In my time exploring New York, there might not be any site that surprised me more than the West Point Foundry Preserve in Cold Spring. This site mixes abandoned buildings and hidden waterfalls with amazing history to create one of the Hudson Valley’s must-visit destinations.
Planning for the West Point Foundry began shortly after the War of 1812. President James Monroe recognized the need for the United States to be able to produce its own artillery and went about setting up several foundries to produce these weapons of war.
The foundry opened in 1818 and produced both military supplies as well as domestic products and even train engines and ironclad ships. In fact, the first American-made train engine to ever run in the country, known as the “Best Friend of Charleston,” was made at the West Point Foundry.
Peak production was reached during the Civil War when there was a large need for military supplies and the site employed 1,400 people. In fact, the foundry was so important that President Abraham Lincoln personally visited in 1862, and the site was mentioned in the 1865 novel “From the Earth to the Moon” by Jules Verne.
After the Civil War, however, as steel production was ramping up, the need for iron began to decrease and the foundry declined in importance before finally closing in 1911.
Today, the site of the foundry is protected as the West Point Foundry Preserve in Putnam County, New York.
This 87-acre site features a roughly half-mile hiking trail (which is partially handicapped accessible), several abandoned buildings, and even two waterfalls. Plus, along the way, there is signage that can help you learn more about the site’s importance in American history.
From the parking area, head towards the large information panels adjacent to a dirt road. Before starting on your way, take a few minutes to read more about the history of the West Point Foundry.
Once done, head down the dirt road. In about 200 yards, you’ll see a large metal structure off to your right. This is a recreation of the foundry’s gun platform.
Amazingly, to test the military projectiles that they were making, the foundry would use this gun to shoot artillery across the Hudson River onto the then isolated Storm King Mountain. In 1999, it was discovered during a fire that some unexploded ordinances was still on this mountain and a cleanup operation had to be performed to render the mountainside safe.
Next, follow the trail away from the Hudson River for about 100 yards to come to the remarkable remains of the foundry’s two-story office building. While it is closed to the public, it’s amazing to see this building sitting intact in the woods along the banks of Foundry Brook.
Next to the office building, a portion of the carpentry shop still stands.
As you continue along the path, you’ll pass more ruins on your left and right. While only the foundations of these buildings remain, it is still remarkable to note the size of the structures.
Soon, you’ll see an artistic partial replica of a waterwheel on your left. This is where the boring mill that was part of the foundry’s artillery making operations once stood. The 36-foot waterwheel here looks quite strange in the middle of the woods but really does help to bring the site to life.
From the site of the waterwheel, you have three options. You can return the way you came, which is the best, and really only, option for those that can’t do stairs or uneven terrain.
While you can also continue up the stairs to complete the half-mile loop, I’d highly recommend instead looking for the dirt path that heads into the woods to the right before heading back towards the parking area.
Following this dirt path leads to more ruins on your left, as well as two beautiful waterfalls.
While the first waterfall is relatively small, it is still quite beautiful, and I came into my visit having no idea that it was here. However, a short distance further up the trail, there is an even better waterfall.
This waterfall on Foundry Brook, which I’ve dubbed Foundry Falls in absence of being able to find a name (Let me know if you know of an official name), is approximately 20 feet in height.
The top of the waterfall is an old dam likely dating back well over 100 years to when the site was in operation, while the bottom portion of the waterfall appears natural. Just above the waterfall, Route 9D crosses this small gorge, creating a really neat scene.
While the waterfalls at West Point Foundry Preserve aren’t large, they are easy to reach and worth the few extra minutes required to check them out.
After you are done viewing the waterfalls, return to the waterwheel and climb the steps adjacent to it. From here, it’s a short five-minute walk back to the parking area. While there isn’t much to see along this final part of the path, there are some views overlooking the foundry site which are quite nice.
Without a doubt, the West Point Foundry Preserve surprised me. While I knew it was a historic site with a few ruins, I had no idea how many abandoned structures there would be or that there would be two beautiful waterfalls.
Those features, combined with the amazing history of this site, make the preserve a must-visit spot in the Hudson Valley.
Visiting the West Point Foundry Preserve
The West Point Foundry Preserve is located just south of Cold Spring, New York along the banks of the Hudson River. Despite the name, it sits on the opposite side of the river from West Point, New York, and the military academy and its great museum.
The parking area can be found at the following coordinates: 41.415219, -73.950549.
It is also possible to walk to the preserve from the Cold Spring Train Station. From the station, a half-mile walking trail follows the Hudson River downstream to the parking area. Along the way, you will pass a set of stairs that leads to the Kemble Bluff Overlook.
[Click here for information on how to use the coordinates in this article to find your destination.]