Pine Island is a hamlet in the town of Warwick in Orange County, New York, United States. It is the largest community in the Black Dirt Region, which is famous for its "black dirt onions." It gets its name from its slight elevation over the surrounding land. In the days before the nearby Wallkill River was rerouted to control flooding, it would often be an actual island for a period in the spring.
Pine Island is known for its black dirt. This rich soil is the result of constant flooding during the retreat of glaciers during the last ice age, about 12,000 years ago. The "muck," as it was called, plastered shallow lakes that today make up the fields, or "flats." Much the same as a peat bog, these areas are known for their prolific fossil production, particularly those of ancient mastodons. Into the 1800s the swamps still lingered, surrounding what is greater Pine Island.It was then that these lakes were first drained to be utilized for their superior growing capabilities. The Wallkill River winds through this region and drops a mere 11 feet. When flooded, small islands emerged, Pine Island being the principal one.When locals first tried to alter the route of the river, obstacles lay in river bed obstructions and man-made dams for the purpose of water-powered mills. Farmers wanting to eliminate the constant threat of flood could not afford to pay the local mill owner to lower his dam, so they dug a series of ditches and canals to drain the "Drowned Lands."Between 1829 and the turn of the century a series of votes, rulings, arrests, injunctions, dam destructions and repairs ensued during what became known as the Muskrat (dam destroyers) and Beaver (dam builders) War.