New York is a maritime city, carved up by rivers, dotted with historic ports and accented by marshland. But if you’re like most New Yorkers who aren’t ferry commuters, houseboat residents or fishing enthusiasts, the city’s waterways are often an afterthought.
For decades, our waterways were known less for their breathtaking vistas and more for toxic waste, illegal dumping and sewage outflows. But years of improvement to wastewater management, 75 million dutiful toxin-absorbing oysters and boatloads of extracted ‘black mayonnaise' have combined to give us the cleanest waters in a century. Cue soaring music and the eerie calls of whales and dolphins, who are returning to New York Harbor's cleaner waters in scores.
Enjoy what your great grandparents couldn’t and get out for a paddle! Ok yes, raw sewage spews into the rivers any time there’s more than a tenth an inch of rain, so maybe save the boating adventure for a dry day.
Here are a few places to get out on the water this summer across the five boroughs.
Inwood Canoe House
Inwood Canoe House offers free kayaking sessions every Sunday morning. You have to sign up in-person at 9 a.m. and the 20-minute guided paddles start at 10 a.m. You have to fill out an online waiver before you arrive. For questions, email email@example.com.
Downtown Boathouse, Hudson River Park
Instead of cocktail hour, how about catching the sunset beyond the Hudson River from a boat. Several times each week through October 10th, the Downtown Boathouse lends out its kayaks on a first come, first serve basis for 20-minute jaunts along the Hudson River for free. They’re open during weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. No reservations needed.
Canoe the Bronx River, various locations
Fridays throughout the summer, the Bronx River Alliance hosts a free community paddle at Starlight Park boat launch. In addition, on several other weekends, there are guided paddles along different parts of the Bronx River which range from around $25 for adults and $15 for kids. Sign up online.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse
Paddle in the East River waters near the base of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, with a launch from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse located on the park’s Pier 2. Reserve a slot online for a free, 20-minute paddle, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 12 to 2:30 p.m.
Sojourn into the otherworldly salt marsh alongside Gerritsen Creek and Mill Creek at the edge of Marine Park. You can rent single and double kayaks and stand up paddle boards at an outpost of Wheel Fun Rentals, located in Marine Park. They’re open daily, weather permitting. You can rent boats for an hour, a half-day or a full day. It’ll cost you between $16 and $45.
‘City of Water’ group paddle, clean up and “immersive arts experience," Greenpoint
On Saturday, July 16th, the North Brooklyn Community Boathouse and the Newtown Creek Alliance will host a public paddle and tour along the Dutch Kills tributary of the Newtown Creek in 29-foot, 12-person canoes. The event is free and will feature a group clean-up part of the river bank as well as creekside performances by Marie Lorenz. Register online in advance.
Community Boat House, Rockaway Beach
Four times a week, throughout the summer the Community Boat House hosts free open paddles for kayakers of all levels, as well as guided tours of the marshy Jamaica Bay. Register in advance to save a spot.