Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park

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Address
15 Walnut Street (Park Office)
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

  • Old Croton Aqueduct's trail is accessible from multiple cross streets over 26 miles. For a map of the trail please see the Map. 15 Walnut Street is the location of the Park Office, however it is not the start or end of the trail.

  • There is no charge to use the trail.

    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 22 Sep
Croton Reservoir & Dam Hike. Hudson River Valley Ramble Event #37
Saturday, September 22, 2018 10:00 AM
Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
(646) 303-1448

Easy 1-mile hike north along the Aqueduct and atop the beautiful Croton Dam. Meet near the restrooms at the parking lot at Croton Gorge Park, Rte. 129, Cortlandt, NY 10567. The leader of the hike will discuss the history and construction of the Old Croton Aqueduct and the features of the Croton Dam, the trailhead of the Aqueduct Trail. The Aqueduct was completed in 1842 to supply water to a thirsty New York City. (From Metro-North Hudson Line Croton-Harmon Train Station: 15-minute taxi. Parking fees: http://parks.westchestergov.com/parking-fees).

Inquiries: Sara Kelsey, saraakelsey@gmail.com or 646-303-1448.

Sun 23 Sep
Meandering among the Mansions of the Historic Millionaires. Hudson River Valley Ramble Event #42.
Sunday, September 23, 2018 12:00 PM
Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
(646) 303-1448

Take an after-lunch stroll on the Aqueduct Trail. Meet at Irvington's Town Hall at 85 Main Street, less than ½ mile east up Main Street from the Irvington Metro-North train station (free parking). Visit the Tiffany Reading Room, one of a handful of Tiffany interiors. Meander north on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail (which intersects with Main Street) to Lyndhurst and back, admiring architectural landmarks, including the skeletal remains of a Lord & Burnham conservatory, and Hudson River views. Learn the history of the Old Croton Aqueduct and the millionaires who lived along the trail in the 1800's. 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. (From Metro-North Hudson Line Irvington Train Station, a 5-10-minute uphill walk). Free and no reservation required. Inquiries: Sara Kelsey, saraakelsey@gmail.com or 646-303-1448.

Sun 07 Oct
Old Croton Aqueduct Keeper’s House - Open House
Sunday, October 7, 2018 01:00 PM - 04:00 PM
Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
(914) 693-5259

As part of the New York State Path Through History Weekend, visit the historic Keeper's House used in the 1800s as a residence by the supervisor charged with maintaining a portion of the Aqueduct which brought fresh water to a disease-ridden New York City. The House, now designated a National Historic Landmark, has been restored and repurposed as a Visitor and Education Center which features the 176-year-old NYC water system. Located on the Aqueduct in Dobbs Ferry at 15 Walnut Street, the Keeper's House is a short uphill walk east from the Metro-North Hudson Line Dobbs Ferry train station. Inquiries: Sara Kelsey, 646-303-1448, saraakelsey@gmail.com.

Sun 07 Oct
Old Croton Aqueduct Keeper’s House – meet-up. Unravelling the 5 Corners Knot: Guided Old Croton Aqueduct Trail Walk
Sunday, October 7, 2018 01:30 PM
Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
(914) 693-5259

As part of the New York State Path Through History Weekend, walk south from the Keeper's House to Hasting's confusing 5 Corners (30 minutes). In Hastings, either hop on the Metro-North Hudson Line at the Hastings train station or continue to walk south to the walled Persian garden at Untermyer Gardens Park (1 hour). The Hudson River Museum (1.5 hour) is also nearby. The guide will accompany you to 5 Corners, point out local sights and talk about NYC's water system. Please wear good walking shoes/boots. The dirt trail is flat but may be somewhat muddy from any recent rain. Water, bathroom, maps available at the Keeper's House. Steady rain cancels. Meetup: Keeper's House, 15 Walnut St., Dobbs Ferry NY.

Mon 08 Oct
Rockwood Hall – Archville Bridge – Rockefeller Preserve -- Joint Walk with Rockefeller State Park Preserve and Urban Trail Conference
Monday, October 8, 2018 01:00 PM
Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
(914) 693-5259

Approximately 4-5 miles, loop walk, easy-to-moderate. This walk, mostly on the Old Croton Aqueduct, begins at the ruins of Rockwood Hall, built in 1849 and purchased by Wm. Rockefeller, John D. Senior's younger brother, in 1886, before John D. began acquiring and building what later became Kykuit. We cross the Archville bridge, which replaced the earlier bridge that carried the Aqueduct over Rt. 9 and served as a carriage trail connecting the two estates. We reach the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, and walk on Rockefeller trails to view a major Aqueduct structure that crosses the Pocantico River. History, birds, botany, and beauty may be anticipated. Meet at the Rockwood Hall (description & directions: www.nynjtc.org/hike/rockwood-hall-sleepy-hollow) parking lot behind Phelps Memorial Hospital at 1 pm. Inquiries: Sara Kelsey, 646-303-1448, saraakelsey@gmail.com or Urban Trail Conference leader, David Bernstein, 347-224-7376, islay6@gmail.com

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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.

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