200 Kayakers and Canoers Ready to Paddle in 'Amazing Bronx River Flotilla'

By Patrick Wall on May 4, 2012 8:00am 

Participants in one of the annual Amazing Bronx River Flotilla events.
Participants in one of the annual Amazing Bronx River Flotilla events.
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Bronx River Alliance

BRONX RIVER — For those planning to float southbound on the Bronx River this Saturday, expect delays.

More than 200 people paddling 70 canoes and kayaks are expected to go downstream during the 13th annual Amazing Bronx River Flotilla, organized by the Bronx River Alliance.

The vessels will launch at 10 a.m. from Shoelace Park at 219th Street, float south through parts of the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo, and end nearly six miles downstream at Concrete Plant Park near Westchester Avenue.

“It’s really a big party on the water to celebrate the resurgence of the river,” said Bronx River Alliance deputy director, Maggie Greenfield.

Beginning at 12:30 p.m., Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice will welcome the finishing flotilla paddlers with a picnic at Concrete Plant Park, complete with music and free boats and bikes to borrow.

Registration for the Alliance’s boats has filled, but people with their own canoes or kayaks are free to join in. Landlubbers can cheer on the boaters from various viewing points along the river, including Burke Bridge in the Bronx River Forest and the Bronx Zoo river walk.

The annual flotilla marks the Alliance’s May to October paddling season, when they lead excursions up and down parts of the eight-mile Bronx River — the city’s only freshwater river.

Tours cost $20 and include upper- and lower-river canoe runs, as well as “tidal trips” along the river’s southern estuary, an industrial area where boaters are as likely to pass a recycling barge as a horseshoe crab.

The Bronx River Alliance, which formed in 2001, works with Parks Department and local grassroots groups to restore the river and the parks and trails surrounding it, in an effort to open up The Bronx’s natural environment to its human inhabitants.

Last year, the Harlem and Bronx River watersheds were selected as one out of seven sites around the country to receive special support from 11 government agencies through the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.

“It really contrasts with 20 years ago,” said Greenfield, “when people really turned their backs on the river, and it was the last place you’d want to go with your family on a Saturday.”

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