Van Cortland Park
|Description: Van Cortlandt Park sits atop ridges and valleys in the northwest Bronx. More
than half of the park’s 1,100 acres are protected as “forever wild,” making Van
Cortland New York City’s third-largest Forever Wild Nature Preserve. Roger
Tory Peterson studied birds here in 1934 when he was preparing his first bird
guide, and many other influential birders got their start on these ecologically
Sports fields and playgrounds surround a richly forested heartland fed by Tibbets
Brook. Tree cover in Van Cortlandt’s forest is known for being among the thickest
of any New York City park. The park is home to the Bronx’s largest lake and
includes grassland, wetland and scrub habitat as well. Residents, visitors and
wildlife all find refuge from the heat of the city under the quiet green shade of
Van Cortlandt’s oak forests.
Wildlife to Watch: Van Cortlandt Park is one of only four city parks designated as a National
Audubon Society Important Bird Area. As many as 240 bird species have been
observed here, with nearly 80 recorded as nesting. You can see an exceptional
diversity of migrant songbirds, and nearly every species of land bird in the region
has been recorded in the Croton Woods portion of the park.
Eastern kingbirds call from shore-side treetops, while mallards glide out from
swamp loosestrife, and brightly colored wood ducks swim in the shadows. Green herons and great and snowy egrets search for fish and frogs. Red-winged blackbirds
cry from cattail heads, and painted turtles sun themselves atop muskrat
lodges. Belted kingfishers rattle from their perches above, and raccoons work the
shoreline nearby. Raptors such as barred owls and red-tailed hawks sometimes
hunt in Van Cortlandt’s woods and wetlands.
Fishing is popular in Van Cortlandt’s lake. Look in the shallows for sunfish,
bluegills, yellow perch and occasionally common carp and white suckers.
Largemouth bass may also be seen chasing smaller fish in the shallows.
Special Tips: The nature center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m., from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
718-430-1890, Van Cortlandt Park S. between Broadway and Jerome
Ave., Bronx, NY, www.nycgovparks.org/parks/VanCortlandtPark
Other Activities: Dozens of paths and roads wind through the park. Among these are nearly
seven miles of nature trails for hiking, ranging from gentle to steep terrain.
The Riverdale Equestrian Centre is located in the park, and horseback riding
is allowed on miles of bridle trail. A nearly 2-mile-long bicycle trail is also
available. Audubon experts and Urban Park Rangers conduct birdwalks
every Saturday morning except when Christmas Day or New Year’s Day falls
on a Saturday.
Ownership: NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
Closest Town: Bronx
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: