Sunday, July 22, 2012

Along the Bronx River

The restoration of the Bronx River is one the great victories of New York environmentalism. Earlier this summer, I got a close look at all the good work the Bronx River Alliance has done to help this waterway when I paddled a 2-person kayak with my friend Jason Barr from Shoelace Park, at 219th Street, to the handsome Hunts Point Riverside Park. If you care at all about environmental justice and beautiful park design, or even if you just hanker to visit places that most people ignore, you owe it to yourself to make this trip. 

River levels were low but passable when we pushed off and we only ran aground a few times. (If you make this trip, bring a boat that can take some scratches.) There were a few falls and rapids that were too dangerous to run, but the portages for these are clearly marked (in English and Spanish) and we never lost our way.

The range of landscapes that you pass through varies from forests in the upper reaches of the river to industrial zones near its mouth. We saw plenty of birds, including egrets and herons. The river runs right through the Wild Asia exhibit at the Bronx Zoo, and I thought I notices some kind of Asian antelope behind the discrete fencing of the zoo.

We stopped for lunch by this falls, which is in the vicinity of the Bronx Zoo. Gazing at the tumbling water, I thought I might have been in the Adirondacks. For folks who live in the Bronx, it's a great gift to have a landscape like this right in their backyard.

To learn more about the restoration of Bronx River, check out a recent piece in the New York Times by Michael Kimmelman, who as architecture critic does a great job of linking design, the urban ecosystem, and social justice.

To learn more about the good work of the Bronx River Alliance, and pick up some tips on paddling this splendid river, visit the homepage of the Alliance.