Friday, February 13, 2009

The Mighty Hudson

Our part of the Adirondack Park is the Headwaters Region of the Hudson River. The highest source of water for the Hudson is Lake Tear of the Clouds, a small pond that is perched on the southern shoulder of Mt. Marcy. As the crow flies, Mt. Marcy is maybe six miles or so from the nearest road downstream - you cannot drive to Lake Tear. Water drains from Lake Tear, becoming Feldspar Brook, which joins up with the Opalescent River. The Opalescent flows into The Flowed Lands, which drains at two locations: south as the Opalescent, and west as Calamity Brook. Where Calamaity Brook joins the outflow of Henderson Lake (a beautiful paddle only recently opened to the public), we see the first mention on maps of the Hudson River. The Opalescent "rejoins" the Hudson just south of Sanford Lake, which is part of the Tahawus Mine complex (a subject for another day).

The first place where the casual visitor to the source of the Hudson can easily reach the river is at a place known locally as the Swinging Bridge. If you drive up the road to the Upper Works (also known as the southern entrance into the High Peaks Wilderness Area), you will pass on your right the old Blast Furnace (which is being restored, although it has remained in very good condition, considering it is well over 150 years old and has been abandoned to the whims of the forest for most of that time). A short distance beyond the furnace is a pull-off on the right. This is the trailhead for Lake Jimmy, Lake Sally and Mount Adams (which sports a recently restored fire tower). A quick stroll down this trail (less than a quarter mile) brings you to the Swinging Bridge, under which the Hudson trickles. In the summer you can just about stand with one foot on each side of the river.

The next location for viewing the Hudson is at the Hudson River Information Center in Newcomb.

As you come into town from the east (on Route 28N, about 6 miles from the turn-off to Tahawus and the Blue Ridge Road), you see a turn to the right for the High Peaks Golf Course. Take this road to the end (about half a mile). At the end there is a building with some interpretive panels about the Hudson and its role in local logging operations. Feel free to sign the visitor register. But the best part is the view of the river. This is what it looks like about now, looking upstream:

and downstream:

As you can see, it has become significantly deeper and wider than it was at the Swinging Bridge. Well, actually you can't really see that here, what with all the snow, but come back in the spring after the snow has is impressive.

From here, if you get back on Route 28N and continue westerly for about, oh, two miles, you will come to the Hudson again, this time driving right over it (the Route 28N Bridge). This is the view upstream:

and downstream:

(these were taken last night, so you see a bit of sunset there).

Conveniently located right by this bridge is Cloudsplitters Outfitters. In the summer you can rent a canoe, a kayak, or even an innertube, and you can float and paddle a mile or so stretch of the Hudson at this location. It is quite scenic and makes for a pleasant couple of hours. If you head downstream beyond the bend as seen from the bridge, however, you are on your own, for soon you will encounter Ord Falls and the Hudson River Gorge, and you will be committed to many miles of rugged river, from which there is no exit until you reach North Creek. It's a long and dangerous route, not for the casual paddler.

From up here in the moutains, it is hard to imagine the Hudson as a river over a mile wide, where salt water flows in and out with the ocean's tides. One of the best ways to get a feel for the entire Hudson River is through the Hudson River Almanac, an electronic journal edited by DEC Estuary Naturalist Tom Lake. People from all walks of life contribute to the Almanac by sending Tom their observations of natural happenings from all along the more than 300-mile length of this mighty river. From the terminus we read about stray manatees and striped bass, eagles riding the ice floes, and the pull of the tides. From up here at the headwaters, tales of otters and moose, trailing arbutus and fallfish, float down to the readers below. It's a nifty publicaton and free to anyone who wants to receive it. Visit: for more information.


  1. Thanks for this great post about the Hudson River. I'm sure you could gather from my own posts that I feel an almost mystical attraction to this river. Like the Ganges to Buddhists and Hindus, or the Jordan to Christians and Jews, the Hudson River always stirs my soul. Thanks, too, for the link to Hudson River Almanac.

  2. This is an awesome informational post!

  3. Great post, definately some familiar scenery there. The Hudson really is such a dynamic river from start to finish...too bad so many people don't know what it has to offer. Hopefully the Gorge area will be more open to access soon as well.