Sunday, July 25, 2010

Split Rock Village Furnace Tour & Hike

Split Rock Furnace
Split Rock Village Furnace
Were you aware that a magnificent furnace still stands by the Split Rock Reservoir dam along with the remains of a village?  We saw for ourselves on April 10th when Emma and I met up with Lisa Contreras and her son for the walking tour of Split Rock Village described in 4/10/10 News: Hikes & Ramstein Beer Open House.

Led by noted New Jersey historians Joe Macasek and Bierce Riley, we had the opportunity to participate in a walking tour of the Village of Split Rock, including the forge and furnace, and learn about some of the history of the area.

[Bierce Riley is actively involved with the Society for Industrial Archeology. Joe Macasek is vice president of The Canal Society of New Jersey and has written Guide to the Morris Canal in Morris County.]

Joe distributed several documents to help illustrate the story he and Bierce shared about Split Rock Village.  I was able to scan three of them; the others were too big.

Splitrock Furnace Track gives you a sense for the large tracks of land created in the 1770s specifically for the purpose of creating iron which required water, woodland and iron ore.  The Splitrock tract consisted of 3,000 acres which included the Durham Forge, the Splitrock Forge and Furnace and the Cobb mines.

Rockaway hones in on the Rockaway area and the location of various iron mines and forges.

Finally, The Village of Splitrock Furnace lays out the village itself and its many buildings. According to NY/NJ Trail Conference Split Rock Loop/Four Birds Trail Short Loop, "the 32-foot-high charcoal-fired Split Rock Furnace [was] built of stone in 1862 to smelt magnetite ore into the iron needed for the Civil War. The furnace operated for only about ten years, and was abandoned in the 1870s."

Joe Macasek with pig iron
Joe Macasek holding up 'pig iron'.
From the blast furnace documents Joe shared, "The massive stone blast furnace stack supported a tall, brick-lined chamber that was loaded from the top with alternating layers of iron ore, charcoal and limestone.  The burning charcoal fanned by a hot air blast, melted the ore at 2500 degrees F breaking the chemical bonds and separating the metallic iron from the ore.  Molten iron collected in a crucible in the bottom of the furnace and was tapped twice a day.  Because the iron was melted in contact with the fuel, it absorbed carbon from the charcoal, producing cast iron, generally as pigs.  At a finery forge, the pig iron was remelted and the carbon removed to make malleable wrought iron."

Furthermore, "... it took approximately an acre of woodland to supply enough charcoal to run the furnace for one day... The operation ran continuously with two crews, each working 12 hour shifts to keep the furnace running smoothly."


Joe and Bierce regularly conduct historic hikes for Industrial Heritage Walkers.  The most recent one was the Mt. Hope Mineral Railroad Walk.  If you're interested, I suggest you contact Joe Macasek directly at macgraphics1 [at]

Here are my photos of Split Rock Village and Furnace and the hike we took afterward when we hooked up with Tom Kline for a vigorous 3.9 mile hike. Our original destination was the Wildcat Ridge Hawk Watch - which wound up being too ambitious for the morning. However, the kids spotted both a bear and a blue-spotted salamander [see photos].

You may enjoy this detailed article on Wildcat Ridge. It helps put the area into perspective.

Finally, here is our trail map.

Split Rock Village Hike

Plan your trips with EveryTrail Mobile Travel Guides

For details on a more intense hike, including a video, visit Four Birds Trail - Wildcat Ridge from

We still need to make it to the Hawk Watch.... Hike anyone?


Anonymous said...

Good thing you went when you did, the town barricaded the parking lot yesterday -

CB Whittemore said...

Wow, Anonymous! Thanks for sharing that link. I hope they resolve this sooner rather than later.


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