Up the Croton River
By Jana Seitz
There is a fabulous day trip within a half-hour’s drive from Rye, a gorgeous section of the Croton River flowing from the dam to the Hudson River at Croton-on-Hudson. It’s cold and clear since it comes from the bottom of the Croton Reservoir and is edged by marshes and overhanging willow trees. Dragonflies are buzzing, fish are jumping, and the summertime visiting is easy. If you’ve ever driven north on Route 9 from Sleepy Hollow, you’ve crossed it and probably never noticed. There are fabulous views of Sleeping Indian Rock west across the Hudson, with a train trestle separating you from the river’s big churning waters. It’s about a two-mile stretch to the end of the navigable river, about a two-hour round trip in kayaks if you just ease along.
The Croton River has been the main source of New York City’s water supply since 1842, pumped to the city through the Old Croton Aqueduct. In 1884, a 300-foot-high masonry dam spanning the river at its mouth was commissioned to expand the water supply. Completed in 1906, the 16-square mile reservoir is capable of storing 14.2 billion gallons. Begin your adventure by checking it out. It’s incredible. There’s a lovely park at its base from which you watch the water cascade over, and a path to the right of the dam through the woods to the top. Come back down the same path or you end up on a busy road for a bit.
Now drive the few miles down to the train station in Croton-on-Hudson, where the kayak launch is located at the very end on the water. There is plenty of parking available, free at launch or pay at station. And there are kayaks available to rent if you don’t BYO. Heading in with the tide is best, as there are shallow areas and hidden boulders: nothing dangerous, just a bit inconvenient at low tide. Best time to paddle is going in two hours before high tide and getting off two hours after. Ride the tide of that magic for four hours.
This trip is a staple of our Paddle Adventure Camp at Rye Nature Center as it offers much to explore and looks somewhat different on any given day. The route is obvious and easy.
After launching, head east up the river. Van Cortlandt Manor, home of The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze, is on an inlet to your left if you’d like to explore. The river is soon separated by the first of two long islands, and either direction around it is fine at high tide. Go left around it if tide is low. You will see homes on the cliffs overhanging the river, a few docks, some big boulders, and a rope swing or two.
Pull in for lunch at the next big island where the river tumbles down through rocky streams on either side. We love to walk to the end of the island with our campers, jumping over boulders, climbing trees, and building dams. Sturdy river shoes or old sneakers are best.
We return the way we came, then head for homemade ice cream at The Blue Pig at 121 Maple Street in Croton-on-Hudson.
This trip is perfect solo, with kids, or with friends.
Box, tint it Hem
Hudson River Recreation
20 Veterans Plaza
Croton on Hudson
Call or email for kayak rental reservations.
Open Monday through Friday 12-6, weekends 10-6.
Paddle Adventure campers building dams.
Lunch spot at island in Croton River