If you’re a landscape photographer in New York, chances are you’ve seen photos of the Croton Dam. Images of that honeycomb-esque structure with water cascading along the exterior or of that overpouring stretch of reflective water – that is the Croton Dam.
As the photos began to fill my Instagram feed, I thought they were pretty. Pretty as in nice enough for me to maybe give the place a visit one day. It wasn’t until I saw the dam in person did I truly understand how absolutely gorgeous it is. So gorgeous that I want to encourage every photographer in the New York to get out there to witness and photograph it themselves. Here’s why –
It’s Easy to Get To
When you Google this spot, it actually has the name “The New Croton Dam” because though it is over a century old, it has a predecessor that was built in the early 1840s. Use Google Maps to get there by car. Or, as a personal recommendation, take the Metro North train from Grand Central to Croton-Harmon (NOT to be confused with Croton Falls).
Download the MTA app and buy your ticket beforehand to save some money. It should cost you anywhere from $7 - $14 one way. Once the train starts moving, someone will come around to check tickets and you can simply show it to them from your phone.
Take a seat on the left side of the train for a scenic ride along the Hudson River. Less than an hour later, you’ll arrive at the Croton-Harmon station. Outside of the station there will be black cabs parked in designated, marked spots. It will cost you $10 - $15 to catch a ride to the dam.
A View That Keeps on Giving
Upon drop off, you’ll be in clear view of the lower side of the dam. Here you can shoot the dam centrally from the bridge, closer-up from the right, or from the stream below. I got some of my best HDR shots at this level.
From there, turn around and walk passed the patch of grass to your left. Right before the cabins (they may be restrooms, I’m not entirely sure), make a left. There is a zig-zagging trail that leads to the top of the dam. If you’re visiting the dam during the fall, here you’ll find an amazing view of the colorful fall foliage.
Walk down to the water to have a peaceful moment with the ducks floating slowly by. Then continue on the bridge for the best view of the dam on the right. An infinity pool-like spectacle with mini water falls at the bottom. Visit this spot during sunset to get the most dazzling shots.
Getaway from the City
Even for people who live amongst skyscrapers, visiting the Croton Dam can be a humbling experience. At the water’s edge, the pool stretches endlessly. It makes you feel small but in a good way. Capturing its grandeur from a unique perspective can be both calming and challenging.
Previously I spoke of the trail that leads directly to the top of the dam. There are, however, other routes you can explore, including one going to the Old Croton Dam. Arrive early so you can take your time hiking these other paths before heading up for the prime view.
The dam is located in Croton-on-Hudson. You can make a day trip out of your visit by wandering around the village. I have two little reasons why I didn’t (and their names are Crouton and Truffles, my two dogs who were waiting to be fed), but driving by it was enough for me to make the recommendation.
One Last Tip
Once at the top of the dam, plan to start heading down with enough time to get back to the base before dark. There are two paths down. The first is the same trail you used coming up. That will require you have enough light to lead you back down.
The second path is from the other side of the bridge which leads to a highway. I do not recommend taking this route (though I did mistakenly) as you will be walking on the highway literally inches from cars zooming past. There are no sidewalks.
Cabs will typically only pick you up from the base of the dam. Make sure you plan accordingly to get there safe and sound.
Having lived in New York for over two years now, the Croton Dam is still one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in the state. It’s a relaxing trip from the moment you step onto the Metro North to the moment you step off, with opportunities for incredible shots in between.