Lakes and ponds in New York City
Visit natural and man-made pools in every borough.
Thu Aug 20 2009
Seeking out a pond or lake in each borough presented my six-year-old son, Henry, and me with a chance to embrace the natural world within our noisy urban landscape. We relished the unstructured time and left each setting refreshed, gladly reminded of the importance of doing nothing.
We managed to lose ourselves for a few hours at the Pond in Central Park, located below street level just within the green space’s southeastern confines. Henry posited that the two boulders abutting the man-made shore were meteors that had struck Earth during the mammoth era. We scaled them and admired the Gapstow Bridge from the summits. Later, we spied a gray jay, and a family of turtles holding yoga poses. Central Park, enter park from Fifth Ave at 59th St.
After walking down a path to a rustic, stinky shelter, I splurged on the one-hour pedal boat rental ($15 plus $10 deposit) at the Lake in Prospect Park. The workout was an ideal way to get acquainted with the borough’s only freshwater lake, scooped from 60 acres of farmland. When not captaining the boat in 90-degree turns, Henry fished for lily pads. Pedal boat rentals at Wollman Rink, Prospect Park. Enter park from Ocean Ave at Lincoln Rd.
Known for its diverse populations of dragonflies and turtles, serene 30-acre Baisley Pond is surrounded by an overgrown lawn graced by century-old trees. We reclined under an oak and read poetry while an egret speared for fish. Then we meandered across the grass, where we discovered brown and yellow mushrooms—looking very much like elegant bungalows for field mice. Baisley Pond Park, enter from Lake View Blvd East at 122nd Ave.
Created when a creek was dammed up in the 1690s, Van Cortlandt Lake is best viewed from a bench on the golf-course side. From there, we took in the curve of the 16-acre freshwater basin and the tree-stuffed shoreline. Beneath great whipped cloud sculptures, my son and I hid under umbrellas and wrote postcards to each other. Van Cortlandt Park, enter from Broadway at 246th St.
The centerpiece of a nearly unpeopled oasis, Eibs Pond is the city’s largest kettle pond, formed by glaciers 15,000 years ago. We set up camp on a square wooden dock overlooking the three liquid acres, which are edged with cattails, water lilies and cinnamon fern. A sloshy hike led to fishermen catching and releasing bass. Henry, scientist pretend, told me he’d spotted a swift. It didn’t matter if he had or not—only that he’d had a chance to see such a bird at all. Eibs Pond Park, enter from Mosel Ave at Palma Dr.