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

Watch Tom Tarnowsky's Presentation on the History of the Old Croton Aqueduct in Westchester County: https://aqueduct.org/news/watch-tom-tarnowsky-s-lecture

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. 


 

Aqueduct Education Project

Did you know? The Aqueduct Education project offers hands-on student tours and programs at three different historic sites in the Old Croton Aqueduct Historic State Park. Learn more about the variety of programs we offer: Aqueduct Education Project

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.
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      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. The Aqueduct has no parking areas of its own, but ample parking is available on most nearby streets.

      • There is no charge to use the trail.

        Tours:
        Many are free but charges apply to some. Ossining Weir Chamber, Adults $5; children $2 To schedule tours of the Weir Chamber call Mavis Cain (914) 693-0529. For general questions about walks and tours, contact Sara Kelsey (646) 303-1448. A list of events is available at www.aqueduct.org or by clicking the "Upcoming Events" button on this page. Occasional programs/tours are offered in cooperation with Joseph G. Caputo Ossining Community Center, call for details (914) 941-3189
      • Park is open year round from sunrise to sunset.

      Aqueduct Education Project
        
      The Aqueduct Education project offers hands-on student tours and programs at three different historic sites in the Old Croton Aqueduct Historic State Park. Learn more about the variety of programs we offer: Aqueduct Education Project


      Teachers take advantage of The Connect Kids to Parks Field Trip Grant Program 

      The Connect Kids will refund up to $1,000* of the field trip costs for visits to a New York State Park, Nature Center, or Historic Site (Parks), or a Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Education Center, fish hatchery, or selected DEC sites. Eligibility: Title 1 schools AND any public school in a district with a Title 1 school (grades preK-12 including school-sponsored clubs), Advantage After School Programs, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and village, town, or county youth bureaus in communities with Title 1 schools are eligible to apply. Each class or afterschool/youth bureau group is eligible for one transportation grant per academic year. Learn more

      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 13 Apr
      Divided Loyalties - Revolutionary War on the Aqueduct
      Saturday, April 13, 2024 10:00 AM
      Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
      The Old Croton Aqueduct between Dobbs Ferry and Hastings-on-Hudson crosses several colonial tenant farms impacted by the Revolutionary War. Walk and learn how the war divided neighbors and families into patriots or loyalists and everything in between. Discuss their lives in the dangerous, war-torn contested ground of Westchester County and how it shaped our area following its conclusion. This free, two-hour tour is offered in partnership with Revolutionary Westchester 250, the Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park, and Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct and will cover about 4 miles. Tour starts at the Mercy College parking lot next to the Smith Ball Field. We will be walking to Revolutionary Walk in Hastings and back. This walk may be rescheduled due to bad weather. To register, visit https://aqueduct.org/events. 10:00 AM, Location: Smith Field, Mercy College, Free, Ages: All Ages.
      Sat 13 Apr
      Weir Tour
      Saturday, April 13, 2024 10:00 AM
      Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
      Free, easy, 2-hour tour. Meet at the front (upper level/south side) of the Joseph Caputo Center, which is located at 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 - parking lots nearby). After a brief walk, descend into the Weir in Ossining and explore the original 1842 brick water tunnel and learn its history. Walk may be rescheduled if weather does not cooperate. Required: pre-registration: https://aqueduct.org/events/weir-tour-65.
      Registration: Required
      Thu 18 Apr
      Dobbs Ferry Library Storywalk
      Thursday, April 18, 2024 10:30 AM
      Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
      Join us for the next installment of the Dobbs Ferry Library Storywalk along the Old Croton Aqueduct featuring Adventures with Finn and Skip: Forest. Start at the OCA Keeper's House with a small craft before we take a stroll along the trail to Chestnut Street and read-a-long with the book on our Storywalk! The Storywalk will be up for the duration of the spring and can be used from sunrise to sunset! 10:30 AM, Location: Keeper's House, Dobbs Ferry, Free, Ages: Toddler.
      Sat 20 Apr
      Annual Yonkers OCA Clean Up
      Saturday, April 20, 2024 08:30 AM
      Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
      Yonkers has been at the forefront of climate activism in urban locations for many years now. It continues to find ways to provide access to clean nature and green space for its residents, with the aqueduct being a transportation link to many of the city parks and green spaces. Join Mayor Spano and other Yonkers official and local volunteers for this annual spring cleanup of the trail. Registration begins at 8:30 with Mayor Spano kicking it off at 9:00! Pre-register by emailing Parks@Yonkersny.gov. 8:30 AM, Location: OCA at Walnut Street, Yonkers, Free, Ages: All Ages.
      Registration: Required
      Sat 27 Apr
      Croton Dam Hike
      Saturday, April 27, 2024 11:00 AM
      Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park
      Enjoy a free, easy, 2 miles/hours (total) loop hike north along the Aqueduct and atop the beautiful Croton Dam. Meet near the restrooms at the rear (south end) of the parking lot at Croton Gorge Park, Rte. 129, Cortlandt, NY. 10567, GPS Coordinates: 41.22603, -73.85770. 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 Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. The Aqueduct was completed in 1842 to supply fresh water to a thirsty New York City. (From Metro-North Hudson Line Croton-Harmon Train Station: 15-minute taxi.) Walk may be rescheduled if weather does not cooperate. Required: preregistration: https://aqueduct.org/events/croton-dam-hike-3.
      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 Information

      • Amenities
      • Biking
      • Equestrian Trails
      • Hiking
      • Snowshoeing/X-Country Skiing
      • Tours