East River

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East River
Tidal strait
East River and UN.jpg
Country United States
State New York
Municipality New York City
 - left Newtown Creek, Flushing River
 - right Westchester Creek, Bronx River,
Bronx Kill, Harlem River
Source Long Island Sound
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Mouth Upper New York Bay
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Length 16 mi (26 km)
The East River is shown in red on this satellite photo of New York City.
Wikimedia Commons: East River

The East River is a salt water tidal strait in New York City. The waterway, which is actually not a river despite its name, connects Upper New York Bay on its south end to Long Island Sound on its north end. It separates Long Island – including the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn – from the Bronx on the North American mainland, and the island of Manhattan. Because of its connection to Long Island Sound, it was once also known as the Sound River.[1] The tidal strait changes its flow direction frequently.


A map from 1781

The strait was formed approximately 11,000 years ago at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation.[2] The distinct change in the shape of the strait between the lower and upper portions is evidence of this glacial activity. The upper portion (from Long Island Sound to Hell Gate), running largely perpendicular to the glacial motion, is wide, meandering, and has deep narrow bays on both banks, scoured out by the glacier's movement. The lower portion (from Hell Gate to New York Bay) runs north-south, parallel to the glacial motion. It is much narrower, with straight banks. The bays that exist (or existed before being filled in by human activity), are largely wide and shallow.

The channel

Historically, the lower portion of the strait (separating Manhattan from Brooklyn) was one of the busiest and most important channels in the world, particularly during the first three centuries of New York City's history. The Brooklyn Bridge, opened in 1883, was the first bridge to span the strait, replacing frequent ferry service. Some passenger ferry service remains between Manhattan, and Queens and Brooklyn.

Due to heavy pollution, the East River is dangerous to people who fall in or attempt to swim in it, although as of mid-2007 the water was cleaner than it had been in decades.[3] As of 2010, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection categorizes the East River as Use Classification I, meaning it is safe for secondary contact activities such as boating and fishing.[4] According to the marine sciences section of the city Department of Environmental Protection, the channel is swift, with water moving as fast as four knots (just as it does in the Hudson River on the other side of Manhattan). That speed can push casual swimmers out to sea. A few people drown in the waters around New York City each year.[3] The strength of the current foiled an effort in 2007 to tap it for tidal power.[5] However, in February 2012 the federal government announced an agreement with Verdant Power to install 30 tidal turbines in the channel, projected to begin operations in 2015 and produce 1.05 MW of power.[6]


Historical film of the East River, leading up to a final shot of the Brooklyn Bridge (1903)

The Bronx River drains into the East River in the northern section of the strait.

North of Randalls Island, it is joined by the Bronx Kill. Along the east of Wards Island, at approximately the strait's midpoint, it narrows into a channel called Hell Gate, which is spanned by both the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (formerly the Triborough), and the Hell Gate Bridge. On the south side of Wards Island, it is joined by the Harlem River.

Newtown Creek on Long Island drains into the East River, forming part of the boundary between Queens and Brooklyn. The East River contains a number of islands, including:


In popular culture


  • Edward Harrigan's 1874 comic song "Muldoon, the Solid Man" mentions "the enchanting East River air"
  • The Brecker Brothers performed a song named after the river that is featured on their album Heavy Metal Be-Bop (1978)
  • According to its author, Yasushi Akimoto, one of the best known Japanese songs "Kawa no Nagare no Yō ni" – the "swan song" of the noted singer Hibari Misora – was inspired by the East River.[7]
  • Prurient's song "Greenpoint" mentions that "the East River isn't romantic anymore; it's where the suicides go"



Views of the river

See also



  1. Montrésor, John (1766). A plan of the city of New-York & its environs. London.
  2. "The East River Flows From Prehistoric Times To Today". The Queens Gazette. July 20, 2005. Retrieved 2010-07-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Welcome, Students. Now Watch It". The New York Times. August 30, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Green Infrastructure Plan: East River and Open Waters" (September 2010)
  5. Hogarty, Dave (August 13, 2007). "East River Turbines Face Upstream Battle". Gothamist. Retrieved 2010-07-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Turbines Off NYC East River Will Create Enough Energy to Power 9,500 Homes". U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved 13 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 第86回 秋元 康 氏 (Japanese)

External links