In the Unruffled Waters at the Top of Manhattan

While activity in the waters off of Lower Manhattan is almost always busy, the waters at the top of Manhattan, by contrast, are often quite placid, even serene. In the land where the Harlem River meets the Hudson River, the tides gently come and go, and with the ebb and flow a variety for shorebirds and the occasional visitor arrive for a little fishing and some rest.

The often photographed view of Inwood Hill Park with the Henry Hudson Bridge.

The weather has been warm and muggy these past few weeks, so going for a walk has been challenging. This morning, though, the weather seemed fine for a stroll, so it was a good time to see what was happening at the park and the shoreline.

Summer pool scene in Northern Manhattan

Everyone was there, and by everyone, I mean the Great Egret and the Great Blue Heron, a modest flock of ducks, and a small colony of herring gulls. They were in the bay of Inwood Hill Park, a scenic area popular with locals for walks, picnics, sports, and other activities. The Henry Hudson Bridge can be seen in the distance, and beyond, the Palisades of New Jersey. Walking to the end of the peninsula brings additional sights and sounds, including the frequent Metro-North and Amtrak trains rolling across the tracks and the big painted letter “C” that signifies the nearby athletic fields for Columbia University.

Inwood Hill Park 

In the bay, the birds were out of the water, making use of the boat dock behind the Inwood Nature Center, or resting on top of a the rocks that submerge at high tide. It looked like a summer swimming pool scene, with the herring gull playing the role of lifeguard. Pretty egret was cleaning its wings.

Spuyten Duyvil Creek and the big "C" painted on the rocky cliff

There were actual human types here, too, although not so many on a Tuesday morning. On the peninsula, dozens of kids at camp practiced safe combat skills with one another using soft clubs. A few people sat on benches reading, both near the bay and at Muscota Marsh, the small eco-park next to Columbia University’s rowing facility. College students worked out on rowing machines next to the boathouse.

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Another visitor would soon arrive, if not already there but in hiding below the water. In the river and near the dock at Muscota Marsh, a wayward harbor seal lifted its head above the water. The seal has been hanging around the area of late, having missed a proper migration for breeding season to the north, and can be spotted from time to time sunning on the end of the dock. From a distance, the seal can easily be mistaken for a dog swimming in the river. With a quick zoom of the camera, “Sealy,” as so named in these parts, comes into better view.

"Sealy," the harbor seal

Like I said, everyone was here. The rain returned in the afternoon.


Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from the morning of August 14, 2018. Click on the images to enlarge them.

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About Walking Off the Big Apple



Walking Off the Big Apple features self-guided tours to neighborhoods, streets, cultural history, good books, architecture, museums, parks, landscapes, and offbeat travel experiences in New York City.

Older posts will sometimes be updated to reflect relevant changes in the city, i.e. store or restaurant closings or transit information.

Writer and editor Teri Tynes created Walking Off the Big Apple in the summer of 2007. Email: teritynes@gmail.com.