Chasing the Bronx Waterfalls

July 16, 2008 at 1:51 pm 19 comments

With the city all abuzz about The New York Waterfalls, I set out to find the waterfalls right here in the Bronx. I knew of three sites already. Then a call to the Bronx River Alliance led me to two more. And the staff further hunted down the height of the fall drops for me as well. I am thankful for their resourcefulness, my waterfall chase was all the more fortified.

Snuff Mill Waterfall at NY Botanical Garden

Snuff Mill Waterfall at NY Botanical Garden

The Snuff Mill Waterfall (7 ft Ht) at the NY Botanical Garden Located on the Bronx River, this waterfall is technically a dam, constructed to power the neighboring Snuff Mill built in 1840. The water wheel is no longer there, but the brick factory building is. The Snuff Mill was on the estate owned by the tobacco producing Lorillard family in the mid-late 1800′s.

Rock Garden Cascade at the New York Botanical Garden

Rock Garden Cascade at the New York Botanical Garden

Rock Garden Cascade at the NY Botanical Garden One of the gardeners told me that the rocks for the waterfall were placed by hand in the 1930′s. The Rock Garden is off the beaten path of the garden and on some days a tranquil oasis. When visiting the garden, make sure to request the All Garden Pass in order to gain entry to the Rock Garden.

River Park Waterfall

River Park Waterfall

River Park Waterfall (13 ft Ht) at 180th Street & Boston Road near the Bronx Zoo entrance.This too is technically a dam situated on the Bronx River. The park, with a large playground for kids, is a very popular neighborhood spot for summer barbecues and parties. The day I visited, a couple of daredevils were walking along the rim of the fall. And yes, they did jump in, despite the no swimming policy.

Twin Dams Right Falls

Twin Dams Right Falls

Twin Dams (about 10ft Ht) at the Bronx Zoo near the Bronx Park East entrance. This site was a total surprise find, thanks to the folks at the Bronx River Alliance! Unfortunately, my camera does not have a lens wide enough to capture both dams. When facing them, the dam on the right has a more classic waterfall drop and is best viewed from the Mitsubishi Riverwalk Outlook.

Twin Dams Left Spillway

Twin Dams Left Spillway

The left spillway is best viewed from inside the Zoo, near the Bison Reserve. The Mitsubishi Riverwalk, marked by a totem pole, is free and located outside the zoo near the Bronx River East entrance.

I saw all five falls on the same day and I was on foot. I did hop on the bus for some of the way. It can be a good stretch of walking for some, but is certainly doable. I walked away from the Bronx waterfalls more aware of how much life and activity once existed along the Bronx River. The water mills powered by these Bronx River falls were major manufacturing hubs and many early settlements branched out of these mill sites. Apparently as many as twelve mills from the mid 1700s, producing flour, pottery, snuff and narrow woven tapes dotted the river’s edge. It is hard to imagine the water wheels in action given the modern day surroundings, but certainly not difficult to enjoy where they once were.

Update: Waterfall is used here with a romantic regard. All Bronx River waterfalls noted here are actually dams.

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Entry filed under: Bronx River, NY Botanical Garden, The Bronx, Waterfalls. Tags: , , , , .

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19 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joseph Curtin  |  August 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I remember going swimming above the dam/waterfall in Bronx Park about 1950 when a few of us from Teller Avenue wandered into the park and discovered the falls.. There was a raft made of railroad ties marooned at the falls. We had two rules – don’t open your mouth in the water, and don’t touch bottom in the river. We may have been 10 or 11 years old, but we were not stupid. Maybe foolish.

    Reply
  • 2. old man now  |  June 24, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    to Patricia | June 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm :
    __the stone slide .
    i remember it clearly my self it was on the boston rd.side of the river !
    my old question always was how did the perfectly round hole get in the rock on the right outer side of the slide area -incline ?
    looked almost like it was drilled my a machine about 3.5 inches..
    i used that hole to put my hand in and pulled my self and make it to the top, some how .
    another thing is you were there probably before the damm repair on the boston rd side , they made changes i think 1957 or so..
    there were two falls and they dammed the smaller one and retopped the big one and put up two fences to stop crossing across the falls.

    did you ever take a sled on the ice on the river in the winter ,DANGEROUS AS CAN BE !!
    what about the steep hill on 181 street going down to the river,
    kids called it the 4 acre hill , kids ..

    Reply
  • 3. Patricia  |  June 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    When we were all about 10 years old in 1950 we would slide down into the river on a slate stone on the Bronx Park side. It was great fun.

    Reply
  • 4. Diana Vaphides  |  May 23, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    In the 1940s as a child my playground was Bronx park and I remember playing by the river and there was a small island on the river called monkey island where lots of monkeys lived We built a makeshift raft and managed to float over but there were so many monkeys and so much screeching when we got close we were frightened off…..does anyone remember this island on the Bronx river I the park…..my children think I am making this up please help

    Reply
  • 6. CONCOURSE TO PARKCHESTER | Forgotten New York  |  January 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    [...] of it is in New Jersey. A Bronx River waterfall is in view of East 180th. As you might suspect, the waterfalls in the Bronx River within the city limits are all man-made dams, which doesn’t detract from their [...]

    Reply
  • 7. Kevin  |  September 23, 2011 at 9:15 am

    The falls/dam at E180th St & Boston Rd was a natural waterfall. It was modified into a dam and dredged out in the rear to form a deep pool in the 1800′s. Formerly known as DeLancey Falls and the original settlement was known as Delancey’s Mills before the town of West Farms was created. The area around the Falls was owned by James DeLancy a notorious Loyalist during the American Revolution who led an irregular band of calvary against the Americans and was responsible for the massacre in Woodlawn of 30 Mohegan Indians who were scouting for the American Army. DeLanceys land was confisicated by NY State after the Revolution so that how it probably became park land

    Reply
  • 8. Rita Sosa  |  April 7, 2011 at 4:00 am

    I would love to go see the water falls at 180th St. and Boston Rd. How do I get there? I would also like to see the other waterfalls that the Bronx has to offer. How do I do that? Do I have to contact anybody?

    Reply
  • 9. I WAS THERE AGAIN  |  August 13, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I HAVE WRITEEN HERE BEFORE .
    I FOUND A SITE SELLING A PICTURE POST CARD OF THE OLD BOAT HOUSE ON THE RIVER..

    THOSE INTRESTED LOOK THEM UP BOAT HOUSE WORTHPOINT.COM THERE SELLING THE CARD FOR 3$$.

    ITS NOTHING TO ME BUT FOR SOME SERIOUS HISTORIAN ITS THERE TO BE HAD..

    ITS A SHAME THOSE KIDS DROWN IN THE RIVER RECIENTLY MID JUL 2010…I THINK I REMEMBER THIS HAPPENING BEFORE
    1959 OR SO..

    I ALSO REMEMBER A BOWLLING ALLY ON BOSTON RD AND 181 STREET A DOWN STAIRS OPERATION..

    THATS THE STORY FOR NOW .
    BYE

    Reply
  • 10. Latifah Santos  |  July 20, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Can We Take Picsz in da water i have a photo shoot coming up and the idea theme of it is waterfall and i will love to know if im able to do the shoot here

    Reply
    • 11. Bronx Bohemian  |  July 20, 2009 at 10:00 pm

      Hi Latifah,
      I don’t think people are allowed in the Bronx River. You can be on river in a canoe. Check with the NYC Parks Dept and the Bronx River Alliance.

      Maybe you can do your shoot in the NY Botanical Garden in front of the waterfall in the Rock Garden. That’s a very pretty site.
      Good Luck!

      BB

      Reply
  • 12. Bronx Bohemian  |  January 24, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Thank you I WAS THERE for your comments…All very interesting.
    You should give Bronx River tours!

    Reply
  • 13. I WAS THERE  |  January 23, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    ONE MORE TIME.
    I ALSO REMEMBER UP THE RIVER NEAR THE PELHAM PKW BOTANICAL GARDENS BRIDGE.
    THERE IS AN ISLAND WHERE THEY LET GIBBON MONKEYS LIVE .. THE GIBBONS NEVER TRIED TO ESCAPE OVER THE WATER..
    I SUPPOSE THE TOOK THE GIBBONS IN DOORS FOR THE WINTER.

    WE USED TO CALL THE SITE MONKEY ISLAND ..

    FURTHER UP RIVER PAST THE SUNFF MILL.
    NEAR 200 ST-BEDFORD PARK , WHERE THE OLD TRAIN STATION WAS AND THE MAIN ENTRENCE TO THE GARDENS. THERE WAS A BEND IN RIVER AND WE HAD A ROPE CONNECTED /TIED ON TO A TREE ,,GOOD FOR SWINGING ACROSS THE RIVER ..

    THIS IS ALL ANCIENT HISTORY
    1963..A 14 YEAR BOY IN THE PARK ..

    Reply
  • 14. I WAS THERE AGAIN  |  January 21, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    THINKING BACK ABOUT THE RIVER I REMENBERED THE BOAT HOUSE ON THE BANK OF THE ZOO SIDE ,

    THIS EDIFUS WAS ALLOWED TO DECAY AND ULTIMALY BURN DOWN ONE DAY IN 1961. IT HAD BEEN CLOSE WITH THE FOOD VENDING AREA DOWN STAIRS ON THE WATERS EDGE..

    SOME ONE ALLOWED THE BOY SCOUT- SEA -EXPLORERS TO USE THE BOAT HOUSE JUST PRIOR TO ITS FIRE !!.
    THIS IS ALL UNWRITTEN HISTORY .

    YES ANOTHER REMENBERANCE THEY BUILT ANOTHER SMALL DAM NEXT TO THE WATER FALL ON THE BOSTON ROAD SIDE OF THE RIVER 1960 . THEY ALSO IMPROVED OR NEWLY INSTALLED THE PILE THROUGH THE FALLS. THIS IS USED WHEN NEEDED TO EMPTY THE DAM .

    Reply
  • 15. Bronx Bohemian  |  January 18, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Eels?! Wow…
    I love these falls.
    I shudder to think why the water smelled so bad given the proximity to the zoo. But a beaver has been sighted on the Bx River a year or so ago.
    Thanx for stopping by…

    BB

    Reply
  • 16. I WAS THERE  |  January 18, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    IN THE LATE 1940`S -1957
    THE ZOO MAINTAINED A BOAT RENTAL OPERATION ON THE RIVER .
    I WAS THERE IN MY YOUTH ..

    WE USED TO SWIM IN THE AREA NEAR THE DAMM -BOSTON RD. AND BRONX PARK SOUTH PARK ENTRANCE ..
    THE WATER SMELLED BAD BUT KIDS WILL PLAY.
    I LIVED A BLOCK AWAY UP ON VYSE AND BPS.

    THERE WHERE FISH AND EELS IN THE RIVER ON THE DAMM SIDE ..

    Reply
  • 17. matt  |  August 9, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Snuff Mill is my favorite one!

    Reply
  • 18. Bronx Bohemian  |  July 30, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Hi Clarisel,
    Thanx for stopping by. I checked out your flickr photos — I like the photos of the falls in Bronx Park during the fall and the photos of a very swollen bronx river, flooding into the park were amazing to see.

    Bronx Bohemian

    Reply
  • 19. Clarisel  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I love the Bronx waterfalls. I have been documenting the Bronx River through photography. I have a photo set dedicated to the Bronx waterfalls at my site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/clarisel.

    Reply

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