Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park

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Address
15 Walnut Street
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
Latitude 41.165663865699997
Longitude -73.863171282699994

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

  • Double Arch-a unique bridge-within-a-bridge, located in Ossining across from the Ossining Museum
  • Kykuit-the Rockefeller's estate
  • New Croton Dam-an unusual spillway makes for a pretty waterfall at the state of the Croton River
  • Ossining Museum-located in Ossining across from the Double Arch, contains a small exhibit on the history of the Old Croton Aqueduct
  • Keeper's House-located in Dobbs Ferry, it was once the residence for the caretaker of the Aqueduct, it is the future home of the OCA's Visitor Center
  • Weir Chambers-located along the trail at various locations, they were constructed to enable Overseers and Caretakers to control the flow of water through the Aqueduct for repairs, inspections or to completely drain the line.  Also look for the ventilators that are located along the trail, constructed to ventilate the aqueduct.

 

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.

Hours of Operation

  • Tours: Adults $5; children $2 To schedule tours of the Trail or Ossining Weir Chamber, call Mavis Cain (914) 693-0529. Programs/tours in cooperation with Joseph G. Caputo Ossining Community Center, call for details (914) 941-3189
  • Day Use Activities biking, bird watching, cross country skiing, equestrian, hiking, running/jogging, painting (non-commercial), photography (non-commercial), snowshoeing
  • Park is open year round from sunrise to sunset.

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.

Sat 15 Apr
Old Croton Aqueduct at Ossining - Weir Tour
Saturday, April 15, 2017 10:00 AM
Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
(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). Contact: Sara Kelsey, saraakelsey@gmail.com or call 646-303-1448.

Sat 22 Apr
Annual Yonkers Trail Cleanup 2017
Saturday, April 22, 2017 09:00 AM - 02:00 PM
Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
(914) 693-5259

Join Mayor Mike Spanoand local volunteers in beautifying our section of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. Please pre-register by emailing parks@yonkersny.gov or by calling (914) 377-6429. Volunteers may also sign up at the event. Community Service Eligible. Consent forms required for those under 18.

9:00 AM Registration – Parks Department, 285 Nepperhan Avenue.

10:00 AM – Press Conference

10:15 AM – 2:00 PM Clean-up Aqueduct

Meet outside Parks DepartmentParking available behind Parks Administration Building. Event will take place Rain or Shine. Transportation will be available to take volunteers to clean-up sites along the Old Croton Aqueduct trail. Special thanks to our sponsors to date: Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct; NYS Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation; City of Yonkers.

Registration: Optional
Sun 23 Apr
Turning Water Into Money: Aaron Burr's Manhattan Company
Sunday, April 23, 2017 02:00 PM
Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
(914) 693-5259

*NOTE: Takes place during the Friends of the OCA's annual meeting at the Warner Library, 121 N. Broadway, Tarrytown, NY. The library is a short walk from the Aqueduct trail.

Author Gerard Koeppel explores Burr's ruse to start a bank by pretending to supply New York City with clean water, and Alexander Hamilton's role. Friends' Annual Meeting at Warner Library, Tarrytown. Call 914-693-0529 or visit www.aqueduct.org.

Sat 29 Apr
Joint Walk at Untermyer Park with WTA
Saturday, April 29, 2017 10:00 AM
Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
(646) 303-1448

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, saraakelsey@gmail.com or 646-303-1448. WTA Leader: Ellie Carren (914) 591-7038.

Sat 06 May
I Love My Park Day
Saturday, May 6, 2017 09:30 AM - 03:30 PM
Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
(914) 693-5259

PROJECT #1
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 #2
Project/Event Description:Repairing historic stone walls
Meeting Location: See above. Appropriate for 13 and up

Register: http://www.ptny.org/events/i-love-my-park-day  

Registration: Required

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Did You Know? OCA was listed as the 14th best trail in NY by trails.com- see link under resources tab.

Amenities, Activities & Information

  • Amenities
  • Bridle Path
  • Interpretive Signs
  • Nature Trails
  • Self Guided Tours
  • Activities
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Snowshoeing Trails
  • X-Country Skiing