Birding the Walkway Over The Hudson
Now up and running for over two years the Walkway Over The Hudson, which was once a bridge for trains to make their way over the Hudson River, is a pretty darn cool place to take a stroll. Looking down on the Hudson River from 212 feet in the air is an experience worth having and there is plenty of time to look down at the river or at the gorgeous views in every direction on the 1.28-mile long walkway. Stretching between Poughkeepsie on the east side of the river and Highland on the west side, the bridge is not only a great place to walk but it is also a historic site, which is why New York State officially manages the site as Walkway Over The Hudson State Historic Park. How historic is the bridge?
The Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge is a remarkable achievement, first proposed in 1855. After the Civil War, the idea was taken more seriously. After several false starts, successful construction began in 1886. The first train crossed December 29, 1888. When the bridge opened in 1889, it was the longest bridge in North America and the first bridge to span the Hudson River between Albany and New York City. It became a key transportation hub linking western raw materials to eastern industrial centers until the fire in 1974 closed it. (source)
The bridge really isn’t that old but to consider that it went from state of the art to defunct in under one hundred years and was then reborn as a tourist attraction thirty-odd years later is fascinating, at least to this history buff. Transportation history isn’t most people’s cup of tea but when it is combined with views that even on a dreary, drizzly day were delightful, it can be fascinating.
looking east from the Walkway Over The Hudson
looking south from the Walkway Over The Hudson
looking north from the Walkway Over The Hudson
We walked out to the halfway point from the west side, we being Daisy, Desi, and me, and enjoyed the views of the still mud-brown river but didn’t enjoy the drizzle that began to fall. Being out over the river the wind is stronger and the air is cooler so if you ever visit plan on adding at least one layer to what you were wearing before heading out onto the bridge. We would have gone all the way across and back but Desi was resisting walking and he is getting heavy to carry so we headed back to the west, though if we had been thinking we would have just brought his stroller which would have handled the smooth surface without an issue.
The volunteers that staff the bridge are knowledgeable and helpful and cheerful and just generally wonderful folks. One can’t blame them for being enthusiastic about their choice of places to volunteer! Though the weather was lousy for our visit there was a steady stream of folks crossing the bridge and I imagine that the next couple of weekends, when the fall foliage should really get going, will be very busy indeed, especially if the sun comes out from behind all of the clouds.
And what about the birds? Well, at first there wasn’t much around with a Song Sparrow, a Gray Catbird, and a Mourning Dove being the only three birds as we walked to the bridge from the parking area but things picked up with a couple flocks of Double-crested Cormorants and a flock of Canada Geese winging south. Blue Jays are on the move of late as well and it was neat to watch them fly by under the bridge where the bridge was still over land. The highlight of the birding was on our way back to the car when the bridge is at treetop level and a small flock of wood-warblers was moving through the treetops. I couldn’t work the flock for long because it was getting rainier and a wet and tired and hungry almost-two-year-old is not a good time but I did manage to pull out Black-throated Green Warblers, a Northern Parula, and Blackpoll Warbler. Then I hustled to catch up to Desi and Daisy and can you blame me?