It lives right beside us, but how often do we get to soak in the beauty of the 315-mile long Hudson River?
Last weekend I was really fortunate to go hiking along Breakneck Ridge, which is about an hour and a half north of New York City, and traverses a section of the Hudson Highlands.
The trail looks down into a deep gorge where the Hudson crosses the “mountainous and forested Hudson Highlands” from roughly Peekskill to Newburgh. West Point overlooks the river there, and Bear Mountain Bridge spans this section.
I couldn’t get over the beauty and the scale of this part of the river. It’s truly majestic.
And there is so much more to see.
The upper course of the Hudson has many waterfalls and rapids. The middle course, between Newburgh and Albany, has the Catskill and Shawangunk mountains on the west side and large, historic estates, such as the Roosevelt home at Hyde Park, on the east bank.
Think About a Day Trip Along the Hudson
One way to experience the beauty of the Hudson is to go to Cold Spring, NY (an hour and twenty minutes from NYC’s Grand Central on Metro North).
From there, there are great options for folks of all ages and hiking abilities. All of these options are free and many are reachable by walking; you just need to get to Cold Spring.
Cold Spring has a beautiful beach and park along the river where families can barbecue and swim. There are also hiking trails close to the river, which are great for kids.
If you want to get up into the mountains, you can hike Breakneck Ridge, which is hard work but the views are stupendous. If you’re afraid of heights (like me), a few sections of the trail can be pretty unnerving because you are scrambling up rocks above steep drops. But friendly hikers helped me along when I got stuck.
On the way back down from Breakneck Ridge, my friend and I stumbled across something in the woods which would warm any NYC resident’s heart.
We had come across an old, seemingly abandoned, water pumping station that was part of the city’s water supply system. Today, New York City gets its drinking water from both the Catskill/Delaware and Croton systems, spanning 200 miles to the north of the city.
A City website describes:
“In 1905 the Board of Water Supply was created by the State Legislature. After careful study, the City decided to develop the Catskill region as an additional water source. The Board of Water Supply proceeded to plan and construct facilities to impound the waters of the Esopus Creek, one of the four watersheds in the Catskills, and to deliver the water throughout the City. This project, to develop what is known as the Catskill System, included the Ashokan Reservoir and Catskill Aqueduct and was completed in 1915.”
The Hudson: Majestic but Vulnerable
As I looked out at the Hudson, it was hard not to think about the threats to its health. Just a few days ago, a transformer fire at the nearby Indian Point nuclear power plant caused an oil leak into the river.
There is also the growing rail transport of crude oil along the western side of the Hudson. Watchdog group Hudson Riverkeeper reports that “as much as 7 billion gallons of crude oil could move by train through New York State annually under current and proposed permits as the nation’s “virtual pipeline” for crude oil expands.”
And there is the ongoing issue of raw sewage releases into sections of the river from combined sewer overflow points. Every year, says Riverkeeper, more than 27 billion gallons of raw sewage and polluted stormwater are discharged out of 460 overflow points into New York Harbor alone.
Protecting the river is more critical than ever as our population increases, and broader environmental challenges, like climate change, continue to unfold.
A few interesting facts about the Hudson River
- The Hudson River begins in Lake Tear of the Clouds on Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains, and flows generally south to the Upper New York Bay in New York City;
- The river is tidal from New York City to Troy (150 miles upstream), this section of the Hudson is considered to be an estuary;
- Connects with the Great Lakes and with Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River via the New York State Canal System;
- Navigable by ocean vessels to Albany and by smaller vessels to Troy;
- Its chief tributary is the Mohawk River, which flows into the Hudson in the Capital District, a few miles north of Albany.
Photo credit: Sarah Crean