The Watchung Mountains
and the Great Notch
It can be hard for us living in the 21st century to visualize the importance of the Watchung Mountains during the Revolutionary War. Over two centuries of development and highway building have changed the visible landscape. These changes allow us to easily drive over the Watchung Mountains without taking much notice of them. But in the 1700's, they had a great effect on movement. The cliff walls of the Watchung Mountains created barriers to travel, so that it was often necessary to travel miles out of a direct route in order to get where you wanted to go.
British forces occupied New York City for most of the Revolutionary War, so General George Washington often positioned his troops in New Jersey to the west of the Watchung Mountains. The ridges of the Watchung Mountains provided layers of protection that stretched for over 40 miles from Mahwah to Somerset County. 
On two occasions in 1780 (July 1-29 and October 9 - November 27), Washington positioned the Continental Army behind the Watchung Mountains in this area. During these periods, Washington made his headquarters at Dey Mansion in what is now Wayne. Thousands of Continental Army soldiers were encamped over the surrounding area throughout what are now Totowa, Woodland Park, Little Falls, and Hawthorne.
The section of the Watchung Mountains which runs through Woodland Park is called Garrett Mountain. It is a two-and-a-half-mile ridge which runs from Route 46 to Route 80. Rifle Camp Park and Garrett Mountain Reservation make up most of the mountain ridge. The mountain ridge offers far views to the east, so it was used as a lookout during this period.
A major break in the cliff wall of the Watchung Mountains in this area was the Great Notch. It is difficult to get a full understanding of how much of a notch in the mountains it was before modern times, but the Great Notch cut through the area where Route 46 now goes through.
Major Parr's Rifle Corps were stationed at the Great Notch on October 9, with orders to patrol the roads leading from the notch to Acquackanonk (now Passaic) and Newark., Parr's corps are believed to have camped at the site of what is now Rifle Camp Park, which is named in their honor. On October 17, they were replaced at the Notch by a regiment of the Second Connecticut Brigade. 
Because of the Great Notch's importance as a break in the cliff wall, it also saw the movements of other patrolling troops throughout the July 1-29 and October 9 - November 27, 1780 encampment periods. A regiment of cavalry were stationed less than two miles from the Great Notch at the Little Falls on the Passaic River and passed through the Great Notch on their patrols during these months. 
On October 23, General Lafayette and his Light Infantry troops passed through the Great Notch en route from Wagaraw (now Hawthorne) to Cranetown (now Montclair). 
Visiting Rifle Camp Park and Garrett Mountain Reservation
Both parks are open to the public every day from sunup to sundown. The cliffs which had strategic value as lookouts during the Revolutionary War now offer sensational views of the modern landscape. As shown below, both parks have quarter-operated viewing machines to bring distant spots into view, so remember to bring some quarters with you so that you can use the viewer.
Among the attractions of the parks are the John Crowley Nature Center and Astronomical Observatory in Rifle Camp Park, and Lambert Castle in Garrett Mountain Reservation. Both parks have hiking trails and picnic areas.