There is something peaceful about a river. I got to experience that first-hand this weekend at Hunts Point Riverside Park. On Saturdays this summer, free community rowing has been available thanks to a fantastic organization called Rocking the Boat. Since incorporating in 2001, Rocking the Boat has been training, guiding and mentoring youth in Hunts Point through wooden boat-building, rowing, sailing and Bronx River restoration projects. If you pay them a visit and decide to take a ride, yes, the young people you are interacting with literally built the boat you are in from scratch. Pretty awesome.
There were several parties going full throttle in the park when we arrived. Speakers were blasting classic hip hop and the bouncy house was bumpin’ (literally and figuratively…yuk yuk). On a side note–this park is a beautiful spot for parties and barbecues!
Anyway, there were a few young people manning a booth by the water, so we signed up, got fitted for life jackets and within minutes were boarding our trusty vessel. Our guide began to row us down the river and I was amazed at how quickly the peacefulness of the water took over. We took in the scenery, which included snowy egrets and seagulls. We also learned about the eels that inhabit the river (at which point I stopped wistfully trailing my fingers in the water…).
It was so calming to listen to the splash of the oars as they entered and left the water. I found myself noticing the world around me more. This brings me to my book recommendation: Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner.
In this beautifully illustrated picture book (bravo, Christopher Silas Neal), a mother paddles her son around a pond in a small boat. The illustrations take us below the water and up into the sky to discover creatures large and small (from caddisfly larva to moose!) and to wonder at their ways. The rich blues and greens are mesmerizing and the author’s tone drew out my curiosity and sense of awe. The sights and wildlife of the Bronx River may be different than those of the book’s setting, but reading Over and Under the Pond before a ride on the river would definitely activate any child’s inner zoologist. To the observant eye, there is plenty to notice while riding the Bronx River.
Rocking the Boat has just one more public program planned for this season, but it is a very cool one–community sailing! On Sunday, September 10th from 1:00-5:00pm, they will be offering free rides on their catamarans. There are also other opportunities to enjoy the river in different ways with the Bronx River Alliance, with several rowing events on upcoming Saturdays. And remember, if you do manage to make it to the river before the cold weather comes, don’t forget to bring some…
BOOKS TO BRONX WITH:
Over and Under the Pond, in which a mother and son paddle through the water, teeming with life in all shapes and sizes.
A River, in which a little girl imagines where the river outside her apartment window might lead–twisting and turning through the city and journeying all the way to the sea.
Along the River, in which we ride along a river in Brazil, meeting people along the way, illustrated in beautiful colors buzzing with life.
Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat, in which a little boys goes on a long journey across the sea to rescue his lost teddy bear, gathering friends and helpers along the way.