SYNOPSIS: An old train bridge converted to a pedestrian park sits 212 feet directly above the waters of the Hudson River. While it is a short drive outside Putnam County, it is the type of unique attraction that you want to take out-of-town visitors to so they can get a taste of what makes the Hudson River Valley so grand.
APPROXIMATE TIME: 40 minutes.
DIRECTIONS: From eastern Putnam County, take Route 84 to the Taconic State Parkway heading north. After 9.9 miles, take the exit for Route 55 west toward Poughkeepsie and follow Route 55 for 8.1 miles. Turn right onto Garden Street and go about a half-mile to the end. Make a left onto Parker Avenue and then a quick right into the entrance to the parking area for Walkway Over the Hudson. There is a good amount of parking – 80 spaces – and even on a cold February weekend the lot was more than half full. There is a $5 fee to park for four hours.
THE VISIT: This is a nice walk for people of all ages and skill levels. A paved and concrete walkway makes for easy walking or pushing a stroller. There are only slight variations in grade, and the bridge is about 1.25 miles each way. Bikes, scooters, skateboards, rollerblades – even unicycles are welcome. And if you are a runner, this is an inspiring place to be.
The walk begins on an old tree-lined railroad bed. A few remnants from the old rail days line the path. As the bridge approaches the water, the Victor C. Waryas waterfront park sits far below and just south of the span.
The section over the water is a straight run across the Hudson. Along the way, there are storyboards that explain the history of the bridge and surrounding area. Complementing the illustrations is a creative feature called the Talkway Over the Walkway. Many of the storyboards have a phone or text number you can call that expands upon the information on the storyboard.
The views from the center of the bridge are absolutely spectacular. The expanse of the river glistening below, the Mid-Hudson Bridge about a half-mile to the south, and the backdrop of the mountains on a sunny day are a sight to behold.
HISTORY: According to www.walkway.org, the railroad bridge was built between 1873 and 1888. At the time of its completion, it was the longest bridge in the world. A fire in 1974 marked the end of its use and it sat idle for many years. In 1992, a movement started to provide public access to the bridge and nearby trails. In 2007 fundraising to build the park began in earnest, and the groundbreaking for repairs and conversion to a pedestrian bridge was in May 2008. It opened as a public park in October 2009. There are a number of connecting parks and trails, including a 3.6-mile loop that takes the Mid-Hudson Bridge back across the river.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Our last visit was in February 2010. There are two primary websites for info on the walkway: www.walkway.org and www.nysparks.com. The park office number is 845/834-2867. Pets are allowed if on a leash no longer than 6 feet long.