This post is the second part of a short series covering similarities between Vancouver, British Columbia and the Bronx — noted while I was vacationing there last summer. I introduced the series, through the remaining days of the 2010 Olympic Games only — here.
Vancouver’s waterfalls, the ones I spotted, were in the front yards of downtown office buildings. And they seemed to be everywhere.
The Bronx has several natural waterfalls. This is certainly not a well known feature of The Bronx landscape but certainly should be. I will go out on a limb to say that the Bronx has more waterfalls than any place in New York City. (Someone please correct me if I am wrong or conversely back me up if I am right). I ferreted out the waterfalls in the Bronx two summers ago and that post is still one of the top posts of this site.
We saw these paddlers yesterday morning on our hike thru the New York Botanical Garden. The water was amazingly clear. But that doesn’t necessarily mean clean we were told. This was a private canoe tour but the Bronx River Alliance schedules public tours too.
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.
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 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 (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 (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.
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.
The Bronx River Art Center building is not an unmarked nor a low building, yet it is often overlooked and unnoticed by passers by, even those stopping to pluck ripe blackberries from the trees in front. It’s a four story brick warehouse along side the Bronx River. Situated in between a 24-hour car wash and a Twin Donut, BRAC has quickly become my local haven. This week only, the gallery is featuring works by students in the spring art classes. Paintings, ceramics, photographs and film/video presentations are on exhibition by the youth and adult classes. BRAC offers a place for artists to work and for students of all ages to learn and create. They are respectful of the river and it is a central character in much of the center’s programming and classes. They sponsor outdoor concerts along the river, the youth photography classes make field trips to the river. And this summer the adult painting and drawing class will be “en plein air”. I knew nothing about the Bronx River before moving here, but have come to appreciate this valuable natural resource. But more on the river later. Don’t forget to grab a few blackberries in front.