The High Bridge, officially known as the Aqueduct Bridge, was originally used to bring water onto Manhattan Island from the Croton River. Construction began in 1837 and was completed in 1848. The bridge had the appearance of a Roman stone, arched aqueduct. In 1928, the bridge was rebuilt using steel construction that worked well for quite a few years, but since the 1970s, the bridge has been closed to all traffic. New York City is working on changing that as part of an effort to create a network of trails and paths for biking, jogging and walking.
So far, the renovation looks good. It’s not done yet, by a long shot. My wife and I went down the long flight of steps from High Bridge Park in Washington Heights to take a look around. The trail is closed and all we could see was the very entrance to the bridge. We decided to check out the trail, which is well done. It’s wide, new, offers some interesting views, and opens onto either Amsterdam or Edgecombe Avenue.
There is also a dirt trail that you can walk on. At first, it narrows down to little more than a well-worn deer path, but then it opens up into something that looks like the city is maintaining it. There were a lot of people walking through there, mostly with dogs and their kids, but it looks like it could be a pretty spooky and dangerous place at night. We saw remnants of wild parties, and there was a kid just hanging around by the entrance of the path (where it opens onto Edgecombe near 155th) with a mobile phone in his hand. He had a I’m-the-lookout-for-my-robber-friends kind of vibe, so I kept my eyes open.
I wonder if the city is planning on paving that section and extending it through the deer-trail portion so it connects with the rest of the paved High Bridge trail that will lead over the bridge into the Bronx? I’m also curious as to how this section of bike/jogging/walking paths will hook up to the rest of the path system in Manhattan, because at the bottom end of Edgecombe, the only sign I saw that might be part of the paths seemed to double back to the north along Harlem River Driveway towards Harlem River Drive. Maybe one day I’ll go down there and see if there’s a way to double back again and head south along the river.
I really need to get a bike. It would make exploration faster. There’s so much to see in New York City that I doubt I could ever see it all just by walking.
If you go up the Hudson River Greenway, between the 181st pedestrian footbridge and where the Greenway currently ends at the northern branch of Riverside Drive at the northern edge of Fort Tryon Park, you’ll find Inspiration Point.
There’s no way to access Inspiration Point except by using the trail. There are no parking spots and no way to pull over to the side of the road, though it looks like there might have been at one time. There is a raised section of concrete there that my wife stood on while she waited for me to finish taking pictures and looking around.
I suppose it’s a spot that not many people will visit. It’s isolated, and regardless of whether you enter the Greenway on the north end or at the pedestrian footbridge to the south, it’s a pretty long walk to get there. Maybe the fact that there are rarely people there is why the area is called Inspiration Point. You can be alone with your thoughts there, if you can ignore the highway traffic directly behind you anyway.
Regardless, the structure is really well made, and really interesting. It has a sort of ancient Rome feel to it, minus the red brick flooring anyway. What was this structure originally built for? I can’t imagine such an extravagant structure would be erected just for the occasional walker on the Greenway. Looking at Google Maps, I got the impression that the section of the Henry Hudson Parkway between where Riverside Drive stops at 181st Street and where it starts again north of Fort Tryon Park used to actually be Riverside Drive and was then converted into the northbound lane of the parkway.
A little further down from Inspiration Point are two pillars on the opposite side of the road that look like the entrance to an old driveway. It is currently overgrown. That, and what looked like an old parking area near Inspiration Point makes me think traffic on that road used to be a lot slower.
On a blog about infrastructure (infrastructureemily.com), I saw a picture of stairs leading down the side of the Inspiration Point structure to another lookout area. I didn’t even notice that. Now I definitely need to go back and take another look. The author of the other blog didn’t try to sneak down there and look around. I might!
Right next to that driveway I mentioned earlier is Billings Terrace. It’s very cool looking from down on the Greenway! I really want to go up there and take a look around. Billings Terrace is in Fort Tryon Park, where the Cloisters and most of the medieval art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is housed. There are also renaissance fairs there sometimes.
On Sunday, when my wife and I walked over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, we stopped by the Fort Lee Historic Park, which is right next to the bridge and offers a great view of the Hudson River and Manhattan, which, I suppose, was the reason the fort was originally built. We didn’t really expect to see a whole lot there. We were just looking for a place to take a short break before turning around and walking back over the bridge. We were both surprised by how much of the historic fort has been restored. We want to go back sometime with real cameras and spend an afternoon there looking around.
The best part of the pit stop, though, was when we saw wild deer snacking on the underbrush in the middle of the park. Even when I lived in Georgia, it was rare to see deer in high traffic areas, and it was especially bizarre for me to look one way and see the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and then to look the other and see a little family of deer hanging out like they were special guests in a petting zoo. It reminded me of a snapshot I’d seen on instagram a few weeks ago (I think) of a deer eating flowers from a planter in the middle of an outdoor, strip mall.
I first spotted them when we were a good distance away and I snapped a few photos, because I expected them to bolt the moment they realized we were there. We kept walking closer though, and they didn’t seem to mind at all. The mother deer kept looking up at us, but she decided we weren’t going to bother her and went back to eating. Later, a large Chinese family with loud kids showed up and the deer just kept grazing. I got the impression that these deer live there and people are used to seeing them in the park. I stood about arm’s length from the mother deer and she ignored me. They’re almost domesticated.
In a way, it’s a great bonus to have wild deer hanging around the park. It helped take me completely out of the city and let me better enjoy the trees around me, the open space, the smell of foliage and dirt, and the lack of crowds.