The dregs of winter are officially gone, and sunny days are here to tempt us back to the city’s rivers. Though it’s still a bit chilly for swimming — unless you’re a Polar Bear Club member — there are plenty of other ways to enjoy NYC’s waters this season.
Tour the Bronx River
The Bronx River had a rough go of it, going from having industrial waste dumped into it during the 1800s to becoming fetid with sewage in the early 20th century. But intensive cleanup efforts since the 1970s have not only cleaned up this 23-mile uptown waterway but brought back much of the natural beauty surrounding it. Today, the Bronx River Alliance is the river’s caretaker, leading canoeing and kayaking trips beginning in June through the end of October. The length and cost of the trips vary, from free to $45. Participants must sign a waiver, and transportation back to the starting site is not provided (though tours end close to public transit stops).
Learn about the Hudson River ecosystem
Liberty State Park in New Jersey really makes that PATH trip worthwhile, with two-hour kayak tours of the Hudson River Estuary. Paddle within view of the Statue of Liberty while learning about the Caven Point habitat and wildlife. The Kayak Eco Tours are $20 per person and run from 10 a.m. to noon on select Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from June to September. Participants must be at least 16 years old, and no prior experience is necessary — though keep in mind you’ll be paddling in deep waters. Life jackets will be provided and must be worn. Registration is required by calling 201-915-3402
Rowboating in Central Park
Taking a rowboat out onto the lake in front of the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park has been a tradition for 150 years. Weather permitting, the boats hold up to four people (including small children accompanied by an adult) and can be rented for $15 per hour, plus a refundable $20 deposit (cash only) from 10 a.m. until sunset. Or let someone else do the hard work and get a taste of Venetian life on a gondola tour for up to six people for $45 per half hour. East 72nd Street and Park Drive North
Get up close to the Gowanus Canal
It’s possibly the city’s least glamorous waterway, but the Gowanus has plenty to recommend it. The Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club will lend you a vessel for a self-guided tour (they provide the map) of five miles of the canal. Bookings must be made at least 10 days in advance. There’s a suggested donation of $5 per person; free 20-minute trips are also available. Second St. near Bond St.
Explore Jamaica Bay
Take the L train all the way to the end of the line to find Sebago Canoe Club in Canarsie, which offers guided kayaking of Jamaica Bay to the public on Wednesday (5:30 p.m.) and Saturday (9:30 a.m.) beginning May 31 through Sept. 5. The volunteer-run nonprofit charges $10 to cover insurance fees and doesn’t take reservations, so get there early. Excursions last up to two hours, and guest lecturers do accompany some trips. Note: You’ll be expected to help carry and clean the equipment. Open to ages 16-80.
Have a mellow time on Meadow Lake
At Flushing Meadows Corona Park, head to Wheel Fun Rentals at the northern edge of Meadow Lake to get on the water in a solo or two-person kayak ($15/$22), or two- or four-person paddle boat ($20/$30). Rates are hourly, though kayaks can be rented for a half or full day at special rates. Last boat rental is two hours before sunset.
Get in a quick kayaking session
These organizations will get you in the water for free on a canoe or kayak for a 20-minute spin:
Red Hook Boaters — Paddle the inlet at Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park; boaters are asked to volunteer a little time cleaning up the beach before or after their trip. Sundays, June 5-Sept. 25 (minus June 12) 1-4 p.m.; Thursdays, June 9-Aug. 18, 6-8 p.m.
Downtown Boathouse — Families including small children (one per boat) can paddle the Hudson River from Pier 26 (North Moore Street and West Side Highway); young children are allowed but only one per boat. Weekends & holidays, May 21-Oct. 10, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse — Take a brief foray into the East River from Pier 2, or join a Kayak Polo game on Sundays at 11 a.m. June 4-Sept. 29, Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursdays, 5:30-6:45 p.m.
Long Island City Boathouse — Check their schedule (it’s tied to the tides) between June and August to pair your visit to Socrates Sculpture Park (31-01 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City) with a free paddle of Hallets Cove in a canoe or kayak. Single boaters may be paired with someone else or a volunteer. All ages welcome.