Back in 1888 a railroad bridge was built across the Hudson River — the longest bridge in the world, at that time. Referred to as the Poughkeepsie- Highland Bridge, it provided access to New England for trainloads of commodities. According to the not-for-profit organization, Walkway over the Hudson, during World War II trains (sometimes up to 3,500 train cars per day!) filled with soldiers and supplies bound for the coast would roll over the tracks high above the Hudson.
In 1974, the Poughkeepsie-Highland bridge was destroyed by fire, but the cost of demolishing it was so high that the skeletal remains settled in as an eyesore for more than 30 years. In October 2009, thanks to 17 years of hard work and dedication on the part of many individuals and charitable and corporate sponsors, the bridge reopened as a State Historic Park pedestrian bridge. It has been renamed the Walkway Over the Hudson.
On a glorious fall Sunday, we drove to the eastern entrance in Poughkeepsie. The Walkway Over the Hudson is approximately 1.25 miles long, and the deck is 212 feet above the surface of the water. The renovation (which cost $38 million dollars) is truly a beautiful sight. With the cloudless blue sky, the foliage in full color, and the shiny new railings gleaming in the sunlight, we had a trifecta of eye candy to enjoy.
On the eastern side of this pedestrian bridge, there is a welcome area with port-a-potties and information kiosks. A path led us for quite a ways over part of the City of Poughkeepsie. From this vantage point, we could look out over the urban area targeted for redevelopment. The counties on both sides of the river are looking forward to a big increase in tourism, so the areas around the entrances to the Walkway Over the Hudson are being perked up to be tourist-friendly.
During our visit, the pedestrian bridge was teeming with enthusiastic visitors — people on foot, on bikes, on skateboards, pushing strollers, walking dogs, and even strolling and singing patriot songs. No joke! As we were approaching the western shore, a banjo player and his guitar playing buddy strolled by singing This Land is Your Land in harmony. We just had to smile!
It seemed that everyone was making the full roundtrip. While bicyclists should be allowed to share the walkway, in a large crowd, wobbly bicycles on your tail are a little nerve-racking. I saw many thirsty, panting dogs, since it was a sunny day, and remember, round trip is 2.5 miles! So, if you’re bringing Fido, bring some water for him, and maybe some for yourself, too.
We did not get off on the Highland side, but from what I read on the kiosks on the Eastern side, there is a park entrance on Haviland Avenue in Highland (a hamlet of the town of Lloyd, Ulster County) that will soon connect to miles and miles of recreational rail trails. Upon our return to the eastern side, we found a short cut (on the north side of the path) with ramshackle stone steps that allowed us and dozens of others to avoid walking all the way back down to the official entrance that was 5 blocks from where our car was parked.
The official eastern entrance to the Walkway Over the Hudson is on Parker Avenue, a residential street. The parking lot was full. Neighbors and small business owners were charging $5 per car to park in their lots and driveways. We found a free spot on the street about five blocks from the New York State Park entrance. If you take a few minutes to drive around the neighborhood, you will find plenty of free spots on the streets.
If you’d like to visit the Walkway Over the Hudson and don’t have a car, but you have access to Amtrak or Metro North trains, take one to Poughkeepsie. On weekends there are shuttle buses every half hour from the station to the Walkway Over the Hudson entrance. Eventually, an elevator will be installed to deliver tourists straight from the train station to the pedestrian bridge.
The Walkway Over the Hudson is open from 7 a.m. until sunset, year round. It will be closed for inclement weather.