Mid-Hudson and Catskills

Between New York City's suburbs and the larger Upstate region is a transitional area, a place where many New Yorkers get away from it all to relax. West of the Hudson River lie the Catskills, a largely rural and wild area of mountains and valleys; along the river, on the other hand lie a number of Hudson Valley communities with rolling hills, an area that resembles New England in many respects.

Regions

Cities

Understand

Henry Hudson and his crew were the first Europeans to sail up the river, on the Halve Maen in 1609. They thought they might have discovered the beginnings of the Northwest Passage, and traveled as far as the feature that gives present-day Glens Falls its name before they realized they had only found a tidal estuary 150 miles (240 km) into the interior. But the find was nevertheless useful for the Dutch, who established the colony of New Netherland along the river, with its capital, Fort Orange (today Albany) near the upper limit of his voyage, and the port city of New Amsterdam (New York City) at the river's mouth.

The Halve Maen explores the Hudson

Other settlements, like Kingston and Schenectady, were established later. Many other Dutch placenames in the region reflect this era, which ended when the colony became English in 1669. Under both colonial powers, the river became a major trade route, with sloops plying it regularly and putting it at other riverside ports like Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Hudson.

During the Revolutionary War the river became a key strategic asset. The British sought to take control of it, in order to divide New England from the rest of the colonies. To prevent this, the Patriots forged a giant chain to block the river below the Hudson Highlands, and established the fort has since become the United States Military Academy at West Point. Benedict Arnold made his getaway down the river after his plan to sell out the fort to the British was exposed.

After the war ended with American independence, the new nation found in the river and its surrounding valley its earliest cultural inspiration. Washington Irving lived on the river's banks and wrote his most famous story, Rip Van Winkle, about the Dutch inhabitants of the upper valley. Thomas Cole, Frederick Church and other painters of the Hudson River School found inspiration in the landscapes of the Highlands and the Catskills. Wealthy landowners like Robert Livingston built palatial estates on the east bank overlooking some of the most scenic vistas.

The Hudson was also important to the economy. In combination with the Mohawk, it offered a largely level route through the Appalachian Mountains. Thomas Jefferson is said to have coined New York's nickname, the Empire State, in recognition of the potential of this asset. New York did not wait long to exploit it. The Erie Canal was opened between Albany and Buffalo in 1825, and a quarter-century later the first railroads along the river were in place.

Soon the cities of the valley industrialized, and those who had become rich from that development, like the Vanderbilts and Jay Gould, moved into their own riverfront mansions. At the southern end of the valley the country towns of Westchester and Rockland counties gradually became commuter suburbs, growing explosively after World War II. That growth came with a price, however, as the pollution from the industrialization taxed the river's ability to cleanse itself, making it almost an open sewer.

Storm King Mountain

But the region responded by helping to launch the modern American environmental movement. A power plant project that would have carved a dam out of Storm King Mountain south of Cornwall and strung transmission lines across the river was halted in 1965, when the Scenic Hudson Preservation Committee persuaded a federal court to allow consideration of the aesthetic impact the project would have on the landscape, a landmark ruling. Other environmental groups, such as Clearwater and Hudson Riverkeeper, were launched to protect the river itself, aided greatly by the passage of the Clean Water Act in the 1970s.

The upper stretches of the river still have signs warning against eating fish caught there due to the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) remaining in the riverbed. Most came from a former General Electric plant in Hudson Falls, and remediation efforts have long been a political sore point in the region.

Along with the river, the region suffered from the decline of manufacturing jobs in late 20th-century America. Cities like Newburgh, Peekskill and Poughkeepsie became poorer as jobs left, compounded by ill-advised urban renewal projects such as Poughkeepsie's Main Mall Row. Many who stayed wondered if the region had seen its best days.

The depressed regional housing market, however, created opportunities. Manhattan- and Brooklynites looking for that urban vibe at a cheaper price began buying up the old houses and restoring them. The state's Hudson River Greenway helped communities like Peekskill and Newburgh clean up and revitalize their riverfronts. Outside the valley's cities, some old farms became subdivisions, occupied by the middle-class families who found themselves priced out of closer suburbs. Today exurbanization reaches into Dutchess and Orange counties, and is slowly creeping into Greene and Columbia counties at the north end, where the metropolitan area centers on Albany. In between, the valley remains a mixture of old and new.

Community after community along the river continues to revive its waterfront. Visitors from New York City come to their shops on the weekend and sometimes decide to settle in towns like Cold Spring, Beacon, Saugerties, and Hudson, where they restore old houses and take in the fantastic scenery.

Climate

The valley is generally cooler than New York City, both in summer and winter. In the former season this effect is positive, as it blunts any heat waves that hit the city (temperatures have broken 100°F (38°C) on occasion, but not by much). In the winter this means, however, that storms are likely to be more severe (when TV weather forecasters from the city say something like "north and west, this will all be snow", they're usually pointing at the lower or central Hudson Valley).

These effects are more pronounced as one gets further from the river and higher into the mountainous and hilly terrain, like the Catskills or Taconics, on either side. The Catskills and Shawangunks can also create "rain shadows" near their bases on some days, due to the prevailing winds blowing from the west across them. At the same time they also tend to buffer the region from some of the storm systems that come down from Canada to menace the rest of upstate New York in early winter.

Flooding after Hurricane Irene, 2011

The most serious weather events are thus usually the nor'easters that follow the coasts. The wind that sometimes comes along with them regardless of season can sometimes be strong enough to blow down trees or branches and cause widespread power failures. In recent years some tropical cyclones have severely affected the region. Tropical Storm Floyd, in 1999, caused some of the longest blackouts; and Irene and Lee in 2011 brought extensive flooding, washing out roads and isolating some communities.

Read

Get in

By boat

Probably the best, most beautiful and historic view of traveling to and within the Hudson Valley is by boat up the Hudson itself. There are a few tourist cruises you can do, but unless you have or use a private boat, the Hudson River itself won't be your primary method of travel in the Hudson Valley. One exception is NY Waterway, an operator of commuter ferries, that offers full day and weekend sightseeing cruises from New York City to several locations including Tarrytown and the United States Military Academy at West Point.

The sloop Clearwater

A different, but memorable, way to experience the Hudson Valley from the river is to go on one of the public sails run by Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the Beacon-based environmental organization that works to protect the river. Between April and October, Clearwater, a National Register-listed replica of the 17th- and 18th-century Dutch sloops, and Mystic Whaler, a replica of a 19th-century whaling schooner, take on passengers at docks up and down the river between New York and Albany. During the excursions, passengers can take turns helping steer and operate the boat while the crew offers lessons on the history and environment. It's a popular family outing. Tickets are $50 for adults, $35 for Clearwater members and $15 for children 12 and under. +1 845 265-8080 x7107 .

By air

By train

A Metro-North Hudson Line train in the Hudson Highlands

As a scenic introduction to the region, the train trip up the east side of the Hudson is worth the ride in itself on a nice day. Much of the track runs immediately adjacent or very close to the river; sights include the Palisades, Haverstraw Bay (the river's widest point), Hudson Highlands, West Point, Newburgh Bay, and the Catskills. All but the latter can be viewed from either Amtrak's Empire Service trains (the intercity service) or Metro-North's Hudson Line (commuter service). The former entails going to Albany–Rensselaer and returning; the latter, Poughkeepsie. There are more amenities on Amtrak, but less time between train turnarounds at Poughkeepsie.

For destinations further inland on the east side of the Valley, the Harlem Line, marked in blue on the map, is an option. It goes as far as rural Wassaic, 90 miles (144 km) north of the city in Dutchess County. Intermediate stops include Bronxville, White Plains, Scarsdale, and Brewster. Electric trains go as far as Southeast; passengers going beyond that station will have to change to a diesel train there, except if catching an express from Grand Central during evening rush hour.

The Moodna Viaduct

By bus

By car

The most commonly used route to the Hudson Valley is the north-south New York State Thruway (Interstate 87). From New York City, it can be reached by following the Major Deegan Expressway, which becomes the Thruway when it reaches the city line. It continues through lower Westchester County, with a $1.25 toll collected at a barrier near Ardsley, then turns west where I-287 joins it at White Plains to cross the Hudson at one of its widest and most scenic points via the Tappan Zee Bridge (a $4.75 toll is collected going eastbound). After crossing heavily suburban and busy Rockland County, it turns north and continues up the valley to Albany, with every exit roughly corresponding to a bridge. Some of the valley's scenery, such as the Catskills, is visible in the middle of this section. The toll from that point is collected at the exits; to Albany it is $5.25.

The Taconic State Parkway in southern Dutchess County

On the east side of the river the only divided highway that runs the valley's full length is the Taconic State Parkway, beginning at the end of the Bronx River Parkway south of Valhalla and continuing north to the Thruway's Berkshire extension (Interstate 90) near the Columbia County village of Chatham. While less convenient to the river cities, it is worth the drive in itself as the automotive counterpart to the train ride up the river, designed to take advantage of the region's staggering views and rolling, bucolic scenery. Franklin D. Roosevelt personally oversaw the design before he became president, and author William Kennedy has described the result as a "110-mile postcard." The entire highway and most of its picturesque stone bridges have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

From the east or the west, the best route to the valley is Interstate 84. Crossing the Delaware River from Pennsylvania into New York at Port Jervis, it makes a scenic crossing of the lower Shawangunk Ridge, then bends north past Middletown to Newburgh, where it intersects with the Thruway and then crosses the Hudson via the Newburgh–Beacon Bridge ($1.50 toll eastbound), with a scenic view of Storm King and the Hudson Highlands to the south. After Beacon and Fishkill on the east side, it continues east to the Taconic Parkway interchange in East Fishkill, then climbs through the Taconics to I-684 at Brewster just before crossing into Danbury, Connecticut.

On the north end of the valley, the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate 90) becomes the Thruway's Berkshire Section when it crosses the state line. At Schodack I-90 splits to the northwest for Albany-bound traffic; the Berkshire Section continues to the Thruway's Main Line at Exit 21B and is probably the better route into the Hudson Valley for traffic from central New England despite the 85-cent toll.

Travelers coming from New York's Southern Tier will likely be using the New York State Route 17 expressway. Known formerly as the Quickway, it is slowly being upgraded into Interstate 86. At Middletown there is a full interchange with I-84; Route 17 continues from there to the Thruway at Harriman.

US 9 in northern Dutchess County

There are several north-south surface roads for those wishing to take their time. U.S. Route 9 follows the east side of the river closely; it becomes an expressway in northern Westchester County and a divided commercial strip between Fishkill and Poughkeepsie. Otherwise it's a leisurely two-lane drive, offering beautiful scenery in many sections. U.S. Route 9W parallels it on the other side of the river, with its scenic highlight coming along the divided section in the Hudson Highlands around West Point.

Catskills from Route 32

Further away from the river, New York State Route 32 begins at the Woodbury Commons outlet mall and connects many of the major communities on the west side of the valley—Newburgh, New Paltz, Kingston, Saugerties and Catskill. The most scenic portion is between the latter two, affording an excellent view of the Catskill Escarpment. On the eastern edge of the region, New York State Route 22 closely parallels the state line as it lniks the small towns amid the beautiful scenery of Dutchess and Columbia counties.

There aren't many surface through roads that run east-west across the entire valley. In the south, U.S. Route 6 closely parallels I-84 at first when the two cross the Delaware at Port Jervis, then bends bends south to Middletown, where it joins NY 17, then makes a scenic crossing of Harriman State Park on its way to the Bear Mountain Bridge and the road around the mountain to Peekskill. From there it goes through several smaller communities in Westchester County, then to Mahopac, Carmel and Brewster in Putnam County before returning to the side of I-84 as it enters Connecticut.

U.S. Route 44 and New York State Route 55 combine from the Shawangunk Ridge and its stunning views to Poughkeepsie, then split, with 44 going northeast toward Millbrook and Millerton and 55 more due east to Pawling and Connecticut. Further north, New York State Route 23 crosses the Greene County Catskills, dropping scenically through the north end of the Escarpment, then crosses the river at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge on its way across bucolic Columbia County to Hillsdale and Massachusetts.

Get around

Bridges

The Hudson River itself can be both means of and impediment to travel. Historically it was wide enough that only ferries crossed it, but then a few rail bridges successfully crossed the river in the late 19th century, followed by vehicle bridges in the 20th. Tolls are charged for all south of Albany. E-Z Pass electronic payment, common in the northeast United States, is accepted at all of the following Hudson River crossings, usually with a discount:

Kingston–Rhinecliff Bridge

The New York State Bridge Authority operates:

All NYSBA bridges charge a toll of $1.50 ($1.25 with EZPass) eastbound

The New York State Thruway Authority operates:

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates:

Ferries

The Newburgh–Beacon Ferry

In more recent years, traffic jams and parking shortages have led New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority to revive two old ferry routes across the river in its service area, primarily for the benefit of commuters using Metro-North's Hudson Line; both operate only during rush hour. Service may be suspended in wintertime if the river has too much ice for crossings to be safe, particularly on the Newburgh–Beacon route.

Public Transportation

The counties in the valley run bus networks of varying extents.

A Dutchess County LOOP bus

Roads

US 209 entering Ellenville
NY 199 in northern Dutchess County

In addition to the regional through routes mentioned above, there are some roads which connect wide areas within the region:

See

Many sights are listed under their individual counties. If you have a limited amount of time in the region, here are the most popular and/or most important to understanding the Hudson Valley:

U.S Military Academy at West Point
The Vanderbilt Mansion overlooks the Hudson River.

Do

Anthony's Nose and the Bear Mountain Bridge
Climbing in the "Gunks"

Buy

Woodbury Commons

Eat

CIA campus in Hyde Park

As home to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, the area is blessed with the services of many of its graduate chefs. See local pages for specific restaurants.

Many of the local farmstands mentioned above sell delicious homemade or locally made ice cream, and other products from local dairy farms that are worth buying and eating.

Brownies, cookies, muffins and other baked goods from Poughkeepsie-based Nilda's Desserts are sold at many convenience stores throughout the region. They're a couple of steps above their mass-market national-brand competitors.

Drink

Chardonnay harvest at a valley winery

Stay safe

Go next

A natural extension to your trip in the Hudson Valley is to head south to Westchester County, whose Hudson River coast is part of the Hudson Valley but also part of the New York Metropolitan Area and listed on Wikivoyage as such, and then to New York City (presuming you didn't start there), which is easily accessible by public transportation and by private automobile. But also consider heading north into the Adirondacks, a mountain range in northeastern New York and the location of the Adirondack State Park, the largest state park in the continental United States. Amtrak's Adirondack route cuts through these mountains en route to Montreal. New England is also easily accessible from the Hudson Valley, particularly the Berkshire Hills in western Massachusetts and the Litchfield Hills in northwestern Connecticut.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 15, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.