Monday, February 18, 2019

Western New York Secret Places: Little Rock City

by Mike Radomski


Little Rock City, located in Little Valley, NY, is one of Western New York’s Secret Places named by the late Bruce Kershner’s book by the same name. Little Rock city is a “seemingly unending labyrinth of odd blocks of colossal rocks, lined up like buildings.” Little Rock City gets its name from the arrangement of rock formations which resemble a planned city like New York City.  The giant, rectangular rocks form streets, alleys and buildings and are named after famous New York City ways such as Wallstreet, Broadway and Rockefeller Plaza. See the map below.

Little Rock City is the largest rock city on public land covering over 50 acres and is part of the Rock City and McCarty Hill State Forest. Little Rock City, contrary to some belief, was NOT formed glaciers. Rather is was formed by mountain building events called orogenies. By the gradual erosion of a layer of conglomerate rock, cracks developed in the rocks and widened.  The cracks eventually became crevices and the rocks very slowly slid down the mountain forming today’s Little Rock City.

A labyrinth of rocks.
Along with the interesting rock formation, Little Rock City has some unique features noted in the book. The Inscription Grotto (#7) has historic carvings dating back to the 1800’s. The oldest noted in the book are “J.D. June 30, 1861” and “Moall 1861”.  Another interesting set of features are the trees.  You can see trees seemingly growing out of the rocks with roots enveloping them to reach the soil. Stilt Tree (#4) is one such hemlock tree that stands on two large roots.

1800s inscriptions at Inscription Grotto.
In fact, all of the rock cities in NY, Pennsylvania and Ohio were formed by this process. They all lie just south of where the Ice Age glaciers stopped and retreated 12,000 year ago.  Had the glaciers continued, the area would have been “obliterated” and would have looked much like parts of NY just north.

Stilted tree.
When visiting, be sure to bring boots and an extra pair of shoes for after the hike. The alleys are muddy even during the dry summer months. And as the author suggests, bring a plastic supermarket bag and pick up any litter you find. It's important to always follow the practices of ":Leave No Trace" whenever we are outside enjoying these special places.

Map of Little Rock City from Secret Places by Bruce Kershner.

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