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Hudson River Boating

The mighty Hudson River has long beckoned boaters to traverse its waters and explore its shores – and it still does today. Surrounded by the Catskill Mountains on the western shore and the Taconic and Berkshire Hills to the east, the Hudson is rich in both history and beauty. And the cities and towns along the river feature some of the most magnificent architecture in America.

A journey along the Hudson begins upstream in the glorious Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York, moves south through the Hudson Valley and ends at the Lower New York Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. If you cruise the entire length, you’ll have logged 315-miles and passed under the George Washington Bridge and the Tappan Zee Bridge and passed over the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and the PATH and Pennsylvania Railroad tubes.

If you plan to cruise this wonderous and beautiful mammoth of a river, knowing what to expect will assure your adventure is a glorious one.

Navigating the Hudson

The Hudson is what is known as a tidal river. Its water depths change significantly from high or flood, to low or ebb tide. There are approximately two high tides and two low tides per day. As the tide rises, the tidal current moves northward. The current takes so much time that part of the river can be at high tide while another part can be at low tide. These tides can drastically impact where you can navigate along the river. That’s why even seasoned boaters need to familiarize themselves and their crew with the rules and regulations associated with boating on a large navigable waterway like the Hudson.

In addition to the tides, the Hudson is known for rough weather conditions, strong currents, and heavy commercial and recreational boat use. It’s common to see barges and other large commercial vessels cruising along. And their wakes, including secondary wakes caused by the initial wake bouncing off the shoreline, can actually be dangerous to smaller boats.

The width of the Hudson also varies considerably as you travel its waters. The river reaches its widest point, 3.4 miles, at Haverstraw Bay, between Westchester and Rockland counties, before narrowing again to 0.75 miles at its mouth. The narrowest point is in Rockwell Falls, between Lake Luzerne and Hadley.

The Hudson River’s Troy Lock and Dam

As you cruise downstream on the Hudson, you’ll pass through one of the oldest locks in the country, the Troy Lock and Dam in Troy, New York. Over 100 years old, this time-tested workhorse continues to provide significant economic and recreational support to the area and is the gateway to the New York State Canal System. You might find it interesting that following the construction, a hydropower facility built by Henry Ford was mandated to provide free power to operate the lock, which is in operation from May 1 to November 30 every year.

Many boaters mistakenly believe that the lock is part of the New York State Canal System (Erie Canal). The fact is, it belongs to, and falls under the auspices of, the U.S. Government and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Do you find locks as fascinating as we do? Check out the Troy Lock & Dam 100th year Anniversary Documentary.

How the Dam Works and What to Expect

If you’ve never had the thrill of navigating your boat through a lock, you’re in for an exhilarating experience. As your boat approaches the lock and dam, you’ll be greeted by a massive structure more than one and a half football fields in size. It includes a lock chamber, a long main spillway, auxiliary spillway, a support pier, ice pass spillway and a headgate bulkhead.

The magic happens when the lock is filled or emptied by gravity. The water level rises to the elevation of the upstream pool when filling the lock. Likewise, the water level will drain to the elevation of the downstream river’s tide at the time, when emptying. For the Hudson, the average difference between the upstream and downstream water levels is around 17 feet. Each lockage will pass between 2.5- to 3.0- million gallons of water. And it takes just under 10 minutes to raise or lower the lock. However, a typical lockage takes around 20 to 30 minutes, including boat entry, securing and exit.

The Federal Lock and Dam at Troy, NY, 134 NM rests above the Battery in New York City, marking the head of tidal waters of the Hudson. If you are heading north on the Hudson out of New York City it will be the first lock you encounter on your way to the New York State Canal System.

The lock chamber is a precise 520 feet long and 45 feet wide, with a 14-foot lift and 17 feet over the lock sills.

As for navigation, NOAA Chart’s #12348 and #14786 provide coverage of the Troy Lock and Dam and its approaches.

The lockmaster maintains a watch on VHF channel 13.

The Great Loop

For most boaters, the Great Loop is either a trip they have taken or yearn to take. The course circumnavigates eastern North America, the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Hudson River, the Great Lakes, the Canadian Heritage Canals and the inland rivers of America’s heartland. The trip of a minimum of 5,250 miles can take as few as six weeks depending on your route of choice and miles. However, some have taken as much as 12 years to complete it. Many do it in segments, cruising for a while then flying home, and returning again. Oh, and those boaters lucky enough to take on this adventure of a lifetime aboard their own boat are called “”Loopers””.

Best stops along the Loop

The best part of experiencing the Loop are the stops along the way. Here are just a few of the most popular marinas on the Loop.
Troy Downtown Marina located on the Upper Hudson River just south of the Troy Lock and Dam in Troy, New York
Cambridge Yacht Basin in Cambridge, Maryland
Grande Dunes Marina in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Marriott Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Florida
Fernandina Harbor Marina in Fernandina Beach, Florida
North Coast Harbor Marina in Cleveland, Ohio, on Lake Erie

Fun things to do on the Hudson
In addition to the beautiful scenery, the Hudson offers ample opportunities for fun and recreation on and around the water. Here are some all-time favorites.

Walk over the Hudson

When you’re in the mid-Hudson Valley region, don’t miss the heady experience of walking over the Hudson. It’s the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world and offers a one-of-a-kind way to view the Hudson and the surrounding area. The 1.28-mile, 212-foot-tall walkway was built on an old railroad bridge that crosses from Highland in Ulster County to Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County.

Kayaking or canoeing

On any given day on the Hudson, you’ll see kayakers and canoers propelling themselves along the coastline exploring the river. Paddling on the Hudson is great exercise and an adventure. You can find rentals and launches all up and down the river. You can join a group tour or set out on your own.


The Hudson is a fisherman’s dream, with more than 200 varieties of fish. But before you bait up and cast out, learn the state regulations. You’ll need to know the seasons for different fish, licensing requirements and daily catch limits. Additionally, the majority of river fishing, and all fishing north of Troy, is catch and release.


From New York City up to Athens, picturesque lighthouses dot the run. None of these historic landmarks are functioning, but they are regal reminders of the history of the Hudson as a major artery of commerce in the U.S. Today, unfortunately, only 7 of these beacons remain on the river.

Riverside dining

There’s no better way to end a day on the river than with an evening of scenic riverside dining. Every town along the Hudson takes advantage of the river’s draw, and boast a host of riverside restaurants. From fine dining to dive bars, there’s a place for everyone to get a good meal while enjoy the river breeze and scenery. The Hudson is calling! If you have the time and a touch of wanderlust, don’t wait another minute to chart a course down the river where tall tales and memories are made.

Written by: Jo Montgomery