Bronx River

Bronx River

The Bronx River flows through Westchester County, New York, and the Bronx, New York City. This 24-mile-long waterway cuts through the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden. For most of its span, the Bronx River is considered fresh water.

Geography, Recreation, and Highlights

The Bronx River runs through some of New York City’s most precious green spaces. In fact, it flows continuously from the New York Botanical Garden to the Bronx Zoo. Situated on the grounds of the botanical garden, the Lorillard Snuff Mill is one of the most notable historic sites along the river. After opening in the 1840s, this stone building was a major entity in the local tobacco industry.

The mouth of the river drains into the East River near Soundview Park in the Bronx. Originally a landfill, this park has been converted into a premier recreational space with family-friendly amenities. More than 200 acres are now available for the enjoyment of the public. Kayak and canoe launches are installed along various points of this riverfront park, which also has miles of hiking trails and ball fields.

The northern part of the Bronx River cuts through affluent and picturesque suburbs in Westchester County. Scarsdale, White Plains, and Tuckahoe are some communities that have parks and other scenic areas along the river. For example, Malcolm Wilson County Park has trails that follow the water’s natural path. As you travel northward towards the Kensico Reservoir, you’ll notice that the Bronx River is relatively narrow and shallow. Therefore, it might be illegal or impractical to enjoy recreational activities in the river.


Before the arrival of Europeans into modern-day New York, the Bronx River served as an important waterway for various Native American tribes. In the 1600s, Dutch colonists built some rural properties along this vital source of fresh water. Historic records indicate that Jonas Bronck was the first settler to officially buy land along this river. In fact, the entire borough of the Bronx is named after this Dutch immigrant.

The rapid growth of New York City during the 19th century changed the fate of the Bronx River forever. Situated in Westchester County, New York, the Kensico Reservoir was designated as a water supply for NYC. Consequently, a damn was built in the 1880s to facilitate the delivery of fresh water to the city. This infrastructure essentially cut off the Bronx River from its original source.

The existing Croton Aqueduct was expanded by the opening of the Kensico Reservoir. Since then, heavy residential and commercial development occurred along the banks of the relatively narrow river. Railroad tracks have been traditionally built parallel to this meandering body of water that cuts through urban, rural, and suburban communities. Similarly, the Bronx River Parkway was laid out based on the natural path of the river.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, industrial facilities, wastewater treatment plants, and other commercial enterprises heavily polluted the river. The Bronx River Alliance was established specifically to clean up and preserve this important aquatic channel.

Transportation and Directions

Numerous communities in New York have commuter train stations near the Bronx River. Running between Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan and Dutchess County, the Harlem Line of the Metro-North Railroad roughly follows the river. For example, the White Plains Metro North station is located on the eastern banks of the river. As expected, the Bronx River Parkway offers convenient access to almost all communities that are situated along this waterway.

Location: flows through Westchester County, New York, and the Bronx

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