New York’s Hudson: The River That Flows Two Ways

March 14, 2018



Photographer: Ray Boren 
Summary Author: Ray Boren 

A key to the region’s settlement and prosperity, New York State’s Hudson River also has been a dynamic shaper of its landscape for millions of years. The river’s contemporary source has been traced to Lake Tear of the Clouds, high in the Adirondack Mountains. It flows 315 miles (507 km) to the southern tip of New York City’s Manhattan Island and New York Harbor, one of the largest and busiest ports in the world.

In the photograph here, taken on Oct. 10, 2017, a barge is being pushed north and up the Hudson River by a tugboat. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge, linking Poughkeepsie on the river’s east side and Highland, N.Y., on the west, is in the distance. The view south is from the elevated Walkway Over the Hudson, the old Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, an 1889 span damaged by fire in 1974 but restored as a 1.28-mile (2-km) linear pedestrian path and park in 2009. A second image shows the winding Hudson from a perspective near the summit of Bear Mountain State Park, looking east toward New York’s Peekskill area — and a rising full Moon — just after sunset on Oct. 4, 2017.

For half of its length (153 miles/246 km.) the Hudson is also an estuary, in which brackish water from the Atlantic Ocean is propelled upstream during high tides. Because of this, some local Native American tribes, like the Mahicans, Lenape and Mohicans, called it Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk, Mahicantuck, or other variations, often translated to mean “river that flows two ways.” Henry Hudson, an English mariner and explorer in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, entered the river in 1609 while searching for the fabled Northwest Passage through or around North America to Asia. Today the river is named for him.

The stream’s course, depth and width, through the Hudson River Valley, was much influenced by the Pleistocene Ice Ages, extending back about 2 million years and continuing most recently to roughly 12,000 years ago. A vast ice sheet repeatedly advanced and retreated across much of northern North America, including New York, during that span. The ancient Hudson River sliced through a complex, rocky landscape, including lowlands underlain by Lower and Middle Paleozoic shales and carbonate rocks. The river was heading for the sea, the Atlantic Ocean — which was 50 to 100 miles (80-160 km) farther away from Manhattan Island than it is today because so much of Earth’s water was locked up in the epoch’s glacial ice.

Photo Details: Top: Camera: NIKON D3200; Exposure Time: 0.0050s (1/200); Aperture: ƒ/7.1; ISO equivalent: 100; Focal Length (35mm): 22; Bottom - same except: Exposure Time: 0.040s (1/25); Aperture: ƒ/4.0; ISO equivalent: 560; Focal Length (35mm): 21.