The Hudson River is a 115-mile long body of water that flows through New York. Once thought to be the route to the fabled Northwest Passage, the river
provided colonial explorers and settlers with the only navigable waterway from the Atlantic seaboard through the Appalachian mountain barrier. As various
powers sought control of North America, the river became one of the most hotly contested waterways on the continent.
The Hudson River, estimated to be about 75 million years old, begins at Lake Tear of the Clouds at an elevation of 4,322 feet on the southwestern slopes
of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack mountain range, and it ends at New York City. Befitting one of the great North American rivers, it has been known by
many names. To the Iroquois, it was the Cohohatatia or place to catch shad. To the Lenni Lenape and the Mohican, the river bore the names of
Muhheckunnuk, meaning great waters constantly in motion and Mahicannittuck, or place where the Mohican dwell.
The exact date of European discovery of the river is open to debate. Many Europeans probably saw the waterway without leaving any documentation of
their discovery of it. Norse, Portuguese, English, and Dutch ships searching for fish are known to have traveled widely in North America, but the
fishermen aboard these vessels did not leave traces of their presence.
The English navigator Henry Hudson and his crew sailed aboard the Half Moon, a small vessel with a shallow draft, on his third and most fruitful voyage
in 1609. It was during this voyage that Hudson explored the river that would take his name. (Brown Brothers, Sterling, Pennsylvania)
In 1524, the Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazano became the first documented European to explore the river in his search for the Northwest
Passage. The Florentine sailed past the mouth of the river, poked into several inlets in the lower New York bay, and then stopped navigating the
waterway when unfavorable winds began to blow. He named it Grande Rivi¨re and also referred to it as the River of Steep Hills when describing the
waterway to the King of France.
English-born Hudson proved more persistent than Verrazano. Hudson earned credit for the discovery of the body of water on September 4, 1609 while
captaining the Dutch ship Half Moon. Hudson, working for the Dutch West India Company, hoped to find the Northwest Passage to China. He abandoned
this hope upon discovering the shallowness of the waters of the river above present-day Castleton. Hudson continued to explore, in the hope that the river
might offer a lead to the Western Sea or Pacific Ocean, believed to be somewhere in that vicinity. He dropped anchor at Albany and sent the ship’s long
boat upriver. In this manner, Hudson and his crew discovered the full expanse of the river.
Hudson called the river the Manhattes, from the tribe at its mouth; however, to add to the confusion, the Dutch also used several other names for the
waterway. In 1611, they named it the Mauritius River after Prince Maurice of Nassau, but occasionally they used the name Nassau River, also in honor of
the prince. Generally, the Dutch referred to river as the Groote or Great River, in testament to its importance in their lives. About 1659, the river also
appears on several maps as the Norumbee.
The Hudson River Valley offered an incredible amount of natural wealth. Oak, chestnut, and hickory trees filled the shores along the river, while low-lying
land held vast green meadows with rich soil. Explorers reported seals splashing on the rocks of the river, as well as salmon, sturgeon, and cod so plentiful
that they could be caught without a net. Fur-bearing animals, such as beaver, were also in great supply. Settlers flocked to the valley to take advantage
of this bounty, and the Hudson River Valley became one of the most attractive areas for settlement in North America.
Riverways were the roads of choice in colonial America and the Hudson served as a vital highway for both civilians and the military. The Dutch peppered
the coasts, inlets, and estuaries of the Hudson with forts to guard against other land-hungry Europeans and the Native Americans. In 1674, the Treaty of
Westminster gave the Hudson to the British, who then erected their own fortifications.
When the Americans took control of the river during the Revolution, their presence at the fort at West Point would deny the narrows of the Hudson to the
British. As the key to New York City, Fort Albany, and the Atlantic seaboard, the Hudson River became the most heavily fortified and contested strategic
route in American military history.
Caryn E. Neumann
See also: Dutch; Fort Orange; Hudson, Henry; New Amsterdam; New Netherland; New York; New York and New Netherland
(Chronology); New York City; Patroons; Transportation, Water.
Keegan, John. Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.
Keller, Allan. Life Along the Hudson. New York: Fordham University Press, 1997.Chain Lakes and Hudson River Tract Slideshow | The Nature Conservancy Ltf
Hudson River – Discount Cruises, Last-Minute Cruises, Short Notice … Ltf
Chain Lakes and Hudson River Tract Slideshow | The Nature Conservancy Ltf
Hudson River Cruises – Explore the Historic Hudson River! Ltf
Leaf Pack Network: Map of Hudson River Watershed Ltf
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