From almost anywhere in Greenfield, look east for a view of the town's favorite landmark - Poet's Seat Tower. From its lofty perch atop Rocky Mountain on the ridge that forms the eastern boundary between Greenfield and the Connecticut River, the tower commands a near 360-degree view of the lush Pioneer Valley.
Geology of the Ridge:
Poet's Seat Tower sits on a 190 million year old (early Jurassic period) 150-foot thick basalt lava flow overlooking the Franklin County shire town of Greenfield and the Connecticut, Deerfield, and Green River valleys.
The lava and sedimentary layers were tilted by the Eastern Border Fault located several miles to the east at the base of the prominent uplands of central Massachusetts seen on the eastern horizon. This border fault was created by the stresses caused by the brea-up of the great Pangea super continent. If the faulting had been just a bit more extreme, you would now be viewing the Atlantic Ocean from Poet's Seat Tower.
Note that most of the surrounding hills have the same elevation. During the age of dinosaurs, about 65 million years ago, this was a great flat erosional plain called a "peneplain" The area was uplifted, and rivers cut the present valleys. On a clear day, Mount Monadnock, a hill of resistant rock that was not eroded away, can be seen in New Hampshire to the northeast.
The flat, evergren-covered area midway in elevation between the far hilltops and the Connecticut River is the site of ancient Lake Hitchcock which formed during the glacial retreats and stretched from Hartford, Connecticut to St. Johnsbury, Vermont, about 200 miles.
Rocky Mountain was an island in the muddy lake, The Flat residential areas and the center of Greenfield on the ancient lake bottom.
Poetry in the View:
The Rural Club of Greenfield erected a smaller wooden tower near the current tower's site in 1873. Poet Frederick Goddard Tuckerman,who was a resident of Greenfield from 1847 until his death in 1873, often wrote his poetry sitting among the rocks at the foot of the tower.
A contemporary and acquaintance of Emerson, Longfellow and Tennyson, Tuckerman was inspired by the western view when writing his nature poetry. The wooden tower burned in 1911 and was replaced the following year by the present native sandstone tower.
How to Get there:
To get to the tower, follow the bright blue signs that dot Greenfield's main street from the rotary at interstate 91 and route 2A east through the town's vibrant downtown. Two blocks east of the Town Common, turn left on High Street, hen right n maple Street. Follow the signs to the top of the ridge. Turn into the parking lot on the left side of Mountain Road, where an easy hike to the tower starts.