Field Trip: Paddle the Bronx River

On occasion, I’ll publish a day trip idea, and I am counting on readers to send suggestions. 

A canoe trip down the Bronx River from Shoelace Park to the Bronx Zoo hosted by the Bronx River Alliance.

By car: 35 minutes to the put-in at Shoelace Park Kayak Launch
By train: 1:10 on the 2 train

This is just about my #1 favorite thing to do in the city (outside of Tribeca, of course). The Bronx River Alliance, which is a grass roots non-profit founded to clean up the only fresh water river in NYC, has spent the past two decades educating people about the river, and advocating for it. I first met those excellent folks years ago, when I was in journalism school and covering the South Bronx. Fast forward to about 10 years ago, when I was running a newspaper in Hunts Point out of Hunter College, their programs were sources of news for me. And as a bit of a boondoggle, at the end of every semester I would take my students for the Lower River Paddle to see the neighborhood from the water.

Twice I have volunteered for their annual fundraiser, The Amazing Bronx River Flotilla, which gave me a chance to kayak the length of the Bronx section of the river.

As a family we have now done the Upper River Paddle five times and it never disappoints. The staff is amazing, the views are really special and the route, which goes through the New York Botanical Garden — including a portage there — and ends at the Bronx Zoo — makes you feel like you have a backstage pass to the city.

The Alliance website explains it all, but I would really recommend the Upper River Paddle as your first outing — the next one is Sept. 12. It takes about 3 hours total, but it goes quickly. They also have a Lake Paddle, where you explore the waters around the Mitsubishi River Walk in the zoo, and an estuary paddle, which is at the mouth of the river in Hunts Point. The cost is $30.

The final destination is the Jungle World parking lot on the east side of the park. The put-in is a couple miles north in Wakefield, at about East 219th Street, and it is not hard to find a parking spot nearby. We have gone in two cars with friends and dropped a car at the zoo, then shuttled back up; we have locked a bike to the fence at the zoo so one person can ride up and grab the car; and we have taken the train back up to the car. All are fine options and take about 20 minutes.

Wear water shoes if you have them so you can step in the water at the portage. As I recall they require close-toed shoes.

There are bathrooms at the put-in at Shoelace Park, but nowhere else along the route.

If you’ve got more juice in the tank, take a car to Arthur Avenue — or better yet, pay to walk through the zoo to the other side. Then follow best eats from Eater or the Infatuation.

Previous Field Trip posts:
Oyster Bay
Fresh Kills Park
Pier 76
Rockaway Hotel
• Domino Park
• The Five Bridges
• Lower Manhattan as Black History
• The Empire State Trail
• Anthony’s Nose in Cortlandt, NY
• Croton Gorge Park
• Rollerskating in Brooklyn Bridge Park
• New Paltz, NY
• The Seaport
• Rockaway Beach
• Astoria Park Pool
• Bike into Fire Island
• Beacon, NY
• Riverside Park South
• Long Island City
• Two Bridges
• Governors Island (Reprise)
• Storm King Art Center
• Red Hook
• Sunset Park
• Bay Ridge
• ICP Museum
• Noguchi Museum & Socrates Sculpture Park
• The Fisher Landau Center for Art
• The High Bridge
• The Broad
• Crown Heights
• Spuyten Duyvil
• New York Botanical Garden
• Bed-Stuy
• The New Whitney Museum
• Bushwick-ish
• The Rockaways
• Greenpoint
• Wave Hill
• Governors Island
• F.D.R. Four Freedoms Park
• Litchfield County, Conn.
• One Wall Street
• Behind the Scenes at Grand Central Terminal
• The Howard/Crosby Microneighborhood
• Federal Reserve Bank of New York
• East River Ferry
• Museum of American Finance



  1. These field trips are a really great idea and can encourage the ‘faint-hearted’ to venture out to parts of the city they may not otherwise have explored. This is such a great city to explore and there are so many great ‘hidden’ places which are wonderful and not adjacent to Times Square. As a Big Apple Greeter I always encourage tourists to go to places which they don’t find in the main-stream guidebooks and these field trips form a great inventory of things to do for those who have longer stays in NYC.

  2. One more thing, could you put a link to the list of field trips on the menu on the left hands side of the site under ‘Arts & Culture…etc.?