I’ve seen many incredible waterfalls in New York, but few have been as impressive as the waterfall on the Croton Gorge Dam. And, when you combine the beauty here with the fact that this dam is an engineering marvel in its own right, it makes Croton Gorge Park in Westchester County a must-visit spot in the Hudson Valley.
Croton Gorge Park is located in Croton-on-Hudson on the eastern side of the Hudson River. The park is located on the western end of the New Croton Reservoir surrounding the lake’s impressive dam. This reservoir is used for drinking water in New York City.
Interestingly, official sources of information about this dam differ on a large number of facts. Some say it was completed in 1905 while others say 1906. Some say it can hold 34 billion gallons of water while others say it’s 19 billion gallons.
Most interestingly some say that this is the third-largest hand-hewn stone structure in the world after the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza. However, given most sources omit this fact (which would be the most impressive of all), I’m thinking this is either untrue or unprovable.
Ultimately, no matter how many gallons of water it holds or when it was built, this is a seriously impressive dam and waterfall. In fact, the New Croton Dam is 297 feet tall and 2,188 feet long. At the time of its completion, it was the tallest dam in the world.
Having seen photos of this dam before I visited, it was high on my list of places to check out during an October visit to the Hudson Valley.
The park’s entrance is along Grand Street (Route 129) about two miles northeast of Croton-on-Hudson (Coordinates: 41.224731, -73.860507). During the summer months, there is a $10 parking charge ($5 with a county park pass), but if you visit during the off-season, there is no charge. It also tends to be less crowded this time of year, which makes it even better.
The dam and its waterfall are the highlights of the 97-acre park, and you can actually see both without even leaving your car as the road into the park crosses a bridge over the Croton River just below the waterfall. However, I highly recommend parking and walking the short distance to get a closer look.
The area between the road and the base of the dam and waterfall is a grassy lawn that has a few scattered picnic tables. There is also a fountain here that does run at times but wasn’t on the October day that I visited.
A fence keeps you from getting too close to the waterfall, though the views from behind it are quite good and you can walk pretty close to the edge of the falls.
The waterfall here is well over 100 feet tall and is incredibly impressive, even if it’s not flowing super well like it was on the day of my visit.
The left side of the waterfall, which is on the far side of the viewing area, appears to be a natural drop, though I don’t know if the river used to run over this portion before the first dam was created or if they just took advantage of a natural rock ledge.
Meanwhile, the right side of the waterfall is a stairstep of carved stones that looks quite beautiful as well, even though it is man-made. While I’ve seen plenty of natural rocks topped with a man-made waterfall, it’s not very common to see one that’s side-by-side like this one is.
Above the waterfall, there is a tall bridge that spans the top of the waterfall and continues across the dam. This used to be a publicly-accessible road but is now only open to pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
The walking path extends the entire length of the dam, and after checking out the base of the waterfall, many like to walk to the top of the dam to see more of this impressive area and the reservoir that sits above the dam.
The trail to the top of the dam starts from the park’s second parking lot, which is a bit further down the road from the lot near the dam.
From this other parking area, the path up to the top winds its way through the forest up to the top of the dam over the course of about six-tenths of a mile. This path is wide and easy to follow.
Once at the top, you can walk the entire 2,000-foot length of the dam for impressive views of the lake and this corner of the Hudson Valley. You can even cross over the waterfall and peer down over it.
Once you’ve finished enjoying the top of the dam, simply retrace your steps back to the parking area.
Overall, the waterfall and dam in Croton Gorge Park is a must-visit spot in Westchester County thanks to its beauty, history, and incredible engineering. So, the next time you find yourself exploring this part of New York, make sure to take a few minutes to visit this amazing park.