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At first glance, there’s no evidence that an aqueduct ever existed along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. The trail is often a singletrack dirt pathway that winds through communities and trees and provides an oasis of green just north of the Bronx. But take a closer look and the trail begins to hint at a history that spans more than 175 years.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Old Croton Aqueduct was completed in 1842, when water first flowed from the Croton River south into the Bronx, providing clean water to a city with a rising population that desperately needed it. The aqueduct quickly grew obsolete as New York City’s population continued to boom, and a New Croton Aqueduct, three times the size, was built in 1890.
The Old Croton Aqueduct Trail gives visitors a lesson in New York history, starting from the north at the New Croton Dam. It begins to the right of the dam, and as you head south, you’ll quickly pass the first of 21 remaining ventilators, 10- to 14-foot-high structures that were placed at roughly 1-mile intervals to allow fresh air to reach the water in the aqueduct.
After about 3 miles, you’ll reach the town of Crotonville, one of several small towns along the trail. Another 2 miles farther is Ossining. This northern tip of the trail up to Ossining will be the most comfortable for horseback riders. The trail crosses many public streets along its 26 miles. Drivers tend to yield to trail users, but use caution at these crossings, which get more numerous as the trail continues south and enters urban areas.
Walkers can enjoy the trail’s entire length; cyclists and other trail users may use the path as well but may find some sections difficult to traverse. Cyclists will need to be comfortable biking on the sidewalks and roadways of several streets of varying traffic volumes and speeds. Travelers should particularly use caution in the section of the trail following Albany Post Road, which has no sidewalks or shoulders, for about 0.3 mile south of Scarborough. Here walkers and casual cyclists will want to follow a 0.8-mile detour, which goes right on Scarborough Station Road, left on River Road, and left on Creighton Road back to the trail.
Follow the trail another 3 miles to the town of Sleepy Hollow, which is much quainter than its legend of the Headless Horseman suggests; this is another section of the trail that equestrians may enjoy. Rockefeller State Park Preserve, which offers a bridle path, is also nearby (though equestrians must have a permit).
Trail users get views of the newly constructed Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (formerly known as the Tappan Zee Bridge) about 2.5 miles south of Sleepy Hollow. A new shared-use path runs along the bridge and provides a nonmotorized crossing of the Hudson River. About 0.5 mile south of the bridge, the trail crosses through Lyndhurst, the site of a Gothic Revival mansion where cyclists are asked to dismount and walk through the park. Take the time to walk through Lyndhurst and enjoy its well-manicured landscaping.
Signage is infrequent on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, an intentional effort by the trail’s developers to maintain its rural nature. Four miles south of Lyndhurst, trail users will find it easy to locate the historical Keeper’s House and park headquarters, worth a stop to admire a piece of the trail’s history. To stay on the trail, be on the lookout for the stones imprinted with OCA at many street crossings, as well as the wayfinding signs installed in summer 2018 at several areas that are difficult to navigate.
The remainder of the trail headed south is best suited for walkers, as the trail surface is occasionally rocky and winds through and around public streets in Yonkers. The southern end of the trail lies near the intersection of Lawton Street and Hancock Avenue in Yonkers, while the Old Croton Aqueduct continues south into the Bronx. There is no formal trailhead at the trail’s southern terminus, and those reaching the trail by car can look for on-street parking nearby.
To reach the southern terminus from I-87 S, take Exit 1 toward Hall Pl./McLean Ave. Merge onto Central Park Ave., go 0.5 mile, and turn right onto Forest Ave. Travel 0.2 mile, where Forest Ave. turns right and becomes Hancock Ave. Travel another 0.2 mile to the southern terminus near the intersection of Hancock Ave. and Lawton St.
To reach the southern terminus from I-87 N, take Exit 14 toward McLean Ave. Merge onto Jerome Ave., go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto McLean Ave. Make an immediate left onto Forest Ave. Travel 0.2 mile, where Forest Ave. turns right and becomes Hancock Ave. Travel another 0.2 mile to the southern terminus near the intersection of Hancock Ave. and Lawton St.
To reach the northern terminus from I-287 W, take Exit 6, and turn left onto Orchard St. Go 0.2 mile, and continue onto Cemetery Road. From I-287 E, take Exit 6, and turn left onto NY 22. Immediately turn left onto Cemetery Road. In 0.3 mile turn right onto Bronx River Pkwy., and go 1.7 miles. At Kensico Cir., take the second exit onto Taconic State Pkwy. Go 13.9 miles, and take Exit 13 for Underhill Ave./Croton-on-Hudson/Yorktown Heights. Head southwest on Underhill Ave. Travel 0.8 mile on Underhill Ave., and turn right onto NY 129 W/Croton Lake Road. After 3 miles, turn left onto Croton Dam Road. Parking is available at the New Croton Dam in 0.2 mile on the right.
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