Wednesday, December 2, 2009

400 Years of the Hudson River (part 1)

Once again, I'm adding a new feature to the blog. I'm from (upstate) New York and I've decided to (re)visit interesting places near where I live and to then post about them. Why? Because it's fun, for one. And to, well, point things out to people who may not be aware of what there is to see in my (and possibly their) part of the world. So, if you're from NY, um, hello neighbor? And if not, here's why you should visit:

First up, the Hudson River. 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson sailing up the river that now bears his name. On his ship, the Half Moon, Hudson sailed up the river as far as Albany which is about 150 miles north of what's now New York City. There's a lot of interesting history about the area, the Native American tribes that lived there, and the eventual Dutch and English settlements. I, however, am going to skip most of that. For now. I may expand upon the history in later posts but for now, I'm going to focus on me.

Before I do, here's a little geography. The Hudson River begins (some sources say) at Lake Tear of the Clouds which is on Mount Marcy, the tallest mountain in New York. I remember being taught that the lake is at the top of the mountain. It isn't. I know that because I've been to the top of Mount Marcy and also because I've since read about it. The river meanders downhill and south, often as little more than a wide stream. Driving through upstate NY's Adirondack Mountains (something I'll post about later), you may cross the river often or simply drive along it. The river eventually widens, flattens, curves a bit, and flows down to New York City. Enough for now?

For most of my life, I've lived within ten or so miles of the Hudson River (and much closer, like within two blocks, when I was in college). As a result of that, I have many fond memories, pictures, and experiences that somehow involve the river. Here are a few of them:

Growing up, I often traveled to Poughkeepsie, NY to visit my grandparents who, for some unknown reason, decided to stay there even after retiring. On these visits, I always noticed a tall, imposing railway bridge slightly north of the Mid-Hudson Bridge which is used by cars. Somehow, I always knew that that railway bridge had "burned down" although I never quite understood that. How could something burn down and still be standing? I guess "caught fire" might be a better description, and that's certainly true. There was a fire on that bridge, in 1974, that stopped trains from crossing the bridge after nearly a century. In 1992, efforts began to turn the bridge into a walkway. On October 3 of this year, that walkway opened. The bridge/walkway is now a state park, allowing pedestrians to cross the Hudson between Poughkeepsie and Highland (places you may have never heard of).

I visited the bridge and crossed it (both ways) just a few weeks later. The leaves were at their peak (changing color, remember?) and the view was clear and colorful: blue sky, blue water, red and gold leaves, and enough sun to make the water shimmer. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera.

Not just a walkway and a state park, the bridge also contains information panels detailing the history of the bridge and the area as well as the kinds of fish found in the water. Even more than that, there's a cellphone guide where visitors can call a number and hear all sorts of information. I learned a lot including that the bridge was considered a technical wonder when it was built. It doesn't seem so special now! I seem to remember also learning that a Native American name for the river means something along the lines of "the river that flows both ways" because the river is tidal for many miles, I've heard as far as Albany. As I said, that's 150 miles.

More Information (and pictures!):

Next up, the Hadley Parabolic Bridge (sometimes called the Hadley Bow Bridge). I hear what you're saying already: that's over the Sacandaga River, not the Hudson. You were thinking that, right? Well, if you were, you are correct. So why am I writing about it? 1. It happens to be right next to a no-longer-in-used railroad bridge. Weird, huh? 2. It's considered a technological oddity of sorts. 3. It's within spitting distance of the Hudson.

This bridge was built in a somewhat unusual style and is quite unique. It's now on the National Register of Historic Places. I'd rather not go into the technical details and history of the bridge (much too complicated and I'm not sure I completely understand it all) so instead, here's the Wikipedia page. Not that I recommend Wikipedia or have any idea if the information is accurate.
Once again, I hear what you're saying. You want to know why I visited this bridge, right? Well, I was actually driving along on a road parallel to the road with the bridge (the old road's replacement, basically) when I saw a sign for the "parabolic bridge". Naturally, I was curious. Wouldn't you be? Having decided to check it out, I found this neat looking little bridge:
The railway bridge River!
Today's third Hudson River mention is very close geographically to the parabolic bridge. On the same day I visited the bridge, I saw Rockwell Falls (name courtesy of this fabulous site:, a small but powerful waterfall in the Hudson River.


The river below the falls (I think).

More on Hudson 400:
Part 2 coming soon! Along with Seattle (/Washington), BSC in the USA and Yosemite.


  1. "Growing up, I often traveled to Poughkeepsie, NY to visit my grandparents who, for some unknown reason, decided to stay there even after retiring."

    The semesterly Vassar rugby tournament?

    Heh. Great pics, as always.

  2. I've never really seen pictures of the Hudson; it seems to be beautiful. I love traveling so I'll have to venture out there one day and check it out for myself, as long as the travel costs are low enough of course.

  3. I admit that I'm very biased but I do think the Hudson is beautiful. I wish my pictures did it justice! Worth a visit, in my opinion. :)