The Great Falls of the Passaic River (sometimes referred to as the Paterson Great Falls) is a 77-foot waterfall located in Paterson, New Jersey. It is considered to be the second largest waterfall by volume east of the Mississippi River (after Niagara Falls). The Great Falls is a majestic sight for residents and visitors alike, and has played an important part in American history.
Early History of the Falls
Recognition of the Falls
The Great Falls has received much recognition throughout the years. In 1967, the Falls was designated as a National Natural Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior.
Under President Gerald Ford in 1976, the Great Falls was designated as a National Historic Landmark, which granted federal protection from development to the Falls, but not on a local and state level. This designation would not have been earned if not for efforts led by Mary Ellen Kramer, the wife of then-Paterson mayor Lawrence Kramer. She fought the state's efforts to build a highway through the mill district near the Falls. (A park within Great Falls National Historic Park bears her name as a result.)
In 1977, the raceways and power systems associated with the Falls were recognized with a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark designation. However, the park was threatened in the 1990s, when the city of Paterson sought to convert the nearby historic Advanced Textile Printing (A.T.P.) facility into prefabricated townhouses. The facility had fallen into disrepair after being gutted by a fire in the 1980s. Although the townhouses were approved by the city, a local citizen's group fought the city's efforts successfully and helped preserve the natural beauty of this area. Then in 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park Act. This was an historic move that not only further protected the park from any federal development, but added the Great Falls and its surrounding areas to the U.S. National Park System.