SYNOPSIS: A network of boardwalks takes you through a large marsh on the Hudson River, and there is a nature center for the kids.
APPROXIMATE TIME: Two hours.
DIRECTIONS: From the intersection of Routes 301 and 9D in Cold Spring, head south on 9D for 1.3 miles. Make a slight right onto Indian Brook Road, which is a dirt road, and go .4 miles. The preserve sign and parking area will be where the road curves left. There is enough parking for 5 to 10 cars.
THE HIKE: We took the Blue Diamond Trail to the Marsh. From the parking area along Indian Brook Road, take the gravel drive that heads downhill. It will feel a little like you are walking into someone’s driveway. On the left is a fairly steep drop-off to a ravine with a stream, so hold on to the kids.
At the bottom of the hill, there are two buildings. One of the buildings is the James P. Rod Audubon Center, with a 500-gallon aquarium and educational information. To stay on the trail to the marsh, go between the two buildings to the outdoor kiosk that will give you some information on the marsh’s history and bird population. The trail will head into the woods and cross a small six-foot bridge made from two split logs, with a guardrail on one side. The trail will turn to the left and be relatively flat for a few hundred feet. Take a look at the tree on the right side of the path that has grown over and around a boulder.
As you get close to the water, the trail will make a right turn and start to climb a steep rocky area. The climb is not too long, but is also not that easy. Rough stone steps will help you up some steep areas. There are a few vantage points as you reach the top, and there is a bench where you can stop to catch your breath and take in the view.
Continuing on, the trail descends the other side of the hill. Notice the bright green moss that is abundant at the bottom of the hill (you are on the north side). Then, the boardwalk! Named “Jim’s Walk” also after James P. Rod, the warden of the sanctuary from 1982 to 1998, the walkway lets you explore an area normally only accessible by boat or with waders. There are a number of benches if you want to relax, bird-watch, or have lunch.
We went in early November and it was beautiful. As with any preserve, I think each season can offer something special, but I would also think the marsh could get extremely buggy the right (or wrong) time of year.
HISTORY: A series of channels and dykes were constructed through the marsh in the 1830s during an attempt to grow wild rice. According to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Constitution Marsh is one of only five large, tidal marshes on the Hudson River.
At 270 acres, it has been a sanctuary since 1970. In 1998, the Open Space Institute provided a critical four acre lot that provided a public access point to the marsh, and is the site for the sanctuary interpretive center. The property is owned by the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and managed by the New York Audubon Society. The property is in the hamlet of Garrison, within the town of Philipstown.
ADDITIONAL INFO: Our last visit to Constitution Marsh was in November 2009. You can get info on the visitor center, scheduled events and more at www.constitutionmarsh.org or by calling 845/265-2601.
Note that no pets are allowed. Many people like to bird-watch from the marsh, so dogs, especially the sporting breeds, would feel very unwelcome.