Welcome to the Hudson River Greenway Water Trail -
A National Water Trail
The Great Hudson River Paddle in Manhattan.
The Hudson River Greenway Water Trail connects communities and people to the Hudson River, promotes recreational access for all users, provides infrastructure for multi-day paddles, protects natural and cultural resources, and supports the health the river for future generations.
In 1994, the Hudson River Valley Greenway began working with the Hudson River Watertrail Association to complete a small boat water trail along portions of the lower Hudson River as a component of the Hudson River Greenway Trail System.
On Earth Day 2001, the Greenway was awarded $1 million to establish a Hudson River Greenway Water Trail. Today the Water Trail begins in two locations; the first is in the northern Saratoga County Town of Hadley in the Adirondack Park and the second in the northern Washington County Village of Whitehall at the north end of the Champlain Canal and at the head of Lake Champlain. The trail ends at Battery Park in Manhattan and encompasses 256 miles of New York’s famed waters, from the bucolic Champlain Canal to the turbulent white water of the upper Hudson River, and ending up in the majesty of the Hudson River Estuary. The Water Trail allows those with small boats to intimately explore the Hudson River’s natural and cultural wonders, for a day, a week or a lifetime. While open to all boaters, the water trail is being designed and built for users with the most limited range of travel, kayakers and canoeists.
The Water Trail is designed with the goal of providing one or more access points (launches and take-outs) every 10 miles or less along both shores of the river, a series of campsites (or other overnight accommodations) every 15 miles or less that will promote multi-day excursions on the river, and access to as many day use attractions (points of interest to boaters) as possible. Day use attractions vary from wildlife marshes, islands and swamps, to historic sites, downtowns and hiking trails.
The Water Trail effort is being coordinated by the Greenway in conjunction with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York State Department of State (DOS), the New York State Office of General Services (OGS), New York State Canal Corporation, county governments and local shoreline communities.
Nature and Culture
The footprint of the Hudson River Greenway Water Trail was formed when the glaciers retreated 15,000 years ago. Initial travelers on the Hudson were not using it as a recreational trail, rather Native Americans and the early European explorers and settlers used the Hudson as their primary high speed travel route. The Hudson was a major part of New York State’s original “highway system.” With the advent of dams and canals the Hudson became a major commercial transport corridor to the north and west, linked by the Erie and Champlain Canals. The Champlain Canal was built to connect the Hudson River to Lake Champlain and eventually to the St. Lawrence River. Construction of the canal was begun in 1817 and it opened for commercial traffic in 1822. Following the ascension of railroads and roads as the primary means of commercial transport, the Hudson became used for garbage and sewage disposal. At the height of this practice, recreational use of the river nearly disappeared. The environmental awakening in the late 1960s and subsequent cleanup of the Hudson led to renewed interest in using the river for recreational purposes.
As the water quality of the Hudson River dramatically improved over the last quarter century, demand for outdoor recreational access to the river increased just as dramatically. One of the responsibilities of the Greenway is to address that need. Access to the River may be visual (scenic overlooks) or physical. Physical access can be land-based (waterfront parks and trails), or water-based (boating, swimming, fishing).
What is a Water Trail?
The Greenway is meeting the latter of these demands by developing a water trail. North American Water Trails, Inc., a coalition of North American water trail organizations, defined a modern water trail as a recreational waterway on a river, lake, or ocean between specific points, containing access points and day use and camping sites for the boating public.
Design and Use
The Greenway water trail is designed for use by two very different types of boaters. The first is the person looking to spend a day or part of a day on the river (day user). The second is the long distance traveler, who wants to traverse the entire length of the river, and beyond.
A solitary camper enjoys a cup of coffee and watches the sunrise at the Hudson River Greenway Water Trail campsite on Hudson River Islands State Park.
The immediate need for the day user portion of the trail is to provide access points (boat launches) on both sides of the river. A wider ranging goal is to provide access to different kinds of day use attractions up and down the river. These attractions may be natural, cultural, or historic in nature. Many of the natural wonders of the Hudson are accessible as soon as the boater is on the river. Access, both to the river and many of the historic and cultural sites, is blocked by the railroads along both shores. In fact, over seventy percent of the land is inaccessible from the river.
To meet the needs of the long distance paddler the Greenway is working with the Hudson River Watertrail Association, Inc., an all volunteer, non-profit group working to build a long distance water trail system throughout New York State. When complete, the long distance portion of the trail will provide overnight accommodations in the form of primitive campsites, or perhaps hostels or B&Bs.
Promotion and Events
To promote the Water Trail, improved access to the Hudson River and the heritage and diversity of the Greenway riverside communities, the Greenway is revamping the Great Hudson River Paddle into a variety of events including short overnight paddles, day paddles, free paddles, paddle races, and any other events our partners dream up. For more information visit our Great Hudson River Paddle pages by clicking here.
From 2001 to 2010 the Greenway organized and ran the Great Hudson River Paddle, a 150 mile kayaking and camping trip from Albany to Manhattan. In 2009, in celebration of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial the Greenway led a trip 192 miles from Fort Edward to Manhattan. To read a chronicle of that trip click here.
For more information, or to report errors with this web page, contact Scott Keller, Trails and Special Projects Director by phone (518) 473-3835 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.