OLD CROTON AQUEDUCT

Westchester County, NY


A trail on the top of the old Croton Aqueduct runs (with many interruptions) from Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to Irvington.  


History:

Work began on the Croton Aqueduct in 1837 to tap the waters of the Croton watershed in Westchester County for the residents of  New York City.  The work was done by Irish laborers.  In 1841, during construction, and the dam nearly complete, an 18" snow storm followed by three days of rain caused the dam to break. The dam was rebuilt, this time entirely of masonry rather than the combination of masonry and earthwork. (The dam is still intact but submerged under the New Croton Reservoir; visible only in periods of sever draught.) The aqueduct was in operation by 1842, conveying as much as 100 million gallons of water a day. It operated using the gravity principle, descending 46.3 feet at the rate of 13.25 inches per mile.  The chief engineer for the aqueduct was John B. Jervis.  

A new Croton Aqueduct (with three times the capacity) was constructed between 1884 and 1893.  This source was then supplemented by the Catskill Aqueduct system.  The old Croton Aqueduct was retired in 1955.  (Henry S. Sloan in Houck 1983)

The old Croton Dam and gate house (located under the old Croton Dam bridge) were flooded over by the new reservoir. The New Croton Dam appeared in 1907.  (Source: P. 31. Linda Cooper and Alice Roker. 2003. Images of America: Yorktown. Charleston, SC: Arcadia.)


Trail:

Along the trail the aqueduct ventilators appear every mile or so. They supplied fresh air to the water and prevented pressure from building up inside.

Croton Dam (south of Peekskill) through part of Town of Cortlandt, small part in Town of New Castle, and into northern part of Town of Ossining

A section runs from the Croton Dam Plaza heading southwest to Quaker Bridge Road East. Cross the Road.

9/13/04.  Brother-in-law Ceferino Santana and I walked south from Quaker Bridge Road East (where we had parked (0.3 of a mile up from the one lane bridge over the Croton River).  The path is wide open.  There is a little stream on the left and houses down a bit and on the right.  We come to one of those water towers that aerated the water system.   We cross over Quaker Bridge Road and pass by a parking pull-off area (that has been badly affected by erosion).  A gorge is on the right now instead of houses.  We can hear the noise of the white water from the River.  Come to a sign that says Croton Gorge Unique Area, 19 Acres.  There is a huge drop-off on the right down toward the gorge.  There is a parking area here for four or five cars.  Cross over Old Albany Post Road.  Come to our second water tower.  Reach Quaker Bridge Road again just south of the Waterview housing complex (which in turn is south of Waterview Drive). 

Cross over Quaker Bridge Road. heading southeast passing a park on the right, crossing over Fowler Avenue, then Shady Farm Road and stopping at Route 9A in Ossining.   

Ossining

A disjointed section of 6.5 miles from Ossining to Tarrytown.  Runs past the Sleepy Hollow area made famous by the stories of Washington Irving. This section is hard to follow.

The aqueduct tunnels below ground, but in some places it crosses gorges through arched viaducts. The most spectacular example of this is the double arch at Ossining. Here there is an 88 foot stone arch spanning the Kill Brook. In the 1860s, a second arch was constructed, under the aqueduct arch, to carry the traffic of Broadway across the brook. The double arch is hard to see because of subsequent overgrowth.

There is a short section running from the Albany Post Road (south of Eagle Bay Drive) down to Beach Road and then to Snowden Avenue.  When the Aqueduct crosses Beach Road hikers may detour to the west to the Crawbuckie Nature Preserve, a 12-acre loop down to the railroad tracks.  (Source: Historic River Towns of Westchester: Ossining; http://www.hudsonriver.com/rivertowns/ossining.htm)

Ossining is the only place where visitors may actually enter the aqueduct, through the Weir Chamber, used to spill off waste water during floods. Tours are arranged occasionally.

There is access to the Aqueduct off Main Street, at Nelson and Gerlach Parks, and a small parking area just south-west of Dominican Sisters of Hope on North Highland Avenue. The trail heads southeast from South Highland Avenue and then bears right heading south Scarborough Road.  Cross the road.  The path crosses Long Hill Road West, then shortly Ridgecrest Road and then it disappears near Admiral Worden's Lane. 

9/16/04.  with brother-in-law Ceferino Santa, parked on Washington Avenue off Route 9 (Highland Avenue) by the park there in Ossining.  Walked south along Highland Avenue and crossed over the Avenue.  Walked to the south end of the Hudson Cooperative Apartments (1195 Hyland Avenue) and took a short-cut through a small patch of woods into another apartment building's parking lot.  Walked east through the parking lot and found the Croton Aqueduct Trail.   The path is on a raised causeway with apartments on the right and wetlands and a small stream on the left.  There are lots of maple trees here.  There is a big house on the left near an air ventilator tower.  Found Hercules club in with its cluster of black berries on pinkish-red fruit stalks.  Approaching Scarborough Road we find the Sparta brook flowing under the causeway and heading downhill toward Route 9.  Cross Scarborough Road to once again pick up the trail which heads parallel to Scarborough Road crossing Long Hill Road and then coming to an end at Ridge Crest Road.  Tried to find the trail by walking down Admiral Worden's Lance, but no luck.  Turned around and walked back to the car.

The trail goes through the northwest tip of Sleepy Hollow Country Club and then Albany Post Road (Route 9). 

Cross diagonally over Route 9 to pick up the trail heading southwest down to Country Club Lane. The trail heads south and then southeast back over the Albany Post Road (Route 9).  Then the path heads across the many parts of route 117 at its junction with Route 9.  From Route 117 the path heads along the western boundary of Rockefeller State Park Preserve past the Rockefeller Cemetery, the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, to the Pocantico River and on to Douglas Park. 

Walk south through Douglas Park. southeast. The trail begins again at the southeast end of the park.  Cross Gorey Brook Road.  Walk along the a road (name?) southeast to Beekman Bedford Road. Cross over the Beekman Bedford Road and head south over Ander Brook.

Tarrytown

Head down to Cobb Lane.  Cross over the road and walk south to McKeel (spelling?) Avenue.  The trail soon peters out south of the road.

A short section is in Tarrytown.  (From the railway station hike up Main Street uphill to Broadway and then head south.  Turn left onto Leroy Avenue.  The aqueduct trail is on top of the embankment running along the west edge of a parking lot of a clinic (still there?).)  Cross over Prospect Avenue and head south parallel along Martine Avenue.  Cross over White Plains Road.  Reach US 287. 

The longest continuous stretch is south of the Tappan Zee bridge to Yonkers.  It travels parallel to the Hudson Line of Metro North, so it is readily accessible from New York City by public transportation.  The path starts 200 yards south of the traffic light on Broadway.  The trail goes through the Lyndhurst estate (the former home of robber baron Jay Gould).  

Irvington

It crosses Sunnyside Lane just up the hill from Sunnyside, the home of author Washington Irving.  South of Irvington the trail passes by the Armour-Stiner house, an orange octagonal house topped by a huge dome.

 Near Ardsley the trail goes by Nevis, built by Alexander Hamilton's son in 1835.  

8/12/03 -- a short walk on the aqueduct trail going north from Mercy College. Just walked past Columbia University Press and came back.

Dobbs Ferry

Next are the lawns of Mercy College (Dobbs Ferry), once a women's liberal arts institute, but now coeducational.  The trail parallels Broadway (Route 9). 

Hastings-on-Hudson

The trail goes through Hastings-on-Hudson crossing at the busy Broadway intersection just below Hastings-on-Hudson High School.  

The trail goes through Hastings-on-Hudson. August 17, 2001 Governor George Pataki held a press conference in Draper Park to announce the award of a $75,000 grant to Hastings to build a trail in the old Quarry Road (actually an inclined parkway) right-of-way that will link the Old Croton Aqueduct to the Hastings waterfront. Hastings-on-Hudson would be able to acquire and preserve 14.25 acres of property just north of the Yonkers border owned by the Graham School and Graham-Windham Services to Families and Children. A 4.09 acre parcel east of Warburton Avenue borders the Old Croton Aqueduct. Hastings created a new 1,600 foot trail (the Rowley's Bridge Trail) extending from the south from Southside Avenue to Zinsser bridge, parallel to the Metro North tracks and Hudson River. The purchase of the Graham property will allow the village to extend the trail up to Rowley's Brook, under Rowley's Bridge, to the aqueduct. (Source: http://www.hudsonriver.com/halfmoonpress/stories/0501hast.htm)

9/20/04.  With brother-in-law Ceferino Santana, visited Draper Park at the southwest corner of Broadway and Washington Street in Hastings-on-Hudson.   Walked through the park and then took an informal path that led down a hill and out through a hole in the fence to Aqueduct Lane and the Croton Aqueduct Trail  Walked south past the intersection of Aqueduct Lane and Division Street.  There is a good view of the Palisades from here.  Came upon ventilation tower #18.  Crossed Pinecrest Drive.  Crossed the private road of Graham Windham School.  Came to two sets of steps, one set heading on the right down to Warburton Avenue and the other heading left and uphill.  I was curious to see what was up at the top of the uphill steps.  It was quite a walk up the stairs and they ended before they reached the top, so I had to scramble up the last ten yards or so. I came upon what looked like a brick apartment complex.  Found out the next day that this was part of the Graham Windham campus.  Walked north along the border of the complex and came to a small park-like area with benches.  From here there is a gorgeous view of the Tappan Zee Bridge and vicinity.  Running out of our allotted time, I turned around and descended back to the Croton Aqueduct trail.  Back with Cefe, we headed back to the car and then home.  Dr. Patrick L. Cooney.

Yonkers

In Yonkers, the hiker passes the lion gates at the lower end of the old Untermyer estate (see Untermyer Park on this website).  Passing by Glenwood in Yonkers, one passes by the Hudson River Museum.  In Glenwood urban conditions are encountered.  The trail ends at Lamartine Avenue in Yonkers. (Walking further south brings the hiker past Philipse Manor Hall to busy Getty Square.)

Croton Aqueduct Culvert over Nepperhan Avenue and the Saw Mill River.  Here is a large raised culvert. The design came from the bridges and aqueducts of ancient Rome.  (Pp. 112-114. Williams, Gray. 2003. Picturing Our Past: National Register Sites in Westchester County. Westchester County, NY: Westchester County Historical Society.)

Another long stretch (3.5 miles) is from Tibbetts Brook Park to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.  You can park in Tibbetts Brook Park. (I think you need a Westchester residence pass on weekends in the summer).  

The Bronx

You can also park in Van Cortlandt Park just before you go into the Van Cortlandt Park golf course. If walking south to north the trails ends at the gatehouse at Yonkers Avenue where it intersects the Cross County Parkway. The trail then picks up a little west on Yonkers Avenue (just a little past Prescott Street) and goes west through a run-down part of Yonkers to near the intersection of Palisades Avenue and Ashburton.  

Manhattan

173rd Street in upper Manhattan

The Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct have published an award-winning map detailing the route of the trail and attractions along the way. 

Westchester County as of 2003 plans a nearly 47 mile long Hudson River shoreline trail to be called River Walk.  It will utilize the Old Croton Aqueduct, Croton Point and Kingsland Point parks, Metro-North Railroad property, Camp Smith and passes though riverfront development sites (including Harbor Square in Ossining, General Motors site in Sleepy Hollow and Yonkers' developments at Hudson Park and Alexander Street).


PLANT LIST:
Dr. Patrick L. Cooney

calendar dates = dates plants found in bloom. 


Trees:
Acer japonicum  (Japanese maple)
Acer palmatum (Japanese maple)
Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore maple)
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven)
Aralia spinosa (Hercules club) 
Betula lenta (black birch)
Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood)
Carya cordiformis (bitternut hickory)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)
Carya sp. (hickory)
Carya tomentosa (mockernut hickory)
Catalpa sp. (catalpa)
Celtis occidentalis (American hackberry)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fagus sp. (cut-leaved beech)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Juglans nigra (black walnut)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Magnolia sp. (magnolia) planted
Morus alba (white mulberry)
Paulownia tomentosa (empress tree)
Picea abies (Norway spruce)
Pinus sp. (long needles, 2 needled)
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Pyrus sp. (crab apple)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Taxus sp. (yew)
Thuja occidentalis (arbor-vitae)
Tilia americana (American basswood)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)
Ulmus rubra (slippery elm)
(snowbell tree)

Shrubs and sub-shrubs:
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry) quite a bit
Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush) 8/12/03
Cornus alternifolia (alternate-leaved dogwood)
Cornus amomum (swamp dogwood)
Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
Forsythia sp. (golden bells)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Hibiscus syriacus (rose of Sharon)  8/12/03
Ilex sp. (cultivar bush)
Juniperus sp. (juniper bushes)
Ligustrum sp. (privet)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle)
Philadelphus sp. (mock orange)
Rhododendron maximum (rosebay rhododendron)
Rhodotypos scandens (jet bead)
Rhus typhina
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus occidentalis (black raspberry)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Rubus sp. (blackberry)
Salix discolor (pussy willow)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)
Viburnum dentatum (smooth arrowwood viburnum)
Viburnum dilatatum (linden viburnum) pretty dark green leaves and bright red berries
Viburnum sieboldii (Siebold's viburnum)
Vinca minor (periwinkle)

Vines:
Akebia quinata (akebia)
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (porcelainberry) masses of it in certain areas
Calystegia sepium (hedge bindweed) 9/20/04
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Euonymus fortunii (Fortune's euonymus)
Hedera helix (English ivy)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)  8/12/03
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Polygonum scandens (climbing hempweed)
Sicyos angulatus (one-seeded cucumber vine) 9/20/04
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis labrusca (fox grape)

Herbs:
Aethusa cynapium (fool's parsley)
Ajuga reptans (ajuga)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Allium vineale (garlic mustard)
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed)
Ambrosia trifida (giant ragweed)
Amphicarpaea bracteata (hog peanut)
Anthriscus sylvestris (wild chervil) ?
Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp)
Arctium lappa (great burdock)
Arctium minus (common burdock) 9/13/04
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster) 9/13/04 9/16/04
Aster novi-belgii (New York aster) 9/16/04
Aster novae-angliae (New England aster) 9/13/04
Bidens sp. (3 lflt beggar ticks) 9/16/04
Cardamine impatiens (narrow-leave bittercress) ?
Chelidonium majus (celandine)
Chenopodium album (pigweed)
Circaea lutetiana (enchanter's nightshade)
Commelina communis (Asiatic dayflower) 9/13/04 9/16/04
Cryptotaenia canadensis (honewort)
Duchesnea indica (Indian strawberry) 9/13/04
Epifagus virginiana (beech drops)
Erechtites hieraciifolia (pileweed)
Eupatorium fistulosum (trumpetweed)
Eupatorium rugosum (white snakeroot) 9/13/04 9/16/04
Geranium sibiricum (Siberian geranium) 9/13/04
Geranium maculatum (wild geranium)
Geum canadense (white avens)
Glechoma hederacea (gill over the ground)
Hackelia virginiana (Virginia stickseed)
Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed) 9/13/04 9/16/04 9/20/04
Lepidium virginicum (poor man's pepper)
Lobelia siphilitica (great blue lobelia) 9/16/04
Oxalis sp. (yellow wood sorrel)  8/12/03 9/16/04
Pastinaca sativa (wild parsnip)
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)  8/12/03
Pilea pumila (clearweed)
Plantago lanceolata (English plantain)
Plantago major (common plantain)
Polygonum cespitosum (cespitose smartweed)  8/12/03 9/13/04 9/16/04 9/20/04
Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed) 9/16/04
Polygonum sagittatum (arrow-leaved tearthumb) 9/16/04
Polygonum virginianum (jumpseed)
Prunella vulgaris (self-heal)
Ranunculus acris (tall buttercup) 9/16/04
Rumex obtusifolius (broad dock)
Solanum carolinense (horse nettle)  8/12/03
Solidago caesia (blue-stem goldenrod) 9/13/04 9/16/04
Solidago rugosum (rough-stemmed goldenrod) 9/16/04 9/20/04
Solidago sp. (goldenrod) 9/13/04
Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage)
Taraxacum officinale (dandelion)
Trifolium pratense (red clover)  8/12/03 9/16/04 9/20/04
Trifolium repens (white clover)  8/12/03 9/13/04 9/16/04
Urtica dioica var. procera (tall nettle) 9/13/04
Veronica officinalis (common speedwell)
Viola sp. (violet)

Rushes:
Juncus tenuis (path rush)

Sedges:
Carex laxiflora type (loose-flowered sedge type)
Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)
Scirpus atrovirens (dark green bulrush)

Grasses:
Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass)
Digitaria sp. (crab grass)
Echinochloa sp. (barnyard grass)
Eleusine indica (zipper grass)
Elymus sp.  (wild rye grass)
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Panicum clandestinum (deer-tongue grass)
Paspalum sp. (bead grass)
Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)
Poa annua (annual bluegrass)
Setaria faberi (nodding foxtail grass)
Setaria glauca (yellow foxtail grass)
Tridens flavus (purple top grass)
(bamboo)

Ferns:
Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern)
Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern))
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern)