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The Hudson River

J.F.W. Des Barres. Part of Hudsons River … and (A Plan of Fort Montgomery & Fort Clinton) …. London, 1779. NYPL, The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, Lawrence H. Slaughter Collection. Digital ID 434398

Traditionally considered to originate from the tiny Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains, the Hudson River flows over 300 miles from its source to the Atlantic. The river itself is slight in comparison to the larger Hudson River watershed, comprised of all the rivers, creeks, and wetlands that feed into the river as it moves south. Approaching the harbor, the river becomes part of a grand tidal estuary, with waters flowing “both ways,” as the local Native American tribes described it. The river ebbs and flows through the Upper and Lower Bays, moving out into the Atlantic along the path of the historic Hudson Canyon deep in the ocean floor. However, near Albany and Troy the shallows of the river clearly demonstrated to Henry Hudson that he would not find Asia via this path.

When Hudson left North America, he probably considered his efforts to find a water route to Asia via the Hudson River a failure. But the river supported fur trade and agricultural outposts, attracting a new population to the river valley. To foment settlement, the Dutch West India Company established a system of great manors, called patroonships, along the Hudson and Connecticut river valleys. Manor owners, or patroons, were required to bring immigrants to develop and inhabit the land. The system eventually failed, but agricultural and industrial development prospered, especially in the 19th century.

The estuary, though threatened with industrial and population pressures, continues to breathe life into harbor shores and communities. Multiple environmental projects support the future of the river and its harbor. Hudson River Valley wineries decorate the landscape, continuing the heritage of the earliest winery here, established by French Huguenots.


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