The River That Flows Both Ways

 By: Dakin Roy

The Hudson River is a complicated waterway. An estuary for much of its length, its tidal waters mix salt and fresh water together while flowing both north and south simultaneously.

The Mohican name of the river reflects its partially estuarine nature: muh-he-kun-ne-tuk means "the river that flows both ways."[1]

Because of its tidal action, navigation on the Hudson has always been difficult, especially during the days of wooden hulled ships. In the wintertime, icebergs are sent crashing in both directions. “Henry Hudson and Englishmen successfully navigated the river to later bear his name in 1609 while sailing for the Dutch East India Company.”[2]

Modern ships pass easily from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Physically navigating the river has become much easier, but understanding its essence and practicality has become increasingly difficult.

Over the last 200 years the Hudson has been used as a water highway, shipping goods and raw materials for America and for the world. Industry took advantage of this natural transportation to set up factories, railroads and logging mills. Through over-use and the lack of environmental protection laws, by the 1960s the river had become industrial cesspool contaminated by PCBs, petroleum products, and a host of carcinogens. Much of the native fish and wildlife had been lost to pollution, overfishing, and rising water temperatures due to commercial wastewater.

It was in this climate that an environmental movement was born. “In 1966, Pete Seeger and Toshi Seeger founded Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, an environmental education organization and an actual boat (a sloop), that promotes awareness of the river and its history. Clearwater has gained national recognition for its activism starting in the 1970s to force a clean-up of PCB contamination of the Hudson caused by GE and other companies.”[3]

Today the river has seen a marked improvement, with PCBs and mercury levels dropping each year. More and more people have come to appreciate the natural beauty of the Hudson and want to preserve it for future generations. Recreational fishing, boating, kayaking, and various water sports have increased dramatically as water quality has improved.

It is my intention to photograph the Hudson of today, to show how far it's come and perhaps remind people that there's still more work to do. It should also serve as a reminder to stay forever vigilant in the fight for our natural resources, because apathy breeds decay.

It has been shown that by utilizing the river and being aware of what it has to offer, people are more likely to take action and the appropriate steps to keep it healthy and vital for years to come. By changing the nature of peoples’ dependence on the river we can create a new generation that sees the river, not as a means to monetary gain, but as an integral part of their lives.


 [1], [2], [3] "Hudson River." The Titi N.p., 25 Sept. 2010. Web. 16 Sept. 2011. <>.

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