Yesterday, I was driving along Shelter Rock Road in Long Island on my way back to the city…
And as I was driving, I started to think to myself that Shelter Rock Road is a really interesting name for a street, and that it was too bad I’d probably never know find out what the origin of it was.
Then, literally as I was having this thought, I pulled up to a traffic light and noticed this sign posted beside it:
The biggest boulder on Long Island! Moved here over 20,000 years ago! Used as an Indian shelter in 1,000 BC! Just ten feet from my car! Obviously, there was some kind of weird scouting kismet going on, so I parked across the street and made an insane dash across four lanes of traffic to the iron fence…
And peering through the trees, I saw it – Long Island’s largest boulder:
If you’re a bit underwhelmed, it’s probably because you’re comparing this to the sort of exposed rock face you see all over the place, which isn’t fair to Shelter Rock. At 55-ft by 35-ft and an estimated 5,000,000 pounds, the granite boulder – technically, a “glacial erratic” – was moved to this spot by a glacial ice sheet somewhere between 11 – 20,000 years ago, most likely originating from the Bronx or Westchester.
The Matinecock tribe had a settlement nearby, and the 30-foot overhang is believed to have been used as a shelter. Bits of pottery and other artifacts have been unearthed beneath it.
One neat bit: there are a number of trees growing out of the top of the boulder:
Sadly, the Largest Boulder on Long Island sits just beyond the perimeter of Greentree, the privately owned former Whitney estate, so I wasn’t able to take shelter under its protective overhang (the Greentree Foundation does occasionally arrange for private tours for school and other groups).
And now having unexpectedly learned the meaning behind Shelter Rock, I headed toward the Long Island Expressway, where I was once again reminded that “expressway” and I-495 have absolutely nothing in common.
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