Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Bannerman's Island
by Betty Wiest

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sometimes you wake up in the morning and really don’t know what kind of day you’re going to have. Hopefully, you see the glass half full. It’s all about the water, you understand.

Because the rain we had on Tuesday, the day before our trip, the weather was foreboding and the forecast for Wednesday was a good chance of rain in the afternoon. So it was with a sense risk that I was persuaded not to cancel the trip to Bannerman’s Island. Thanks to George Hewitt, Lori Baumann and Tom Babos that the trip took place as planned.

What great fortune that Wednesday turned out to be an absolutely beautiful! The weather was warm with only partly clouded skies and the water was as calm as could be.

It’s a three-mile paddle from Cold Spring—our launch spot—to Bannerman’s Island. I had not been to Cold Spring in a few years and was delighted to discover the park/launch site had been improved and beautified. There is a small free parking area adjacent to the park and all three cars were able to squeeze in with a little room to spare. And the ever-present portable restroom—hooray!

Pollepel Island is the true name and there are about four different versions on how this island got named according to a well-informed source whose name is Tom.

Our small group paddled north on very calm water up to the island, stopping to check out the water utility outtake units before continuing on.

We started making our way around the island noting various features of the ruins when we approached the official landing dock. George started talking with a Dave, a river boat pilot, shuttling people from the mainland to the island. With very little prompting, Dave worked with a volunteer already working on the island to arrange a private tour for us. Without too much thought, we all eagerly jumped on the offer, paid the $15 donation fee, put on a hard hat and started the hour and a half tour. Perhaps not a once in a lifetime opportunity, but we were glad to make the most of the moment and were not disappointed. Tom was our guide (and also a co-author of a book about the island and its history). The views were incredible from the castle ruins and seeing the arsenal first-hand gave us a real sense of history.

The paddle back was uneventful even though we were past our four-hour free parking limit (there is room for three vehicles in a small free parking area). It was nice to notice there were no tickets on our windshields.

All in all, a very good day on the river!