Hudson River

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View of the Hudson in the 1880s showing Jersey City
View of the Hudson in the 1880s showing Jersey City

The Hudson River, called Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk in Mahican, is a river running mainly through New York State but partly forming the boundary between the states of New York and New Jersey. It is named for Henry Hudson, an Englishman sailing for the Netherlands, who explored it in 1609, although the first European to see it (in 1524), was the Italian Giovanni da Verrazano, whose expedition was financed by the citizens of Lyon, France, under the auspices of King François I. Early European settlement of the area clustered around the river.



View of the middle Hudson River.
View of the middle Hudson River.

The official source of the Hudson is Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains. However, the waterway from the lake is known as Feldspar Brook and the Opalescent River, feeding into the Hudson at Tahawus. The actual Hudson River begins several miles north of Tahawus at Henderson Lake. The Hudson is joined at Troy (north of Albany) by the Mohawk River, its major tributary, just south of which the Federal Dam separates the Upper Hudson River from the Lower Hudson River. South of Troy, the Hudson widens and flows south into the Atlantic Ocean between Manhattan Island and New Jersey, forming New York Harbor, at New York Bay, an arm of the Ocean. The Hudson was originally named the "North River" by the Dutch, because it was the river that marked the northern most reaches of the New Netherland colony. It was the English who originated the Hudson name, although the river remains locally known as the North River to this day.

The lower Hudson is actually a tidal estuary, with tidal influence extending as far as the Federal Dam at Troy. [1] Strong tides make parts of New York Harbor difficult and dangerous to navigate. During the winter, ice flows drift south or north, depending upon the tides. The Mahican name of the river, Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk, means "the river that flows both ways."

The Hudson and its tributaries—notably the Mohawk River—drain a large area. Parts of the Hudson river form coves, such as Weehawken Cove in Hoboken and Weehawken.

The Hudson is sometimes called a "drowned" river. The rising sea levels after the retreat of the Wisconsinan glaciation, the most recent ice age, have resulted in a marine incursion that drowned the coastal plain and brought salt water well above the mouth of the river. The deeply-eroded old riverbed beyond the current shoreline, Hudson Canyon, is a rich fishing area. The former riverbed is clearly delineated beneath the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, extending to the edge of the continental shelf.

Looking upriver from Battery Park City in Manhattan
Looking upriver from Battery Park City in Manhattan

Notable landmarks on the Hudson include West Point, the Thayer Hotel at West Point, Bannerman's Castle, Metro-North Railroad's Hudson River Line (formerly part of the New York Central system), The Tappan Zee, The Palisades, Hudson River Islands State Park, Hudson Highlands State Park, Fort Tryon Park with The Cloisters, Liberty State Park, and Stevens Institute of Technology. Cities and towns on the New Jersey side include Fort Lee, Weehawken, Hoboken, and Jersey City. Cities and towns on the New York side include Troy, Albany, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Beacon, Yonkers, and New York City (Manhattan, The Bronx).

The natural beauty of the Hudson Valley earned the Hudson River the nickname "America's Rhine", the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley being compared to that of the famous 40-mile (65 km) stretch of Germany's Rhine River valley between the cities of Bingen and Koblenz.


The Hudson River is navigable for a great distance. The original Erie Canal, opened in 1825 to connect the Hudson with Lake Erie, emptied into the Hudson just south of the Federal Dam in Troy. The canal enabled shipping between cities on the Great Lakes and Europe via the Atlantic Ocean. The New York State Barge Canal, the successor to the Erie Canal, runs into the Hudson River north of Troy, and uses natural waterways whenever possible. The first railroad in New York, the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, opened in 1831 between Albany and Schenectady on the Mohawk River, enabling passengers to bypass the slowest part of the Erie Canal.

Hudson from midtown Manhattan with Javits Convention Center in foreground. The beginning of the Palisades is visible across the river.
Hudson from midtown Manhattan with Javits Convention Center in foreground. The beginning of the Palisades is visible across the river.

The Delaware and Hudson Canal ended at the Hudson at Kingston, running southwest to the coal fields of northeastern Pennsylvania.

In northern Troy, the Champlain Canal split from the Erie Canal and continued north along the west side of the Hudson to Thomson, where it crossed to the east side. At Fort Edward the canal left the Hudson, heading northeast to Lake Champlain. A barge canal now splits from the Hudson at that point, taking roughly the same route (also parallel to the Delaware and Hudson Railway's Saratoga and Whitehall Railroad) to Lake Champlain at Whitehall. From Lake Champlain, boats can continue north into Canada to the St. Lawrence Waterway.

The Hudson Valley also proved attractive for railroads, once technology progressed to the point where it was feasible to construct the required bridges over tributaries. The Troy and Greenbush Railroad was chartered in 1845 and opened that same year, running a short distance on the east side between Troy and Greenbush (east of Albany). The Hudson River Railroad was chartered the next year as a continuation of the Troy and Greenbush south to New York City, and was completed in 1851. In 1866 the Hudson River Bridge opened over the river between Greenbush and Albany, enabling through traffic between the Hudson River Railroad and the New York Central Railroad west to Buffalo.

The New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railway ran up the west shore of the Hudson as a competitor to the merged New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. Construction was slow, and was finally completed in 1884; the next year the New York Central bought it.

The Hudson is crossed at numerous points by bridges and tunnels. The width of the Lower Hudson River required major feats of engineering to cross, the results today visible in the Verrazano Narrows and George Washington Bridges, as well as the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and the PATH and Pennsylvania Railroad tubes. The Troy-Waterford Bridge at Waterford was the first bridge over the Hudson, opened in 1809. The Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad was chartered in 1832 and opened in 1835, including the Green Island Bridge, the first bridge over the Hudson south of the Federal Dam. [2]

The Upper Hudson River's valley was also useful for railroads. Sections of the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad, Troy and Boston Railroad and Albany Northern Railroad ran next to the Hudson between Troy and Mechanicville. North of Mechanicville the shore was bare until Glens Falls, where the short Glens Falls Railroad ran along the east shore. At Glens Falls the Hudson turns west to Corinth before continuing north; at Corinth the Adirondack Railway begins to run along the Hudson's west bank. The original Adirondack Railway opened by 1871, ending at North Creek along the river. In World War II an extension opened to Tahawus, the site of valuable iron and titanium mines. The extension continued along the Hudson River into Hamilton County, and then continued north where the Hudson makes a turn to the west, crossing the Hudson and running along the west shore of the Boreas River. South of Tahawus the route returned to the east shore of the Hudson the rest of the way to its terminus.

NASA image of the lower Hudson
NASA image of the lower Hudson

Political boundaries

The Hudson River serves as a political boundary between the states of New Jersey and New York, and further north between counties in New York. The northernmost place with this convention is in southwestern Essex County, New York.

Hamilton Essex
Warren river runs along
municipal boundaries
Saratoga Warren
Saratoga Washington
Saratoga Rensselaer
Albany Rensselaer
Greene Columbia
Ulster Columbia
Ulster Dutchess
Orange Dutchess
Orange Putnam
Rockland Westchester
Bergen (NJ) Westchester
Bergen (NJ) Bronx
Bergen (NJ) New York
Hudson (NJ) New York


From north to south, moving downriver


From south to north:

The Tappan Zee Bridge from Nyack Pier
The Tappan Zee Bridge from Nyack Pier

See also

External links


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