An early winter’s walk along the Hudson River

By Caitlin Kelly

The western side of the Hudson; the cliffs reach 800 feet in height.
The western side of the Hudson; the cliffs reach 800 feet in height.

This riverside park, just north of Nyack, N.Y.,  is barely 25 miles north of New York City, barely a 40-minute train or car’s journey from the traffic and noise and crush and crowds of Times Square.

Here is another New York, the one its residents equally treasure.

Here, the world is wild, a rare, refreshing place of silence. It’s an easy 15 minute drive from our apartment on the other side of the river.

I’m looking northwest at these cliffs as I write this post, and they’re our first sight every morning from our bedroom window.

I love living at the edge of a river, watching its moods change with the hours and the seasons. Sometimes you can see a rainstorm moving down the water like a scrim, like this legendary 1857 Japanese woodcut.

In the bitterest of winters, the river freezes, and if you stand at its edge you’ll hear the ice cracking and groaning.

These cliffs are 200 million years old, first described in 1541 by the map-maker Mercator. Today they’re called The Palisades.

The famous “brownstones” of Manhattan and Brooklyn? Quarried here.

The only sounds are a murder of crows squawking high atop the cliffs, waves lapping the stony shore, the scree of a soaring red-tailed hawk, the drone of a passing airplane.

Yet you can glimpse Manhattan — what locals call The City — shimmering 30 miles south, like some faint version of Oz.

On the eastern shore, the train carrying commuters to work in New York City, and all the towns and cities along the way, slides south like a slim, silvery snake.

The Hudson is still commercially highly active, with barges heading north and south every day carrying coal, gravel and other elements. They’re always guided by tug boats, stout little vessels with tremendous power.

I wonder if this brick was former ballast.


I love seeing what’s washed up on the shores, like this oyster shell. The Hudson has 13 acres (!) of oyster beds in this area, recently moved at a cost of $100,000 from a mile north of the Tappan Zee Bridge (now under re-construction) to further south to protect them from harm during the work.


The variety of foliage, even in winter, is amazing. I have no idea what this is, but isn’t it amazing? It looks like a messy horse’s tail.


One of the sights I’ve grown accustomed to here are these vines, entwined. They’re a common sight — yet they never fail to mesmerize me.


I love bittersweet. It’s one of my favorite sights in the parks and woods here.


The base of these cliffs is also fascinating — the indentations remind me of the Canyon de Chelly, one of Arizona’s most ancient and mysterious indigenous sites. 20131129145214

This is the path. In the winter, populated only by walkers and their dogs, it’s a pleasant stroll. In the summer, when too many people stride across it, plus whizzing cyclists, I find it less enjoyable and safe.


Here’s a terrific book about all the ruined and abandoned buildings along the Hudson. There are many, and they’re mysterious and beautiful.

Here’s a useful essay that explains the region’s geology and history.

Do you have a favorite place you like to walk near your home?

18 thoughts on “An early winter’s walk along the Hudson River

  1. Caitlin

    I’m so glad I stopped and took this stroll with you. This time of year is so neglected. Your prose captured the natural essence of this part of the world so well. Your lyricism so tactile and delightful. I was in WNY mid November. You captured some of my favorite senses and scenes of what a walk this time of year conjures. Thank you, Renee

  2. a half hour train ride west of sydney will transport you away from the relentless noise of the city and into the Blue Mountains; the name a reference to the blue haze exhaled by an abundance of eucalyptus trees.

  3. Lovely post, I love when you share your walks and strolls! (Also, a murder of crows is one of my favorite collective nouns.)

    I love to walk along the Thames, the city has done a wonderful job of making it open, accessible, and pleasant.

  4. Loved this guided stroll, Caitlin. I am just a bit north of you, in Beacon, where Scenic Hudson is doing a wonderful job connecting trails that follow where the Fishkill Creek meets the Hudson. Dennings Point is a favorite. BTW– I just read a fantastic book whose primary setting is just about where you were (only, above) in Nyack–“The Great Oom” by Robert Love. Highly recommended!

  5. My father’s property backs up to county forest in central Wisconsin. I grew up walking and playing in those forests. It has changed over the years with logging operations and a few wild fires. However, it is still one of my most favorite places to spend time.

  6. Wonderful post, and what curiosities! As for me, I like strolling my old university grounds in the evening, about a mile from my home. As an alum, I feel like the place will always belong to me. The neo-gothic campus looks great in all seasons, and the memories tickle my sense of nostalgia and the current crop of students keep the place forever young.

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