Bennett Hill has become one of our more popular preserves. This 155 acre property was a gift of Dr. Jerry Bilinski of North Chatham in 1998. The hill towers over Clarksville, and stands only a short distance from the base of the Helderberg Escarpment. Although the top of the hill is only 400 feet above the surrounding land, it offers striking views of the Helderbergs to the north and west, and Albany to the east.
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Directions: From Albany, take Delaware Avenue (443) west through Clarksville. Make a left onto Clarksville S. Road (312).Bear left onto Bennett Hill Road and continue for approximately .5 of a mile. The Preserve entrance is on the right and is marked by a small sign. Drive down the grass road and park in the lot. Follow the trail from the parking area to the trailhead.
About: Bennett Hill consists primarily of Hamilton Group sandstones and shales (sedementary rock which formed about 400 million years ago during the Middle Devonian Period); there is very little soil over the bedrock. It sits on Onondaga limestone (also Middle Devonian). The Figure, looking north, shows an east-west cross section through Copeland Hill (the Conservancy's Holt Preserve), the next hill to the east-southeast of Bennett Hill. The Figure's vertical scale is two and one-half times the horizontal scale [H-Hamilton shales; On-Onondaga limestone; CG-Esopus shales; O-Oriskany sandstone; S-Becraft limestone; Sl-Shaly limestone; P-Pentamerus limestone; T-Tentaculite beds and Salina waterlime; SL-sea level].
The stone between the base of the Hill and the intermediate plateau on the northwest side of the hill (elevation 980 feet, a climb of 240 feet) is Marcellus black shale. At the base of the next climb (about 120 feet from the top) can be found flaggy sandstone, and shales, including some red sandstone and shale which are probably from Oneonta beds farther up the Hill.
The Onondaga limestone is one of the rock layers in which caves and other Karst features are found. There is a small area of sinkholes in this limestone at the northern base of the Bennett Hill; the sinkholes are located at the back corner of the entrance field at the point where the trail along the western base of the Hill begins (approximate elevation 740 feet). A rivulet flowing down the Hill at that point enters the northmost sinkhole and disappears.
That rivulet and a number of others on the north face of the Hill begin at seeps in the Marcellus shale; they probably flow only in the Spring. The other rivulets disappeared directly into the soil at the base of the Hill; no other sinkholes were found in that area.
The broad outline of the Hill was probably formed by erosion beginning in the middle Tertiary Period (about 40 million years ago), but the current smoothed appearance was shaped by glaciation. The steep slope on the north side of Bennett Hill and the "streamlines" extending to the south from the Hill show that during the latest (Wisconsin) glaciation the ice flow in the area around Clarksville was roughly north to south.
The top of the Hill is a relatively flat plateau, the northern edge of the plateau is at an elevation of about 1120 feet; outcrops in that area are a dark shale with a redish hue. In the middle of the plateau is a small wetland at an elevation of 1100 feet. South of the wetland, the highest point on the Hill is at 1135 feet. The total height of the Hill is about 400 feet.