North Salem, NY
SYNOPSIS: A huge rock perched atop a ring of much smaller stones, Balanced Rock is a roadside oddity that piques your interest. Is it real? Is it a gimmick? Who built it?
APPROXMIATE TIME: 10 minutes.
DIFFICULTLY: Easy, unless you plan on trying to move the 60-ton rock.
DIRECTIONS: From Route 6 in Brewster, take Route 121 heading south for 4.2 miles. Balanced Rock is on Route 121/116, a short distance south of the intersection of Keeler Road, on the left hand side. The barn next to the rock is the Cable Barn, a town building that has a small pull-off area out front. Be careful, because drivers whip around the curvy roads of North Salem.
THE VISIT: Balanced Rock is a pretty cool sight. It is just a few feet from the road, and while the speeding traffic kind of spoils the experience, you can’t help but be impressed with the structure. An information storyboard gives you the basic info on the stone, and you can walk all the way around the rocks. I suppose you could try to crawl under it, but I wouldn’t tempt fate.
The main stone, depending on the source, is estimated to weigh between 50 and 90 tons. The sign at the site claims it is 60 tons. Regardless of the structure’s original, the force (natural or man-made) needed to set it is impressive.
HISTORY: No one has been able to conclusively prove the origins of Balanced Rock. Some believe it is an erratic, left by chance to balance on smaller stones when the glaciers receded after the last ice age. Some believe Native Americans constructed it as a worship site. And some believe it was built even longer ago. The book Weird New York claims some believe it was constructed by Celts well before Christopher Columbus’ time. The book describes it as a dolmen – a stone tomb or portal made possibly for worship, burial or other ceremonial purposes.
In the Summer 2001 issue of the magazine Matrix, author Jay L. Lininger discusses the possible explanations for Balanced Rock. He cites an 1824 American Journal of Science article by mineralogy professor John Finch that proposes that Balanced Rock is a Celtic monument. Though the fact that they mistakenly placed the site in Putnam County (it is actually in Westchester) tells me maybe they weren’t THAT thorough on their research.
MAP & ADDITIONAL INFO:
Balanced Rock is classified under “Stone Chambers” on this website. There is no stone chamber, but it is of similar interest.
Gethard, Chris¸Mark Moran & Mark Sceurman. Weird New York. “The North Salem Dolmen” page 31. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. New York, NY. 2005.
Putnam’s Unsolved Mystery: The Balanced Rock by John L. Lininger. Matrix: A Journal of the History of Minerals. Volume 9, pg. 92. Summer 2001. Matrix Publishing. Dillsburg, PA.
Personal visits, various dates.