A communiqué from Scott Craven on behalf of the Brackish Water Boys . . . the first in an occasional series.
Like a lot of folks, I tend towards the familiar. Despite the fact at I actually own a truck with a roof rack, I usually always paddle somewhere here in the Lower Hudson River Valley between Piermont and Bannerman’s Island. In my opinion, the finest stretch of the river, and the iconic example of the aesthetic beauty and historical significance that makes this valley so special.
But wait, there might be more. There is a persistent rumor that there actually is more of the river north of here and that it too is beautiful, historic and worth seeing. So, when my older son Connor and I found ourselves with a couple of days off, we decided it check it out. We would travel up the river, do some day paddling, sample the local hamburgers as well as adult beverages, look at some bookstores and maybe even a record shop, and work on expanding our “The Brackish Water Boys” song catalog to include “Man of Constant Sorrow (Hudson River Edition) and “Pay me my Money Down” (apologies to Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger).
With these goals in mind, the second week in August found us heading up the NYS Thruway with the “mothership” – a Current Designs Libra XT triple kayak – on the top of my truck.
Our first destination was the City of Hudson, New York.
First of all, city? Really? A quick Wikipedia check reveals that there about 6,000 folks living here – more like a hamlet or village to my mind. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in history.
One of the Hudson River’s original 19th century whaling ports, the city had been founded by whaling Quakers from Massachusetts. Today the only obvious sign of that history is the Carvel “Fudgie the Whale”- looking icon on all the street signs.
[To learn more, check out Margaret B. Schram’s Hudson’s Merchants and Whalers: The Rise and Fall of a River Port 1783-1850.]
The city then devolved into the most notorious “red light” district in the Valley with Diamond Street seemingly wall to wall with brothels and saloons, eventually being broken up in the 1950s by Governor Dewey and the Troopers (historic party-poopers).
[Check this history out in Bruce Edward Hall’s Diamond Street: The Story of the Little Town with the Big Red-Light District.]
Today the City of Hudson has become the most visible example of the “friction” between those residents that purport to have greeted Henry Hudson when he came up the river and “those people” from “Brooklyn” whose money everybody wants but whose advice they could live without. A timeless trope, this type of clash is being played out all over the Valley and will continue to until people from someplace else (Gasp! – “Jersey”) come up with their money and advice and “they” become “them.”
Despite all this, my son and I found this River town to be a great place to walk around and the folks super nice. We even managed to find a bookstore that sold beer on tap (Spotty Dog Books & Ale, 440 Warren Street) with a record store across the street! Unfortunately, in a moment of tactical indecision, we passed on the Narvel Felts album in the free bin out front because we weren’t familiar (Thanks to Wikipedia, we later learned that “Narvel the Marvel” is in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.)
Oh well, on to the River!
Unlike most east bank River towns on the Hudson, the river access isn’t intuitive and it took several U-turns and map consultations to find it. Ever since seeing the opening scene of Deliverance, not being able to find the put-in has become an evil portent for any river trip. However, we forged on anyway, eventually finding and setting out on the River.
Check back soon for the next installment . . . The Esopus Lighthouse and Seal!
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