As I sat down tonight and began to write, I came very close to making my first sentence, “One of my favorite things to do is…” when I realized that I want to make that my first sentence for all my posts. I guess I have a lot of favorite things. Well, you should understand why what I describe in this little story is one of my favorite things.
Like many other nature lovers out there, I enjoy taking walks in the woods on some of the first warm days of Spring. Well, last Spring, a friend and I met at the Putnam Diner in Patterson, NY to go for a little walk in the woods. We parked our cars in the diner’s parking lot and walked about a half mile north on Rt. 22. It is always shocking to see how fast cars really drive when you are walking about four feet away from them. We came across a small dirt road on the right hand side of the road that leads into a little bridge that spans part of, none other than, the Great Swamp in Patterson.
Now, there is a reason why they call this swamp “Great.” The thing is huge. For decades, people have been using the area for fishing and recreational use, such as boating and kayaking. Here is an encompassing description I found on the web:
“The Great Swamp — covering over 6,000 acres — is one of the largest freshwater wetlands in New York State
Situated in New York’s eastern Putnam and Dutchess Counties, the Great Swamp and its 63,000-acre watershed stretch 20 miles through the towns of Southeast, Patterson, Pawling and Dover. Located less than 70 miles from New York City, this vast and fragile wetland provides numerous benefits to residents of the Harlem Valley, including drinking water, flood control, recreation, open space and wildlife habitat.
The Great Swamp spans two watersheds, divided at Pawling into a north and south flow. To the north, water travels through the Swamp River and into the Ten Mile River, the Housantonic River, and eventually the Long Island Sound. Meandering south it is the East Branch Croton River flowing into the East Branch to the East Branch Reservoir of New York City’s Croton Reservoir System, making the Great Swamp the important headwaters of New York City’s drinking water supply.
The Great Swamp is listed in the New York State Open Space Plan as a priority project in the 2001 Plan that includes 132 projects statewide. Governor Pataki’s recent designation of the Croton Watershed as Critical Resource Waters includes the Great Swamp and provides greater protection. The Army Corps of Engineers is required to conduct a more far-reaching and public review of all projects, rather than their weaker Nationwide Permit Program. Of The Swamp, Governor Pataki has said: I had the opportunity to canoe portions of the Great Swamp and witness first hand what a marvelous resource the Great Swamp presents for the people and communities of this region.”
Now, that pretty much says it all. Here is a satellite photo of just part of it:
The reason that this particular area is of such importance to me is because my Uncle Richard brought me here when I was a very young little man for my first time fishing…ever. I can remember casting out my line and watching it float under the bridge. Through the years, I always wondered where that spot was and when I finally discovered it, I invited my friend to go for a little walk.
There is something special about hiking in early Spring, before there is any foliage. You can see through the woods much more and there is something different in the air. The Great Swamp is particularly inviting…and I recommend a visit when you have some time to spare.