The History of Saratoga Springs Goes Back 500 Million Years

Stromatolite at Petrified Sea Gardens are among the oldest fossils ever discovered

Stromatolites at Petrified Sea Gardens are among the oldest fossils ever discovered

If you are looking for interesting things to do in Saratoga Spring, how about stepping back in time further than the Revolutionary War? And it’s no cost at all. Saratoga Springs is famous for it’s history and culture, but I had no idea it was this old!

Did you know that New York State used to part of a tropical sea? Yep, there is evidence of sea life from the Cambrian Age right here in Saratoga Springs NY. The Cambrian age is the first age of the Paleozoic Era and according to Wikipedia ranged 541–485 million years ago. And right here in Saratoga Springs NY there is rare evidence of the beginning of life.

This Geologic discovery of fossilized sea life is known as the Petrified Sea Gardens. I found information online that says that this ancient area used to be a cool tourist place. The Petrified Sea Gardens in Saratoga Springs NY were first discovered in 1922 with a tourist area opened to the public in 1924. Throughout our modern history the area has been recognized as a National Landmark and a National Natural Landmark. It seems that the public access park closed in 2006 and is now on private property. It’s really sad that I missed such an amazing public park.

There is still good news! There is a small area right off the road where visitors can still enjoy the fossilized creatures and stand in an area that is over 485 million years old.

Standing on fossils created 500 million years ago

Standing on fossils created 500 million years ago

The life forms that are preserved at the Petrified Sea Gardens in Saratoga Springs are called stromatolites and are the oldest evidence scientist have of any life on earth. These stromatolite communities used photosynthesis and because oxygen are the bi-product of photosynthesis, these communities are believed to be the cause of Earth’s atmosphere being changed from carbon dioxide rich to the oxygen rich we have today (article from Indiana University Bloomington and an article from the University of California Museum of Paleontology).

Stromatolite communities are still being formed in Shark Bay in Western Australia.

Hoyt Quarry in Saratoga Springs was

Hoyt Quarry in Saratoga Springs was

Just a little more proof that this used to some kind of ocean or sea is limestone. Limestone is made of of mainly coral and shells of long-extinct sea creatures. Right across the street from the Petrified Sea Gardens is a historic area involving limestone.

The Hoyt Family owned part of a large limestone deposit which runs around the southern Adirondack Mountains. This quarry was used to extract limestone in order to burn it. Because the soil in the Saratoga area is so sandy it was poor quality for growing crops. By adding limestone ash to the soil farmers were able to neutralize the soil making it better for planting.

Right near the road is a sign explaining the quarry.  Just down from that sign is another sign that explains that you are looking at the remnants of an old limestone kiln. I Googled the temperature at which lime is burned and it is 900 degrees C or 1652 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remnants of the Hoyt Family lime kiln where limestone was burned to be mixed with soil to improve the soil quality.

Remnants of the Hoyt Family lime kiln where limestone was burned to be mixed with soil to improve the soil quality.

That is a substantial temperature to reach, I would think it was even harder to get a fire that hot in the late 1800’s. If you don’t mind getting scratched by plants and possibly trespassing on private property the limestone quarry still exists. There is a slight path to the left of the lime kiln which takes you back through the woods. Soon you will come to a beautiful cliff of what I guess is limestone.

The large cliff towers over you. If you get up close to you can marks in the stone which may have come from the extracting process.

Standing in the Hoyt Quarry off of Petrified Sea Gardens road in Saratoga Springs NY

Standing in the Hoyt Quarry off of Petrified Sea Gardens road in Saratoga Springs NY

It’s definitely a cool historic place to visit. 500 million years ago history. Even though the real museum or park is gone, there is still geology to be found in the Petrified Sea Gardens near Saratoga Springs. And to see the lime kiln used in the late 1800’s and a lime quarry which is still there, nice way to spend an afternoon. If you look up Petrified Sea Gardens or Lester Park Saratoga on your maps app or gps, it will give you directions to get to this cool place. It doesn’t really have an address, but if you are driving along Petrified Sea Gardens road you will see the little “park” on the side of the road.

Have you been to the Petrified Sea Gardens in Saratoga? Did you get to go to the tourist park before it closed? Do you know of any other cool geological places in the area? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading. I hope this helps!  :o)

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