The New Croton Dam And Spillway
The New Croton Dam, across the Croton River, near Croton-on-Hudson, about 35 km north of New York City, was built between 1892 and 1906 to divert water from the Croton River into the New Croton Reservoir that supplies water to the residents of New York City. It was the first major water supply system for the city — one which played an important role in sustaining the early growth the city experienced, and without which New York City could never have grown to what it is today. The reservoir impounds about 19 billion gallons of water — now a small fraction of the New York City water system’s total storage capacity of 580 billion gallons.
The original Old Croton Dam was built in 1842. The old reservoir had the capacity to supply about 90 million gallons of water a day to the city through a 66-km underground aqueduct. By the end of 19th century, it became clear that New York City needed more water. Consequently, work began on the New Croton Dam.
To build the new dam, 52 square km of land occupied by public and private buildings, six cemeteries, and more than 400 farms had to cleared away. The new dam was built 6.4 km downstream of the original dam, which was submerged by the new reservoir. New Croton Reservoir was eventually able to supply 200 to 300 million gallons of water a day.
The dam is among the most impressive man-made structures in the Northeast of the country, with a majestic waterfall-like spillway, a sprawling retaining wall and an aerial bridge that offers a close-up view of the dam’s rushing torrents. The masonry structure is 81 meters broad at its base and 91 meters high from base to crest. Its foundation extends 40 meters below the bed of the river. The spillway is 300 meters long. At the time of its completion, it was the tallest dam in the world.
The dam features an unusual stepped spillway, located to the side of the retaining wall and is partly natural and partly man-made. Water flows down the natural portion in wild waterfall-like rapids, while at the man-made portion water spills down huge steps.
At the base of the dam is a 97-acre public park and trail head, and a road along its crest. The park is a popular spot for fishing, picnicking and hiking, with direct trail access to New York State’s Old Croton Aqueduct, which begins here. In winter, the park is a favorite spot for cross-country skiing and sledding.