Cranberry Lake Preserve a beautiful place with a lot of history
Cranberry Lake Preserve - NY Travel Blog› entry 784 of 1090 › view all entries
By the end of the 1800s New York City was growing and growing. All its residents needed to drink, to wash, flushing their toilets, and other water consuming activities. The city's local watersheds were way insufficient. So, New York City focused on water sources outside of its limits.
The Croton Reservoir (see here) was a first attempt to get the city "irrigated", later the reservoir was increased by building a bigger dam. But still the need for water was growing. So, a new reservoir was built in 1885, in the valley of the village Kensico (see also next blog!). And once more this turned out to be insufficient. The Kensico Reservoir, was rather small so in 1905 legislation was passed for removing the old gravel dam and construct a new, much bigger granite dam, hugely increasing the capacity of the reservoir.
Conveniently enough the land almost next to the old dam contain huge amounts of granite. So the dam's base material could be obtained nearby. This land is nowadays called Cranberry Lake Preserve and has an interesting history. In the 1800 it was mainly used by farmers. During the construction period of the Kensico Dam (1913-1917) the site was buzzing with quarry activities, contained a rock crushing plant, a vast network of railroad tracks, and a dynamite storage building. When the quarry was closed the area was apparently used as some kind of dump-site. In the 1960s an entrepreneur tried to develop the area as a residential area, the depression prevented that from happening, so it ended up in possession of Westchester County, which turned it into a preserve. Until the end of the 1990s the old quarry lakes were the home of the "Birchwood Swim Club" which also facilitated a tennis court.
The weather forecast was bad for today. We would have some sun in the morning and later in the day heavy rain was forecasted. This asked for a nearby and short hike. So, I decided to try a hike from my new book "Hiking the Road to Ruins".
Even without the impressive history and ruins the preserve is worth a visit. It is a nice hilly environment with rocks, swamps, forest, lakes, brooks, etc. After some initial normal trails around the lake and swamps I all of a sudden met the darker history of the preserve, the dump site. At the feet of the quarry walls, in the middle of the bushes I encountered many wreckages of old cars. Just pushed over the edge of the quarry, I also found old TVs, toilets, refrigerators, and even an old truck. The cars were in their way interesting but rusty artifacts.
The steep rocky walls of the quarry gave a western US impression to the scene.
The tennis court of the Birchwood Swim Club has been abandoned since 1997. It is still on the site but heavily decaying. So, I can add another artifact to my ghost collection: a ghost Tennis Court!
Near the swamps the preserve also features a bird watching tower. At the time I got there a young family with two little girls was just enjoying the views on the swamps and pond. When I approached the tower one of the girls faced me enthusiastically and cried "Hello Mister Softee!" So far my self image of being a tough hiker.....
More pictures below!