Sandstone "dancefloor" on the right; note dwarf oaks, pitch pine and cedars

PHOTO DYarrow 6/8/02

The Earth Restoration and Reforestation Alliancewww.championtrees.orgupdated 4/14/2003