The northeastern tip of the Bronx is where one finds the city’s biggest city-operated park. With 2,772 acres Pelham Bay Park is three times the size of Central Park. The most visited portion of the park is Orchard Beach, the crescent-shaped beach framed by the hilly nature preserves of Hunter and Twin islands.
Having previously written about the lagoon that separates the beach from the rest of the park, there’s also Turtle Cove, a smaller nature preserve inside the park. It is framed by three of the park’s internal roads and a forest.
The green lung at the center of the city’s northern borough is Bronx Park, designed to function as the Bronx’s counterpart to Central Park and Prospect Park. But shortly after its acquisition in 1888, most of this park has been designated for the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden. The Bronx River flows through these institutions, and within their grounds is fed by tributaries that are incorporated into the animal and plant exhibits.
One such example is the Native Plant Garden at NYBG, which in 2013 received a postmodern-style pond. The unnamed brook here is the most visible hidden waterway at NYBG, and the question I’m researching is whether it is fed by springs, wells, or the city water supply. Continue reading
Near the northern border of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx is a natural lake that shares its name with the cemetery and the surrounding neighborhood. It is a pleasant feature in the park-like graveyard that contains the remains and monuments for some of New York’s most famous people.
This water feature and the cemetery itself are contemporaries of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood and Evergreens cemeteries, which also have the appearances of a “burial park.” And like any distinguished park, they preserved their ponds while the surrounding landscape filled up with bodies and monuments.
Among the streams feeding into the East River that flow through the Bronx, Pugsley Creek is obscure, with little information available on its history. All that remains of it today is an inlet of the East River that used to penetrate much further inland.
The present head of this stream is deep inside Pugsley Creek Park, a 50-acre sanctuary of plants and wildlife separating the Soundview and Castle Hill neighborhoods. Continue reading
The oldest active bridge in New York City isn’t Brooklyn Bridge. It is the Roman-inspired High Bridge that connects western Bronx to the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Further north there was a much older bridge that connected Manhattan to the mainland. King’s Bridge crossed over Spuyten Duyvil Creek that passed by the northern tip of Manhattan.
In the above 1906 photo of King’s Bridge, the crossing appears virtually unchanged from its appearance in 1766 when it opened as part of Albany Post Road. The creek was buried and rerouted in 1914, but are there any traces remaining of the city’s first bridge?
Having last visited Saw Mill Playground in the South Bronx in 2016, I returned to the site to take a closer look at its neighbor, Brook Park. Both of these parks commemorate in their names the long-buried Mill Brook.
The stream was entirely covered in the 19th century, with its most visible surface reminder being Brook Avenue. At 141st Street, the community garden known as Brook Park also remembers the stream although it does not lie directly atop the former stream bed.
In its course within the Bronx Zoo, the Bronx River contains plenty of Hidden Waters materials such as a long-forgotten boathouse, a tributary stream, and a lake that flows into the river. At the Bronx River Gate to the zoo on Boston Road there is a walkway along its shore with a view of a waterfall that is open to the public free of charge.
It is a scenic and quiet corner of the otherwise heavily visited zoo, its centerpiece being a 10-foot cascade that appears as a waterfall.
Deep inside the upscale Riverdale section of the Bronx is a private subdivision with two ponds that recall its former landowner. The ponds can be viewed by traveling downhill on West 246th Street to the west of Independence Avenue.
Here, the street curves and descends downhill towards the Hudson River. Delafield Way branches off to the left with the ponds located behind a guard booth at the entrance to the Delafield Estates development.
September 9, 2017 the Williamsbridge Oval in the Norwood section of the Bronx observed the 80th anniversary since it opened to the public as a park. Prior to that it was a 120 million gallon reservoir built into a bowl-shaped depression on a hilltop.
As seen on this 1937 Parks archives photo of the park under construction, the earthen embankment that ringed this manmade waterway was preserved in the park’s design.
When I am not exploring the city’s hidden waterways, I like to give attention to the its lesser known waterfront parks. One such example is Barretto Point Park, which opened in 2006 in the Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx.
Surrounded by manufacturing facilities, it is a welcome patch of green on a bend in the East River.