In New York City, you get to see at least one body of water every day. Even if you don't notice it, the truth is, you live, work, or play on an island!
Undoubtedly you've been underground and over bridges, and stomped lots of pavement and park land—but you haven't seen the whole city until you've explored its waterways. Thanks to these public programs, you can begin your adventures (and tone your arms!) by paddling a canoe in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or the Bronx.
Formerly polluted by industry, the Bronx River is making a serious comeback. With its environmental renewal comes a newfound interest in exploring it by boat. The Bronx River Alliance is a nonprofit organization that helps protect, maintain, and educate the public about the river. They offer adventure canoe trips, starting every May, that take you through the Bronx by water. You can paddle right through the famous Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden, float past old factories, and even find your way around a few waterfalls. The trips cost $20 to $30, depending on the length.
New York Outrigger Outrigger canoes are sleek and narrow, with a float attached to one side for stability. They are primarily used in Hawaii and the Polynesian Islands, but the sport has, of course, made it to the island of Manhattan. Many of the New York Outrigger club members are so skilled that they compete in races throughout the East Coast. But beginners can try the sport for free from a Chelsea boathouse on the Hudson River. The club offers three free novice lessons, so you can get the hang of paddling this unique watercraft before deciding whether to become an official member.
Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal may not look or smell too great, but there is a group that loves it enough to take their boats out on it regularly. Canoeing the polluted post-industrial canal with the Gowanus Dredgers is a gritty urban adventure, as well as a lesson in environmental stewardship. Some of the free paddling trips are just for recreation, while other outings involve removing trash from the neglected waterway.