February 3, 2010
Hudson (river), river, eastern New York, rising in the Adirondack Mountains and flowing south for 492 km (306 mi) to Upper New York Bay (an arm of the Atlantic Ocean) at New York City.
The Hudson has a winding upper course and flows almost directly south below Hudson Falls. The headwaters of the river are the outlets of several small lakes in the Adirondacks; the largest headstream is the Opalescent River, which flows out of Lake Tear of the Clouds. The river falls rapidly in the upper waters, having a drop of about 15 m (about 50 ft) at Glens Falls, the first sizable city on its course. At Cohoes the Hudson is joined by its principal tributary, the Mohawk. From Troy to the mouth of the Hudson the effects of tides are observable. The depression of the Hudson valley floor and the effects of tidewater make the river navigable by small oceangoing vessels to Albany and Troy, about 240 km (about 150 mi) from its mouth. As a tidal estuary, the Hudson has a large volume of water, far out of proportion to the area it drains, which is about 34,630 sq km (about 13,370 sq mi).
Below Albany the channel of the river is in places very narrow, and the banks are lined with some high, steep hills and mountains. Flowing past the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson Highlands, below Newburgh, the river is famous for beautiful scenery. Emerging from the highlands, the river widens into a lakelike expanse called Tappan Zee. Farther south, near its mouth, the river forms the boundary between New York and New Jersey for about 29 km (about 18 mi). In this region the western shore is formed by a great cliff of traprock known as the Palisades.
The Hudson River is one of the most important commercial waterways in the eastern U.S., forming part of a trade route to the interior of North America. The river is joined just north of Albany by divisions of the New York State Canal System, which link the Hudson to Lake Champlain, the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence River. The commercial importance of the Hudson declined somewhat after the opening, in 1959, of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which provides an alternate route from the Atlantic to the interior. A major problem of the 20th century has been the severe pollution of the Hudson by industrial wastes and sewage.
The Florentine navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 became the first European to sail on the Hudson. The river was first explored in 1609 by the English navigator Henry Hudson, for whom it is named. The Hudson Valley was settled early in the 17th century by the Dutch and was of great commercial and military importance during the pre-Revolutionary period. During the American Revolution the Hudson was a strategic waterway and the site of many historic events, especially in the region around Newburgh and West Point. In 1807 the U.S. inventor Robert Fulton launched the Clermont, one of the first practical steamboats, on the Hudson. Trade on the river flourished after the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. The Holland (1927) and Lincoln (completed 1957) vehicular tunnels and railroad tubes were built under the river as means to enter Manhattan (New York City). Among the Hudson bridges are the Rip Van Winkle Bridge (1935), at Catskill; the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge (1957), near Kingston; the Mid-Hudson Bridge (1930), at Poughkeepsie; the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge (1963), at Newburgh; the Bear Mountain Bridge (1924), near Peekskill; the Tappan Zee Bridge (1955), at Tarrytown; and the George Washington Bridge, at New York City. Points of interest along the Hudson include the U.S. Military Academy, at West Point, and the estate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at Hyde Park. A noted movement of 19th-century U.S. landscape painting that included Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand is known as the Hudson River School.