During the 1830s New York City was in dire need of a fresh water supply to combat the steady rise of disease and to fight numerous fires that often engulfed large tracts of businesses and homes. After numerous proposals and an abandoned plan two years into its production, construction of an unprecedented magnitude began in 1837 under the expertise of John Bloomfield Jervis. The proposed plan called for a 41 mile aqueduct and dam to be built in order to run water from the Croton River to New York City. Three to four thousand workers, mostly Irish immigrants earning up to $1.00 per day, completed the masonry marvel in just five years. In 1842 water flowed into above ground reservoirs located at the present sites of the New York Public Library and the Great Lawn of Central Park. Throngs of people attended the formal celebration held on October 14th and celebrated with "Croton cocktails" - a mix of Croton water and lemonade.
This 19th century architectural achievement cost New York City approximately 13 million dollars and was believed able to provide New Yorkers with fresh water for centuries to come. The population spiraled upward at a dizzying rate, however, and the Croton Aqueduct, which was capable of carrying 100 million gallons per day, could no longer meet New York City’s needs by the early 1880s. Construction of the New Croton Aqueduct began in 1885 and water began to flow by 1890. Although no longer the sole supplier of fresh water, the Old Croton Aqueduct continued to provide water to New York City until 1965.
In 1968, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation purchased 26.2 miles of the original 41 mile aqueduct from New York City. Presently, Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park is a linear park which runs from Van Cortlandt Park at the Bronx County/City of Yonkers border to the Croton Dam in Cortlandt. In 1987 a section was reopened to supply the Town of Ossining and in 1992 the Old Croton Aqueduct was awarded National Historic Landmark Status. The scenic path over the underground aqueduct winds through urban centers and small communities. It passes near numerous historic sites, preserves, a museum highlighting the construction of the Aqueduct, and many homes. The Aqueduct’s grassy ceiling provides abundant recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. While primarily for walking and running, parts of the trail are suitable for horseback riding, biking (except during “mud season”), bird watching, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing.
Don't miss these popular destinations and attractions within or near this historic park
The Friends of Old Croton Aqueduct offer a detailed map and brochure to help visitors use the Aqueduct Trail to connect to numerous destinations in Westchester County. To purchase a brochure, please visit http://www.aqueduct.org/. Funds raised from the brochure help the Friends offer tours, programming and improvements for the park.
The Aqueduct was built to help supply water to New York City, owing in part to its inadequate water supply. Major David B. Douglass, a West Point engineering professor, was the project's first chief engineer. He was succeeded in 1836 by John B. Jervis of Rome, New York, whose experience was in canal and railroad building. Construction, begun in 1837, was carried out largely by Irish immigrant labor.
An elliptical tube 8 ½ feet high by 7 ½ feet wide, the Aqueduct is brick-lined for most of its length, with a coating of hydraulic cement at bridge crossings and outer walls of hammered stone. Designed on principles dating from Roman times, the gravity-fed tube, dropping gently 13 inches per mile, challenged its builders to maintain this steady gradient through a varied terrain.
To do so the Aqueduct was cut into hillsides, set level on the ground, tunneled through rock and carried over valleys and streams on massive stone and earth embankments and – at Sing Sing Kill, the Nepperhan (Saw Mill) River and Harlem River – across arched bridges. Typically it is partly buried, with a telltale mound encasing it. As one learns to read the "clues," an understanding of how the tunnel engages the landscape deepens the trail experience.
Croton water first entered the Aqueduct at 5 a.m. on June 22, 1842 (followed by a dauntless crew in a small boat, the Croton Maid) and emerged at the Harlem River 22 hours later. The water eventually filled two above-ground reservoirs – on the present sites of the Great Lawn in Central Park and the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue – to great civic rejoicing.
Built to meet the city's needs for 100 years, its capacity was soon exceeded by the spiraling population growth to which is contributed. The New Croton Aqueduct, triple the size, was started in 1885 a few miles to the east and began service in 1890. The Old Aqueduct supplied decreasing amounts of water until 1955. (The northernmost portion reopened in 1989 and continues to supply water to the Town of Ossining.)
While the state trailway designation ends at the New York City line, the Aqueduct continues for six to seven miles through the Bronx. There its green corridor, managed by New York City Parks & Recreation, follows a southward route through Van Cortlandt Park, past the east edge of Jerome Park Reservoir and along Aqueduct and University avenues to the famed High Bridge, which carried the water in iron pipes across the Harlem River to Manhattan to serve a growing metropolis.
The park was created in 1968 and encompasses the Westchester County section of the Old Croton Aqueduct, between Croton Gorge County Park and the Yonkers-New York City line. This 26.2-mile portion of the total 41-mile Aqueduct route became Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park, a recreational and cultural resource that appeals to a wide range of visitors. Tree-lined and grassy, traversing local villages and varied landscapes, the trail offers glimpses of historic and architectural treasures along the way. Now a National Historic Landmark, the Aqueduct is one of the great engineering achievements of the 19th century.
An easy 4-mile walk through Untermyer Park and along the Old Croton Aqueduct. Bring your own lunch -- we will picnic at a private home on Shonnard Terrace, just off the Trail, enjoying vistas of the Hudson River. We will meet at the parking lot just inside the entrance to Untermyer Park, 945 North Broadway (Route 9) in Yonkers. (If the lot is full, there is on-street parking.) Contact: Sara Kelsey, email@example.com or 646-303-1448. WTA Leader: Ellie Carren (914) 591-7038.
Project/Event Description: Improve the Aqueduct trail by lopping vines, cutting and removing invasive bushes and plants and picking up trash along the trail and on the banks of the Croton river. Participants will learn how to identify the targeted invasive species and how to manage them by either pruning or pulling them up by the roots. They will work in teams alongside experienced naturalists. Tasks will be available for those with varying skill levels and all ages; no experience needed.
Meeting Location: At the Quaker Bridge Road entrance to the trail in Croton on Hudson. Look for canopy between houses #124 and #99 and the welcoming banners. All ages welcome
Project/Event Description:Repairing historic stone walls
Meeting Location: See above. Appropriate for 13 and up
Meet at the Joseph Caputo Community Center. View a short film about the Aqueduct before visiting the weir. It is a short walk to the Weir on the Double Arch Bridge, where you will descend into the original 1842 brick water tunnel and learn its history. There is an optional walk along the Sing Sing Kill Greenway, located below the Double Arch Bridge, after the Weir Tour. Address: 95 Broadway, Ossining, NY 10562, just west of Rte. 9/Highland Ave. at the junction of Croton Ave. (Rte. 133) (from Metro-North Ossining Train Station by taxi or 15-minute uphill walk). Inquiries: Peter Dispensa, firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-522-5000.
Meet at Irvington's Village Hall at 85 Main Street, less than ½ mile east up Main Street from the Irvington Metro-North train station (free parking). Walk north on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail (which intersects with Main Street) to Lyndhurst and back and admire architectural landmarks, including the skeletal remains of a Lord & Burnham conservatory, and Hudson River views, while learning the history of the Old Croton Aqueduct. Along the way, we will discuss the history of the mansions lining that portion of the Trail. On the return trip, you might stop to tour Jay Gould's Lyndhurst or Washington Irving's Sunnyside mansion (paid guided tours are available at both). When you return to Main Street, if you would like to see more, you may choose to continue your walk south (and back) on the Aqueduct to view more historic mansions. Inquiries: Sara Kelsey, email@example.com or 646-303-1448.
Meet at the Joseph Caputo Community Center. View a short film about the Aqueduct before visiting the weir. It is a short walk to the Weir on the Double Arch Bridge, where you will descend into the original 1842 brick water tunnel and learn its history. There is an optional walk along the Sing Sing Kill Greenway, located below the Double Arch Bridge, after the Weir Tour. Address: 95 Broadway, Ossining, NY 10562, just west of Rte. 9/Highland Ave. at the junction of Croton Ave. (Rte. 133) (from Metro-North Ossining Train Station by taxi or 15-minute uphill walk). Inquiries: Sara Kelsey, firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-303-1448.