Trail & Tunnel Notes … From the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct: Walks & Tours

A tour atop the Croton Dam (Photo: Suzy Allman)

As co-head of Walks & Tours for the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct and a docent at the Keepers House Visitor Center in Dobbs Ferry, I am frequently asked the same question: What would be a good walk or tour along the 26-mile trail that runs through these Rivertowns (the Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park)? Or perhaps along the 15-mile New York City route, which ends at the main New York Public Library (former site of the Murray Hill Distributing Reservoir)?  

I answer with a question: What is it about the Aqueduct that most interests you?  Is it Westchester or New York City history?  Engineering innovation?  Water as a resource? Adventurous rambles?  Parks, gardens, and nature preserves?  Historic houses, mansions, and museums?  Birds, botany, and beauty?  Sweeping views of the Hudson?  Walking or running to earn a 26- or 41-Miler Patch and Certificate? Or just enjoying off-street walking, running, or bicycling in nature in your backyard or beyond? The Aqueduct offers an answer to all of these interests. 

You could, of course, visit the Keepers House on a Saturday or Sunday between 1 and 4 pm and ask questions of the docents, and view the exhibits, short films, and interactive trail map. Or, if you live on or near the trail, just get out there!  You could begin with a $5 map of the Westchester and/or the New York City sections published by the Friends.   

Not just maps, they are guides to your experience on the trail, each including a full-color map, which points out major Aqueduct structures and places of note along the way and helps you navigate tricky sections. On the reverse side is a brief history of the Aqueduct and short descriptions of some 50 nearby natural, cultural, and historic sites.  The maps may be purchased at the Keepers House, on our website (, on a walk or tour conducted by the Friends, or at one of the locations listed on the website (click on Planning a Visit/Maps and Access). 

Or you could begin with the website.  A current list is available (Walks & Tours & Events/downloadable current schedule or /calendar).  Of course, there are the favorite tours:  the scenic 200-foot-high Croton Dam at the trailhead; the Weir in Ossining, where a tour will lead you down into the original 1842 Aqueduct tunnel, through which fresh water flowed to a thirsty New York City; and the High Bridge, which was built to carry the Aqueduct over the Harlem River into Manhattan.   

But there are so many other things to see and do along the Aqueduct!  Self-guided walks (with text and pictures) may be found under Plan a Visit.  You can browse the websites calendar feature to come up with many ideas of walks to do on your own.  The calendar goes back to 2014, listing a great variety of walks. If you click on an interesting one, you will reach a description of it, along with mileage and tips on how to get there.  With map in hand, you can do these walks yourself or with family or friends.  A tip: the Hudson Line parallels much of the trail, so trains can be used as a quick way to get back to your starting point. A journey along the Old Croton Aqueduct, for whatever reason, can be enjoyed in all seasons. 


  1. The next NYC walk that we have planned is:
    July 20, Saturday, 10:00 am – Walk the High Bridge & Explore Nearby — Washington Heights near the High Bridge deserves more attention, especially now that the gleaming bridge beckons day-trippers once more. Let’s start by walking into The Bronx across the Harlem River, via the High Bridge. You will hear the tale of the Old Croton Aqueduct, then wind back to the gorgeous Jumel Terrace Historic District, Uptown Trinity Cemetery (resting place of Ed Koch and John James Audubon), and to hidden Audubon Terrace. Along the way we pay homage to Paul Robeson, jazz greats like Lena Horne, the indomitable Eliza Jumel, and to NY baseball. Be prepared for many stairs and up to 4 hours of hilly walking (4+ miles). Bring snacks and drinks. Meet at Highbridge Recreation Center, Amsterdam Ave. at 173 Street in Manhattan, a short walk from #1(181 St.) and A (175 St.) subways. Parking lot at 554 W 174 St, or street park. Heavy rain cancels. Inquiries: text only to Lesley Walter, (914) 671-7112.

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About the Author: Sara Kelsey