Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park is comprised of more than 1,000 acres of land that are ideal for walking, jogging, hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. This park treats visitors to exceptional views of the Hudson River, historic elements of the Gilded Age, and fantastic opportunities for seasonal camping, cabin rentals, and boating. The White and Blue Trails form a loop between the DCC Environmental Site and Mills Mansion that is about 5 miles long and gains approximately 200 feet in elevation.
There are multiple parking areas and access points to various trailheads, lookouts, and points of interest. At the southern tip of the park the former “Point Inn” is home to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Norrie Point Environmental Center and is the headquarters of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve. Inside, environmental programs are continuously offered to people of all ages, and there is an aquarium museum and field station belonging to Dutchess County Community College open to the public. Outside, you can see Esopus Island to the south and the adjacent Mills Norrie State Park Marina.
The White Trail is an excellent shoreline path that follows the Hudson River for more than 2.5 miles. This root-and-rock-covered trail passes a large pavilion, several picnic areas, and campsites bustling with activity in the summer months. During spring and fall migration, songbirds can be found in abundance along these forested banks and American bald eagles, which are currently threatened, can be seen during all seasons.
To the north, the White Trail meets the Blue Trail and greets Mills Mansion, also known as the Staatsburgh State Historic Site. Ruth Livingston, a great-granddaughter of Robert Livingston, inherited the mansion, formerly known as Livingston Manor. She married Ogden Mills, a realtor, businessman, banker, and among many other things, the vice president of the Metropolitan Opera House. His father, Darius, found wealth in the California gold rush and invested heavily in railroads with Ogden, who was very successful at growing their fortune. Ruth and her husband developed the estate as a retreat for the wealthy, complete with tennis courts, an ice boat, and horseback riding.
There is a stone boathouse at Dismore Point where you can look out to the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse and the Catskill Mountains. Sweeping hills below the mansion’s riverside face offer excellent opportunities for sleigh riding in the winter months. Nearby, the Hoyt House, now a private residence, once belonged to the Mills’ daughter, Geraldine, and her husband Lydig Hoyt.
The grounds and facilities are the product of several very generous gifts and purchases. The original 323 acres were given to the State of New York in 1934, and the Civilian Conservation Corps was sent by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to build the park from 1934 through 1937. It became a very special place go hiking and swimming during the troubled times of the Great Depression. In 1938, Gladys Phipps gifted an additional 190-acre parcel of land along with the 1894 mansion to the park. Another 265-acres were absorbed by the Land Acquisition Bond Act from 1963 through 1971 and included the Lewis Gordon Norrie Playground. It wasn’t until 1971 that Gladys Mills Phipps gifted the contents of the mansion to the people of New York State. Today, guided tours of the house are available for a fee.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.