Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Peak Oil and the Death of Suburbia


Let’s not kid ourselves. We are all living in a fool’s paradise. The reality of peak oil is now upon us. After 147 years of almost uninterrupted growth since Edwin Drake drilled a shallow oil well in Pennsylvania in 1859, production reached a record daily output of some 82 million barrels. At that point in 2006, the planet’s crude oil production began an irreversible decline. Today, for every six barrels of oil consumed, only one new barrel of oil is being discovered to replace them.

Before the world began to use oil so prodigiously, the total amount of oil beneath the surface of the planet was estimated to be about two trillion barrels. Since the middle of the 19th century, the world has consumed about one-half the amount available--one trillion barrels of oil--representing the most easily extracted and the highest quality oil. In the unlikely prospect that the remaining one trillion barrels of oil could be extracted at current costs and rates of production, that oil would last only 37 years. We are indeed living in a fool’s paradise.

Although the number of potential users of gasoline worldwide is growing exponentially, oil today is becoming increasingly harder to find, more expensive to produce and, in the process, more hazardous to the planet. The disastrous tragedy now being played out a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico lays bare the unwisdom of attempting to drill at increasing depths in coastal zones.

The ten largest holders of oil reserves in the world are all state-owned oil companies in countries that aren't particularly friendly toward the West. Resource xenophobia has pushed the world’s giant independent oil companies--Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP--out of countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, Iran and Libya, reducing efficiencies in those countries as well as supplies of oil from them. As a result, these companies, which once controlled more than half of the world's crude production, have been reduced to about 13%. In 2007, the four big companies spent only $11 billion on exploration. At the same time, they spent $58 billion--five times what they expended looking for oil--to buy back shares of their own stock.

Even more worrisome is the declining production of half of the 20 largest oil-producing countries, which at one time produced 85 percent of all oil produced. Today, half of the world’s oil is supplied by a tiny percentage of the world’s oil fields--a number that underscores the importance of giant fields. For example, six giant oil fields account for all of Saudi Arabia’s production. But production in some of these giant fields has peaked and is beginning to decline, an indication that the world's oil supply has begun an irreversible slide.

Paradoxically, the number of potential users of gasoline worldwide is growing exponentially, yet oil today is becoming increasingly harder to find, more expensive to produce and, in the process, more hazardous to the planet. The disastrous tragedy now being played out a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico lays bare the unwisdom of attempting to drill at increasing depths in coastal zones.

Even more worrisome is the declining production of half of the 20 largest oil-producing countries, which at one time produced 85 percent of all oil produced. Today, half of the world’s oil is supplied by a tiny percentage of the world’s oil fields--a number that underscores the importance of giant fields. For example, six giant oil fields account for all of Saudi Arabia’s production. But production in some of these giant fields has peaked and is beginning to decline, futher confirmation that the world's oil supply has begun an irreversible slide.

What has been truly unfathomable in the world oil picture is why the oil-importing nations engage in cutthroat rivalry for the dwindling supply of oil when a firm united front vis-à-vis the oil exporters would have given them control of the situation. After all, the oil-producing nations have an organization—actually a cartel, called OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)—that sets limits on production and thus controls prices. The supine acceptance of allowing themselves to be held hostage by OPEC is only another example of the impotence of once-powerful governments.

Production in oil fields typically declines after about a half-century, and right now the average age of the world's 14 largest oilfields is more than 50 years. Oil from these giant sources still costs surprisingly little to produce--about $1.50 a barrel. Yet it takes voluminous production of low-priced oil from such fields to offset upward price pressure from the newer, more expensive sources like Alberta‘s tar sands in Canada, where oil can cost as much as $60 a barrel or more to produce.

The United States has a mere three percent of the world’s oil reserves but consumes 25 percent of the world’s daily oil production. We have now burned through 70% of our own oil and are so desperate for oil that we are drilling 40,000 new wells a year--a pace that hasn’t been approached in more than two decades. Nevertheless, domestic production continues to decline. Instead of listening to exhortations of “Drill, Baby, Drill,” we would be wiser to buy as much oil as we can abroad, literally husbanding the little we have left for our manifestly dismal future.

Oil is this planet’s most crucial resource. The insatiable worldwide appetite for oil will continue to grow as the planet’s middle class expands. In the coming decade, the world's total population will jump by one billion, and the numbers in its prospering middle class will increase by almost two billion—600 million of them in China alone. Researchers at the Brookings Institution estimate that by 2020 the middle class will comprise 52 percent of the planet's total population--up from today’s 30 percent. By 2025, China will have the world's largest middle class, made prosperous by America’s craving for cheaply made imports manufactured by its almost inexhaustible supply of cheap labor. By 2025, India's burgeoning middle class will have increased to ten times its present size.

As the middle class explodes in China, India and other countries around the globe, hundreds of millions of additional automobiles will give rise to even greater demand for gasoline and other petroleum-based products. Today, the United States has 246 million vehicles--750 cars for every 1,000 persons. China, on the other hand, has only four automobiles for every 1,000 persons. With its much larger population and area, should China achieve even one-half the ownership rate of the United States, it will mean an additional 400 million automobiles on Chinese roads competing with us for petroleum products. That's the equivalent of adding almost twice today’s number of American automobiles to the world’s count. Even if the price of gasoline becomes so astronomically high that it creates diminished demand in the United States and Europe, the use of gasoline will inevitably increase in prospering economies such as China’s, with its GDP growing at 10% annually.

And as the price of oil rises, the cost of energy from other sources. such as coal, natural gas, and plant-based ethanol ,will inevitably climb right along with it. In addition to the problems created by a rapidly rising demand and a decreasing supply of oil, experts estimate that 80% of the world’s refineries, pipelines, drilling rigs, and storage tanks are deteriorating to a point where replacement must soon begin. The price tag for repairing or rebuilding these facilities will cost a cool $50 trillion, and that cost will inevitably have to be passed on to the ultimate consumer. The picture of oil’s future is not pretty.

The automobile created suburbua. And the rising cost of oil to fuel atuomobiles and heat homes will inevitably cause the death of suburbia. Let us next consider the consequences that will befall our fragile suburbian economy with the inexorable increase in the cost of discovering, extracting and refining a diminishing supply of oil. The changes will come in a series of seven wrenching stages.

At some point in the inescapable rise in the price of gasoline, the government will realize that the present policy of a flat tax of 18.4 cents a gallon on gasoline regardless of the price makes no economic sense. Gasoline taxes will perforce be changed to a percentage of the selling price. In Italy, taxes make up 75% of the price of gasoline. In Canada, Australia and New Zealand, they make up 50 percent of the price. In the U.S., taxes (federal + state) make up less than 20 percent of the cost of gasoline to motorists. It is an established fact that as the price of gasoline rises, drivers do less driving.

Stage 1: When gasoline climbed to slightly more than four dollars a gallon in the summer of 2008, we had a portent of things to come. The economy stalled. We Americans reduced our driving by billions of miles. Families cut back on vacations involving travel to distant places. SUV assembly plants shut down. Hybrid cars commanded premium prices at dealerships. Interestingly, even at $4 a gallon, gasoline was actually comparatively inexpensive. Budweiser beer costs $13 a gallon, Coca Cola $8 a gallon, and Evian water $7.50 a gallon.

Because America has had a taste of the effect of gasoline at $4 a gallon, we can make some projections about what life, especially suburban life, will be like at that price and even higher prices. One positive consequence of a return to $4 a gallon gasoline will be 10 million less vehicles on the roads in these United States, mostly SUVs, pickup trucks, and gas guzzlers of every type. It is fashionable to belittle automakers for greedily building behemoth sedans and SUVs and foisting them on the public. The truth is that they were only meeting the driving public’s desire for large and powerful cars, born of widely available cheap gasoline. In 1946, a barrel of oil cost $17.26 in today’s dollars. In 1998, at $15.35 a barrel, it was even cheaper. At $4 a gallon, we can expect an initial surge in the popularity of hybrids or more economical, environmentally friendly diesel-fueled automobiles.

Higher gasoline prices will not be without certain unexpected benefits. In 2008, $4-a-gallon gasoline caused Americans to drive 100 billion fewer miles. Fewer miles driven translate into fewer highway fatalities. A sustained price of $4 a gallon could save as many as 12,000 lives a year--almost one third of the U.S. annual highway death toll. Pushing the price up from $4 to $6 a gallon would save even more highway deaths. Permanently higher gasoline prices will force people to do more walking and bicycling, with a resulting lowering of obesity and early death. Fewer automobiles and trucks on roads and streets will mean reduced air pollution.

Asphalt was once extracted from naturally occurring deposits. It is now a refinery byproduct. A rise in the price of oil and thus of gasoline also will cause the price of asphalt to go up. Today, asphalt coats 94 % of the streets and roads in the U.S. Higher asphalt prices will result in less road paving and road patching projects. Inevitably, poor roads will cause drivers to drive more carefully and slower. Each year we send some 20 billion pounds of deteriorating asphalt roofing to landfills in the U.S. Another benefit from prohibitive costs of asphalt roofing will be longer-lasting, lighter-weight metal roofing made of galvanized steel, aluminum or copper. A metal roof can weigh about one-fifth of what a bulky asphalt roof weighs and may last as long as 75 years with occasional spray painting.

Stage 2: Gasoline at the next increment above $4 a gallon will deal a mortal blow to such activities as the bussing of school children in suburbia. Communities’ school budgets simply will no longer be able to afford the expensive part-time use of huge fleets of vehicles during a brief period in the morning and afternoon of each weekday for nine months of the year. Today’s omnipresent traffic-slowing yellow school busses will be drastically reduced in numbers and used only in outlying rural areas. The exercise resulting from longer walks to school will increase our children’s life expectancy and overcome the growing tendency to obesity in many young people. Police departments will be forced to return officers to foot patrol, resulting in more effective prevention of street crimes like assault and robbery or burglaries.

More than half of the U.S. population lives in suburbia and spends an average of 25 percent of family income on buying, maintaining and insuring the family’s motorcars. As the price of gasoline rises, living in single-family McMansions on quarter- and half-acre lots with a car for every member of the family will prove too daunting for many younger suburbanites. This will prompt an exodus from suburbia and a return to cities large and small, with their many amenities and conveniences. Returnees will live in neighborhoods reclaimed from former slums replete with small shops, instead of shopping centers and malls. Reliable urban mass transit will free them from the financial drain of ownership of multiple numbers of automobiles.

Stage 3: When gasoline reaches the next stage, the internal combustion engine will give up the ghost in favor of the electric automobile. Improved battery technology will yield smaller, lighter-weight batteries that will enable cars to go longer distances. Gasoline stations will add electrical quick-boost charging plug-ins. Gasoline-powered motorboats, jet skis, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, lawnmowers, and snow blowers also will vanish. Few will mourn their absence.

Stage 4: As gasoline makes the next incremental jump, it will bring about the demise of much of an industry whose continued existence at lower fuel price points has surprised many economists--the debt-ridden airline industry. Jet fuel is essentially kerosene--a product of the same refineries that refine gasoline--and. jet fuel prices march in step with those of gasoline. Airlines that survive will be bare-boned examples of their former selves. The number of routes and hubs will be cut back. Short-distance flights will be discontinued, and many smaller cities will find themselves with no commercial plane service of any kind. America will look upon the fast rail service available in Europe and Japan with envy and make plans to emulate them.

The long neglect and skimping on repairs of the country’s once-impressive network of rail lines will be reversed. A diesel-powered train can carry 436 tons of cargo one mile on one gallon of fuel. This is four times the 105 tons that trucks can carry over the same distance on the same gallon of fuel. First, the existing rail network will be improved and extended. Later, high-speed passenger trains rivaling those of European railroads will be added on separate trackage.

Stage 5: As the price of gasoline and diesel fuel continues to mount, the advantages of growing crops year around in California, Florida and Mexico and shipping produce great distances will disappear. Farms will return to the areas around cities. With fertilizer made from natural gas now too expensive, small town dwellers will compost household garbage, and plow up lawns and backyards to plant and harvest organically grown seasonal vegetables as well as potatoes and other nutritious root crops that will keep all winter.

Stage 6: “Big box stores” (so called because of their size and shape, not the products they sell), strip malls and shopping centers will vanish from the periphery of small towns. Without cheap transportation, their customers will simply be unable to reach these beneficiaries of China’s emphasis on foreign trade as a means of achieving prosperity. Moreover, the big box chains will find it economically impossible to maintain the scattered warehouses, distribution centers and fleets of giant tractor-trailer trucks that keep their stores supplied with cheap imported goods. Instead, domestic manufacturing enterprises will spring up. And the concept of living in the suburbs and working in the city will no longer make any sense. Resurgence of small towns will enable people who live in them to work and shop close to home.

Stage 7: We can expect new developments in clean and reliable sources of power generation from hydroelectric, tidal, solar, wind, geothermal, and updated, smaller nuclear sources, as well as widespread improvement in this nation’s ridiculously antiquated and vulnerable electric grid. A century ago, the grid operated at 65 percent efficiency. Today its efficiency stands at only 33 percent. Clean electric power from inexpensive and renewable sources may yet be our planet’s salvation.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Of Rivers, Creeks and Brooks: A Catalog of Watercourses


To understand today's stream patterns in Westchester, we must travel back in time. Let us rewind the geological tape about 75,000 years and look down from above. Topographically the entire area east of the Alleghenies will be seen as an almost featureless plain. The climate has started to grow colder. Up in Labrador and elsewhere in the Arctic the first glaciers are forming and starting to move southward, slowly and inexorably.

Next, fast-forward in time to 50,000 years ago. A thousand-foot-thick sheet of ice now lies on the land, its southern edge at Manhattan Island. The tremendous weight of the ice and its continuous bulldozer action as it moves forward have literally scraped away formations that took five hundred million years to accumulate, exposing the ancient bedrock of North America.

To the trained eye, the exposed rocks today exhibit the gouges and scratches that marked the glacier's passage, showing the direction in which it moved. So much of the planet's water was trapped in this and other tremendous continental ice sheets draping themselves across the top of the world that the sea level has fallen as much as 300 feet. The Atlantic Ocean has retreated about a hundred miles, leaving a broad expanse of beach.

Then, about 17,000 years ago, the climate of the northern hemisphere began to turn warmer, causing the thick ice sheet to melt and retreat. As a reminder of its southernmost extent, it left us a terminal moraine of glacial debris, part of which we now call Long Island. Dammed by the terminal moraine, melt water from the retreating ice began to collect in huge broad lakes that drowned the area for thousands of years. Eventually, the trapped waters broke through a gap in the moraine, leaving a bright new landscape of fjords, gorges, rivers, coves and inlets, tidal estuaries and tidal marshes--the northeastern United States we know today.

The Mighty Hudson
The logical starting place for any survey of the rivers and streams in Westchester is the county's principal river, often called "the mighty Hudson." There was every reason for early travelers who came under its spell to describe it that way. Its importance in our nation's history cannot be overstated, for it was the only navigable waterway that penetrated the formidable barrier to westward migration of the Appalachian Mountains.

From its source at Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondacks to the Atlantic Ocean, the Hudson is 315 miles long. For about half that length the Hudson is a wild, impetuous stream, making its way over foamy rocky rapids and plunging down steep waterfalls before reaching the vicinity of Troy. Here it becomes a totally different river, a tidal river.

As if exhausted by its frenetic activity, it next presents itself as a calm and serene series of expansive lakelike bodies of tidal water as it moves over the lower half of its course. In the first half of its journey it had rapidly dropped from great heights; in the final leg of its journey, the difference between its elevation at Albany and its mouth at the ocean is only two feet.

The outpouring water from its sources in the Adirondacks meets and is challenged at Troy by relentless incoming tides. No wonder the Indians graphically called the Hudson, "the stream that flows both ways." As anyone who has tasted Hudson River water at various points along its length can attest, the "sweet" mountain water of the upper Hudson gradually becomes brackish and eventually almost as saline as the ocean's undrinkable waters.

The final stretch of the Hudson is actually what geologists call a fjord, partially filled with sediment that is lower than the contiguous bed of the ocean at its mouth. The river's depth at West Point is an astonishing 216 feet. Oceanographers have discovered that the bed of an earlier Hudson River continues far out to sea in the form of a submerged valley cutting deeply across the continental shelf in a southeasterly direction--further evidence that the sea level was once much lower.

Discovering the River
The Hudson River had many names before it acquired the name by which we know it today. The Indians had several descriptive designations for it, almost all now lost to history. As for who discovered it, there is evidence that adventurous European cod fishermen may have been the first to see and to have wintered along the lower Delaware or the Hudson during the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

French King Francis I commissioned Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine navigator, to sail from Le Havre and scour the coast of the western Atlantic to find a northwest route to China and Japan. The hope was to supply France's silk trade centered at the city of Lyons. Sailing in the royal 100-ton ship La Dauphine north from what is now Cape Fear in North Carolina, Verrazzano spotted the inviting mouth of the Hudson. On April 17, 1523, he dropped anchor in the Narrows between present-day Brooklyn and Staten Island. He called the river La Grande Riviere, also descriptively naming it the River of Steep Hills.

Members of the crew rowed the ship's longboat into "a very beautiful lake" (Upper New York Bay). Verrazzano named it Santa Margarita, in honor of the French king's sister. Unfortunately, a sudden squall forced Verrazzano to put out to sea, causing him to decide to continue searching farther to the north, "much to our regret," for he had found the country to be "hospitable and attractive. He added, "and, we think, not without things of value." In 1964, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority opened a bridge spanning Verrazzano's initial anchorage and appropriately gave it the explorer's name. For reasons known only to them, they chose to spell Verrazzano's name with one z rather than two.

One year after Verrazzano's hasty visit, Estevan Gomez, a black Portuguese pilot who had sailed with Magellan, discovered the river again and named it Rio San Antonio. Concluding that it didn't lead to China, he headed his ship farther north, where he found "things of value." Gomez made captives of 57 New England Indians and carried them back in chains to be sold in the Lisbon slave market. Indian inhabitants of coastal regions quickly came to fear raids by Spanish and English ship captains inspired by Gomez's example. There is no evidence that Gomez had penetrated deeply into the Hudson. Other Spaniards, writing of the river, later referred to it as the Rio de Gomez or Rio de Guamas.

On Sept. 2, 1609, the Halve Maen, an 80-ton, three-masted carrack commanded by Henry Hudson, an English navigator and explorer in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, dropped anchor off Sandy Hook. He, too, was seeking a route to the Far East and had already searched the coast from Nova Scotia to Cape Hatteras when he reached what a contemporary report called "as fine a river as can be found, wide and deep with good anchoring ground on both sides." A tentative reconnaissance convinced him that this river was connected to the fabled Northwest Passage.

Unlike previous "discoverers" of this waterway, Hudson spent four weeks exploring the river that bears his name and trading with the Indians. "The land is the finest for cultivation that I have ever in my life set foot upon," he noted. "and it abounds in trees of every description. The natives are very good people; for when they saw that I would not remain, they supposed that I was afraid of their bows, and taking the arrows, they broke them in pieces, and threw them in the fire."

Robert Juet, Hudson's mate, wrote that the land was "as pleasant with Grasse and Flowers, and Goodly Trees, as ever they had seene, and very sweet smells came from them." Others would remark repeatedly on the sweet smell of the lower Hudson valley. Hudson navigated the shallow-draft Halve Maen upriver 150 miles to a point below what is now the city of Albany. Here the changed character of the river made him realize that it would not bring him to the Pacific.

Nevertheless, he called it the Great River of the Mountains. He also named it the Manhattes, after the Indians he found encountered. A year later, the Dutch who had sent him here, officially named the river the Prince Maurice, or the Mauritius, after their Stadtholder, Prince Maurice of Orange.

Traders and settlers who came here in the years that followed called it variously the Groote Rivier, Manhattan Rivier, Nassau Rivier, Noordt Rivier, Montaigne Rivier and Mauritz Rivier. Not until the English finally established political control over the lower Hudson did they officially name the river for the Englishman who had discovered it in the service of the Dutch. Even so, Noordt Rivier, the former Dutch name, persisted as the North River in English until the 20th century, especially along the docks on the west side of Manhattan.

Interestingly, the term North River originated in the political geography of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, which extended from the Hudson south to the Delaware River. Since two rivers, the Hudson and the Delaware, constituted the northern and southern boundaries of the colony they became the North River and the South River,

The reaction of the first Europeans who arrived in the lower Hudson valley was ecstatic. "O, this is Eden," exclaimed Dutch poet Jacob Steen dam, first poet of New Netherlands. "A terrestrial Canaan where the land flowed with milk and honey," wrote English essayist Daniel Drayton.

From the beginning, it was "the sweetness of the Air," that captivated early travelers. Yonkers lawyer Adrian van der Donck called it, "dry, sweet and healthy." "Sweet and fresh," recorded Jasper Danckaerts, a Dutch Labadist missionary, in his journal as his ship sailed past Sandy Hook in 1679. The Rev. Jacob Miller judged it to be "much like the best parts of France." He attributed its unusual qualities to the "hilly, wooded Country, full of Lakes and great Vallies, which receptacles are the Nurseries, Forges and Bellows of the Air."

To a man, early arrivals were astonished at the prodigiousness of the area. They found meadows with grass "as high as a man's middle," forests with impressive stands of hardwoods; orchards bearing abundant crops of apples and pears. The harbor was inhabited by schools of whales, porpoises and seals that playfully accompanied boats plying its waters. Stories of oysters a foot long are common; lobsters measuring up to six feet were not unusual. The forests teemed with animals: deer, wolves, bears, foxes, raccoons, partridge, quail, doves, and wild turkeys weighing up to 40 pounds.

In addition to the Hudson, three other major pristine waterways in Westchester tapped equally rich areas. These were the Saw Mill, Bronx and Hutchinson rivers. The north-south orientation of alternating ridges and valleys was dictated by the area's rugged topography bequeathed by the glaciers.

Saw Mill River. Its name is a translation of the Dutch name, Die Zaag Kil, named for Adriaen van der Donck’s sawmill near its mouth. It begins near Kipp and Douglas streets in Chappaqua, and flows through Hawthorne, Elmsford and Yonkers to reach the Hudson.

Bronx River. Its headwaters lie north of Heaptauqua Lake in New Castle, and its dammed to form Kensico Reservoir. It forms the geographic boundaries between Mount Pleasant/North Castle, Greenburgh/White Plains, Greenburgh/Scarsdale, Yonkers/Eastchester, and Yonkers/Mount Vernon. The Bronx River empties into the East River in the Bronx between Hunts Point and Clason Point. It takes it name from that of Jonas Bronck, who bought the 500 acres north of the Harlem River from the Indians.

Hutchinson River. Named for Anne Hutchinson, who came from Rhode Island in 1642 to escape religious persecution and settled on the west bank of the river that would bear her name, north of the present Coop City. She was murdered the following year. The Hutchinson River forms the geographic boundary between Scarsdale/New Rochelle, New Rochelle/Eastchester, and Mount Vernon/Pelham before entering The Bronx and emptying into Eastchester Creek.

Naming the Land
In order to describe how to get from point to point without maps to guide them, Indians named every natural feature. There still exist streams whose Indian or Colonial names have not survived. A notable example of this is the brook that parallels Brook Street in Croton-on-Hudson. Ordinarily, a negligible stream occupies its bed. Yet in a heavy rain it can quickly become a raging torrent. During so-called Tropical Storm Floyd in 1991, this nameless brook swept away cars, trucks and a portion of a building along its banks.

The term for a small, fast-flowing stream varies throughout the United States. Early speakers in New York and Pennsylvania called such a stream a kill (a borrowing from the Dutch word kil). That suffix persists to this day in the names of many river communities situated at the juncture of tributaries to the Hudson. Peekskill, Fishkill and Catskill are examples of this.

In Colonial times, following British terminology, a creek was a small inlet in the tidal portion of a stream extending farther inland than a cove. Along the tidewater portion of the Potomac, for example, its many tidal inlets are called creeks. But along 150 miles of the tidewater Hudson, there were few tidal inlets to warrant using the word creek, and so the term was applied to some of the river's freshwater tributaries. In many parts of the United States, when the word “creek” is used it is often pronounced, "crick."

Speakers in the eastern part of the mid-Atlantic states, including Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, used the word “run,” as in Bull Run. Southerners referred to a small stream as a branch. Eventually, brook became the favored term for a watercourse in the Northeast. A measure of its popularity can be seen in its predominance in the following informal inventory of the rivers, kills, creeks and brooks in our area. Where possible, information is given on the derivation of their names.

Cortlandt (town) and Croton (village)
Broccy Creek.
Brock was an early English word of Celtic origin used for badger and occasionally for beaver. On the Camp Smith reservation, this creek drains Broccy Reservoir into the Hudson.
Colabaugh Brook runs from Colabaugh Pond to a cove on the far west shore of the New Croton Reservoir, south of Route 129.
Croton River. Its original watershed has been submerged and incorporated into the New Croton Reservoir and the system of smaller reservoirs backing up the water to within a few miles of the Connecticut border. As a truncated river, it now runs southwest from the New Croton Dam for only three miles to empty into the Hudson south of Croton Point. Croton Point itself is a huge delta formed when the swift-running Croton River, carrying sands, gravels and clay in its glacial runoff, deposited these materials upon reaching the calmer waters of the Hudson.
Dickey Brook forms the southern boundary of Peekskill. It begins in the Blue Mountain Reservation and flows to the Hudson, entering it at Lents Cove, between Indian Point and Charles Point. The 1683 deed to Van Cortlandt used the Indian name for Dickey Brook, Tamoesis Creek. It also marked the southern boundary of Ryck's Patent. In 1685, Ryck Abrahamson and others, including Thouris and Samuel De Key, bought all the land between Dickey Brook and McGregory Brook. Later patented by them and never part of Van Cortlandt Manor, it was a self-governing town from 1770 to 1788.
Dixie Brook runs from Twin Lakes, south of Maple Avenue and west of Croton Avenue, to the New Croton Reservoir's north shore, entering it one-tenth of a mile from the intersection of Hunter Brook Road and Baptist Church Road.
Furnace Brook. Formerly called Jamawissa Creek and also the Old Mill Stream, Furnace Brook is fed by Dickerson Pond and flows through Furnace Brook Pond (also called Furnace Lake), emptying into the Hudson north of Oscawana Island. The "furnace" of the name was the Cortlandt Furnace, built before 1750, and the millrace of the pond supplied it with power. Because of the furnace's proximity to the Hudson, ore from mines in what is now Harriman State Park was transported across the river and smelted at the furnace. Costs turned out to be prohibitive, however, and the furnace was bankrupt by 1764. In its place a gristmill was built to take advantage of the available waterpower.
McGregory Brook. Stephanus Van Cortlandt bought a tract of land from Hugh Macgregor in 1685. The headwaters of McGregory Brook are near the present Westchester Mall. It flows through McGregory Pond and then through Peekskill in a culvert at Main Street, entering the Hudson at Peekskill Bay.
North Brook, a tributary of Putnam Brook, begins in the northeast corner of the Camp Smith reservation.
Peekskill Hollow Brook is the source of the water supply of the city of Peekskill. It forms in Putnam County and flows southeast into Annsville Creek near the intersection of the old Albany Post Road and Dogwood Road.
Purdy Brook. We know that Joshua Purdy lived in the area in 1760. Naumberg Pond forms the headwaters of Purdy Brook, which flows north into the New Croton Reservoir. Purdys came early to Westchester County. There's a Purdy Hill and Purdy Park in White Plains; Purdy Park in Mt. Vernon; Purdy Pond in Ossining; Purdy's Station, a hamlet in North Salem; Purdy's Corner on Mt. Airy in Croton-on-Hudson; and Purdy's Grove in Port Chester, the former name of the present Columbus Park. The Purdy name was originally a French name, Pardieu, the family immigrating to Westchester by way of England and Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Putnam Brook starts near the Putnam County border and flows through Dickiebusch Lake and into the Hudson near Roa Hook. The origin of the name Roa Hook is obscure. It is spelled on old maps as Roay, Roya, Royer, Red, and Rahway Hook. In the past it was pronounced "ro-ay."
Sprout Brook. This name may be a redundancy; in the 18th century, sprout meant a tributary to a larger river. Sprout Brook begins in Putnam County and flows south and southeast through Cortlandt Lake at the Putnam-Westchester border, then joins Peekskill Hollow Brook to flow into Annsville Creek.
Woody Brook flows down the slopes of Torment Hill into Furnace Brook Pond, draining an area occupied by Hessian mercenary troops from June to October in 1779.

Ossining (town and village)
Brandreth's Brook
starts near the Albany Post Road (Route 9) and flows west to the Hudson through the site of the Brandreth pill factory at the north end of Water Street.
Caney Brook in Briarcliff Manor runs south from the pool of the former Briarcliff Lodge, paralleling Sleepy Hollow Road, to Pocantico Lake.
Indian Brook. From headwaters just south of Teatown Lake, it flows southwest to the Croton River at Crotonville. In 1888, the Sing Sing Water Works dammed Indian Brook to create the reservoir at the North Castle line, north of Shady Farm Road and Route 9A.
Jordan Spring. When the interchange from Route 9A to Cedar Lane was built, it obliterated the hamlet here named for a spring on the Jordan family's lands.
Sing Sing Kill has the distinction of being the only watercourse in Westchester County that retains kil, the Dutch word for brook, in its name. Its course leads southwest from Purdy Pond to exit into the Hudson at the Ossining railroad station. Sing Sing Kill is also known as Kill Brook, a redundancy not unlike Rio Grande River or Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Sparta Brook. Taking its name from the little community whose white limestone hills reminded an early settler of Sparta in Greece, Sparta Brook circles to the north of the Arcadian shopping center to empty into the Hudson about 500 feet north of Kemey's Cove. The cove is named for William Kemys, who ground mustard seed in a mill on Sparta Brook for ore than a half century. The family name, originally De Camois became Kemys via mutations such as Camois and Camys.

Peekskill (city)
Annsville Creek
is both a tidal estuary in the original sense of the word, and a freshwater stream carrying the waters of Sprout Brook, Peekskill Hollow Brook and the outflow from Wallace Pond. The Indian name for Annsville Creek was Aquesinnick. In 1891, the F.W. Beers Atlas of the Hudson River applied the name Willow Brook to Annsville Creek.
Soldier's Spring. During the Revolution, while stopping to quench his thirst, a Continental soldier was struck in the thigh by a British cannonball at a spring at Division Street, north of its junction with Highland Avenue. He was transported to Fishkill, where he later died. For many years, the name of the spring at this location commemorated the event.

Yorktown (town)
Bailey Brook.
The name comes from that of a local family. It starts near the intersection of Spring Valley Road and Kitchawan Road and flows north to the west of Bald Mountain. Teatown Lake, constructed by Gerard Swope, also flows into Bailey Brook.
Barger Brook begins in Putnam County and joins Shrub Oak Brook in the community of that name. The brook's name is from the Barger family, former owners of the land through which it flows.
Hunter Brook. The Hunter family lived on Hunter Brook Road starting in the mid-1800s. The brook forms in Shrub Oak and flows south into the Mill Pond and then into the New Croton Reservoir at Baptist Church Road. The hamlet of Huntersville at the foot of Hunter Brook Road was inundated by the reservoir early in the 20th century.
Shrub Oak Brook runs from the hamlet of Shrub Oak to Peekskill Hollow Brook in Putnam County.

Mount Pleasant (town)
André Brook.
So named because it is near the site in Tarrytown where three American militiamen intercepted British Major John André and discovered that he was carrying plans for American stronghold at West Point. His capture led to the revelation that Gen. Benedict Arnold was a traitor. The brook forms the boundary between the towns of Mt. Pleasant and Greenburgh, and between the villages of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. Formerly called Clark's Kill, it enters the Hudson eight-tenths of a mile below the Pocantico River.
Davis Brook. With headwaters on the Grasslands Reservation, it flows through Kensico Cemetery and along the Bronx River Parkway to join the Bronx River at Valhalla.
Fly Kill Brook. Except for brief traces, this redundantly named watercourse now lies under the Taconic Parkway. The "fly" in the name refers not to the insect, but derives from vly, the Dutch word for valley. It formerly began near Stevens Avenue and flowed north to the Saw Mill River in Hawthorne.
Gory Brook. Three theories are offered for this brook's name: (1) local bloody encounters during the Revolution; (2) hogs were once butchered nearby; (3) the name has been shortened from the name Gregory. Take your pick. Gory Brook runs south into the Pocantico River near Gory Brook Road, four-tenths of a mile from Route 9.
Pocantico River. The name is Indian and means "a stream between two hills." It appears in a 1681 deed to Frederick Philipse. It begins south of Route 133 at Echo Lake, formerly the site of Lawrence & Vail's Rockdale Mills. Until the early 19th century, the Pocantico River was called the Mill River because of the many water-driven mills along its banks. Dammed in the 1880s by the New Rochelle Water Company to form Pocantico Lake, lying between Sleepy Hollow and Old Sleepy Hollow roads, and to supply water to North Tarrytown (known as Beekmantown until its incorporation as the village of North Tarrytown in 1874, and now called Sleepy Hollow), the river flows through Kingsland Point State Park, north of the site of the former General Motors assembly plant, and empties into the Hudson.
Rockefeller Brook flows from a source in the Pocantico Hills through the ponds supplying water to the Rockefeller estate and on to the Pocantico River.
Sleepers Haven Kill. A name that has nothing to do with slumber, the Dutch name for the tidal portion of the Pocantico River was Slaper Haven, meaning "secondary harbor," an alternate to Tarrytown as a wheat-shipping point. The widely applied name Sleepy Hollow is merely a misinformed Anglicization of the original Dutch name.
Washburn Brook draws its water from Kinderogen and Hardscrabble lakes and flows to the Pocantico River. The Washburn family owned the land through which it runs.

New Castle (town)
Branch Brook,
also called Kisco Brook, drains Hubble's Pond, between the Saw Mill River Parkway and the Metro-North rail line, in the town of Bedford. It flows south into the Kisco River below Prospect Place. Branch Brook is also a redundant name; "branch" is another name for "brook."
Kisco River. It forms just above the headwaters of the Bronx River, near Whipporwill Road and Haight's Cross Road, and flows north through the village of Mt. Kisco (where it forms part of the New Castle/Mt. Kisco border), thence along Croton Dam Road to empty into the New Croton Reservoir near Stanwood, a hamlet developed in the 1940s by E.G. Stanton.
Roaring Brook. Also called Chappaqua Brook, it forms north of that community and flows into the Kisco River west of Oakwood Cemetery.
Tercia Brook. The brook west of King Street that runs into the Saw Mill River south of the Chappaqua station was dammed by the New Castle Water Company and named Tercia Pond (from tertius, Latin for third) because it was the third lake created by them. The name was then applied to the brook.

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Of Ponds and Lakes: A Catalog of Water Resources


Look at a map of Westchester County, and you'll surely be surprised at the number of ponds and lakes dotting the landscape. Many of these are mute evidence of early industrial technology. Almost from the beginning of settlement, mills sprang up along swift-flowing streams. Gristmills used waterpower to turn their massive grindstones to produce flour. Sawmills cut lumber to meet the housing needs of a population swelled by immigration. Because stream flow could be erratic in dry spells, mill owners built small dams called millponds to assure a constant supply of water. A few ponds were created to supply communities with drinking water or merely for esthetic purposes.

In winter, workers temporarily unemployed in such seasonal industries as brickmaking and farming harvested giant blocks of ice from ponds. Winter-cut ice was stored in giant, well-insulated icehouses for use in the warmer months to come. No longer used as sources of waterpower or ice, these same bodies of water still dot the landscape, offering recreational opportunities for humans and refuges for wildlife, particularly migrating birds. What follows is list of the ponds and lakes, many of which represent links with our past. Where possible, information is given on the derivation of names. Reservoirs are also included. Call it an informal inventory of this area's freshwater resources:

Aschman Pond (Cortlandt), northwest of Mt. Airy Road and southeast of Torment Hill, was named for Charles G. Aschman, owner of the land on which it is located.
Bakwin Pond (New Castle). A tiny pond located north of Croton Dam Road and south of Teatown Lake on land once owned by Morris Bakwin.
Barker Pond (Cortlandt), south of Teatown Road and east of Quaker Ridge Road, is named for Louis Barker, in 1930 the owner of 102 acres of land that included this pond.
Beech Hill Pond (Mt. Pleasant) is north of Route 117 and west of Beech Hill Road; the pond is south of Beech Hill.
Beekman Pond (Mt. Pleasant) was originally dammed by Loyalist Frederick Philipse, who fled to England during the Revolution. Gerard G. Beekman bought the Philipse Manor house from the Commissioners of Forfeiture in 1785. In 1835 his widow had the Philipse estate surveyed and sold off lots to form the nucleus of a community named Beekmantown. The coming of the Hudson River Railroad in 1849 caused Beekmantown to grow. It was known by this name until 1874, when it was incorporated as North Tarrytown. In 1996, North Tarrytown became Sleepy Hollow. The pond is now in Kingsland Point Park.
Broccy Creek Reservoir (Cortlandt) is on the Camp Smith Military reservation. The name comes from an early English word for badger. Broccy Creek runs west from the reservoir to empty into the Hudson.
Brown's Pond (Mt. Pleasant) originally served Bird's Mill on the Saw Mill River. Jackson Brown bought it in 1876. The mill and the pond disappeared in the march of progress with the construction of former Hawthorne traffic circle, which itself has disappeared.
Campfield Reservoir (Peekskill) lies east of Division Street. It was built in 1875 on the site of a Revolutionary War campground.
Campfire Lake (New Castle) takes its name from the Camp Fire Club, which bought the land during the First World War and created the lake.
Cedar Pond and Cedar Swamp. In a 1732 map of Cortlandt Manor, these names were applied to what is now Mohansic Lake. The original name survives in Cedar Point, a promontory jutting into the lake from the south shore.
Cockrene Pond (Yorktown) is located near the southeast corner of the town, south of Crow Hill Road. It takes its slightly altered name from G.A. Cochrane, who built a horseracing track around the pond before 1914.
Colabaugh Pond (Cortlandt) lies east of Colabaugh Pond Road and Mount Airy Road East. The origin of the name is unknown, but it may be Dutch. It appears on maps over the years with a dozen different spellings. Local historian Richard Lederer found the earliest usage (as Callberg) on a 1751 map. Collabaugh [sic] Landing was Croton Landing's name in the early 1800s.
Cortlandt Lake (Cortlandt) is on Sprout Brook on the Westchester-Putnam County line.
Crom Pond (Yorktown) is the name applied to the small lake west of the intersection of Crompond and Baldwin roads. Mohansic Lake is the name of the larger lake. Originally, they were a single body of water called Crom Pond (Dutch for "crooked lake," because of its shape).
Dickerson Pond (Cortlandt) lies between Furnace Dock Road and Croton Avenue, on land formerly owned by the Valeria Home. It is also called Travis Pond. The origin of the Dickerson name is unknown; a Dickerson Mountain is nearby.
Dickiebusch Lake (Cortlandt), formed by damming Putnam Brook, is in the Camp Smith military reservation. The name is derived from the name of Jacobus DeKey, who purchased land here from the Indians in 1685. In the same year, two other DeKeys, Thouris and Samuel, were among the six purchasers from the Indians of Rycke's patent for the land on which Peekskill stands. The DeKey family name also survives in Dickey Brook, which forms the southern boundary of Peekskill.
Diegel's Pond is the former name of Playhouse Pond. The origin of the name is unknown.
Dixon Lake (Mt. Pleasant), north of Pleasantville Road and west of Hardscrabble Road, was created in 1930.
Dream Lake. There are two Dream Lakes. The one in Cortlandt was originally called Aschman Pond. In 1952, Leo Bodner bought the land from Charles Aschman and changed its name to Dream Lake. Major Edward Bowes, famous for his radio program that afforded opportunities for aspiring amateur entertainers to become professionals, built the other Dream Lake, in Yorktown. It lies south of the Croton Reservoir and west of Illington Road, on land later owned by the Wiltwyck School for Boys, which closed in 1981. Mrs. Bowes, an actress, used the stage name Margaret Illington.
Duck Pond (Croton-on-Hudson) is at the corner of Bungalow Road and South Riverside Avenue (Route 9A). Spring-fed, it is shown on old maps as Spring Lake and was a dependable source of ice. Originally much larger, the pond extended to the north toward the intersection of Radnor Avenue and Ridge Road in the area now occupied by a parking lot, playing field and a children's park. In those days, people came to the spring at the head of Bungalow Road to fill jugs and bottles with the clear water.
Echo Lake (New Castle) was the site of the Lawrence & Vail Rockdale Mills and was formed by damming the Pocantico River. It is located west of the Taconic State Parkway and south of Somerstown Pike (Route 133) and is now part of Echo Lake State Park.
Ferguson's Lake (Mt. Pleasant). A tripartite lake named for George Ferguson, who had four large icehouses on the lake west of the Pocantico Hills Central School.
Fish Pond was an early name for the present Beech Hill Pond. The origin of the name seems obvious.
Fremont Pond (Mt. Pleasant) is named for General John C. Fremont. Explorer, soldier, U.S. Senator, Governor and unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate, he retired to a 95-acre estate south of the present Phelps Memorial Hospital. He is buried in Rockland Cemetery.
Furnace Brook Pond (Cortlandt) is fed by Furnace Brook (formerly called Jamawissa Creek and the Old Mill Stream), which is fed by water from Dickerson Pond. Furnace Brook continues through Furnace Brook Pond and empties into the Hudson south of Oscawanna Island. The "furnace" of the name was the Cortlandt Furnace, built before 1750. Because of its proximity to the river, ore from mines in what is now Harriman State Park was transported across the Hudson and smelted at the furnace. Costs turned out to be prohibitive, and the furnace went bankrupt by 1764. In its place a gristmill was built to take advantage of the available waterpower. When the New York Central acquired Odell's lands and used the pond to supply water to its locomotives, it was also called Railroad Pond.
Gate of Heaven Pond (Mt. Pleasant) is on the grounds of Gate of Heaven cemetery.
Glendale Lake (Cortlandt) took its name around the end of the nineteenth century from Glendale Lakes Estate, Inc., which owned 55 acres east of Quaker Ridge Road and north of Ganung's Hill.
Great Pond was the name of Mohansic Lake until the mid-1800s.
Gregory Pond (Cortlandt) was formerly called McGregory Pond. This pond and McGregory Brook take their name from Hugh McGregory (or MacGregorie), who was granted a royal patent in 1691. McGregory Brook forms near the Cortlandt-Yorktown line before flowing through Gregory Pond, then into Peekskill and to the Hudson via a culvert at Main Street.
Griffin's Ice Pond (Peekskill), south of the Bear Mountain State Parkway and east of the Rolling Way, takes its name from local farmer Abraham N. Griffin, who bought the land in 1881. It was later owned by the Peekskill Ice Company.
Hardscrabble Lake (Mt. Pleasant) west of Hardscrabble Road was created in 1935.
Heaptauqua Lake (New Castle) was created and named in 1902 by Victor Guinzburg. Despite its Indian-sounding name, it was intended as a joke. The front part of the name, heaptal, came from friends' frequent joshing comments about the project ("heap talk") and the ending, qua, from Chappaqua.
Hemingway's Lake (Mt. Pleasant) was created by a man named Hemingway, a superintendent on the estate of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. It is the southernmost of the five lakes to the southeast of the Pocantico Hills Central School.
Hollow Lake. A former name of Mohegan Lake.
Indian Brook Reservoir, on the New Castle town line north of Route 9A, includes parts of three towns: Ossining, New Castle and Yorktown. Indian Brook forms below Teatown Lake and flows into the Croton River at Crotonville. The Sing Sing Water Works dammed the brook in 1888.
Journey's End Lake (Cortlandt) lies at the end of Journey's End Road. Broadway and Hollywood actor Holbrook Blinn had a country estate of that name near here. He died June 24, 1928, from an infection caused by a fall from his horse.
Junior Lake (Yorktown), a tiny pond north of Lakeside Street, was created by someone named Halon in 1927.
Kensico Reservoir. When New York City's Board of Water Supply dammed the Bronx River with an earthen dam in 1885 it created the first Kensico Reservoir, a 230-acre affair. In 1917, a new cut-stone higher dam was built near the site of the first dam, creating an even larger reservoir that incorporated the Big and Little Rye lakes.
Kinderogen Lake (Mt. Pleasant) is owned by the Girl Scouts' Camp Edith Macy. The name is reputed to come from the Dutch kinder augen, children's eyes.
Leith Pond. The town of Mt. Pleasant created a park and a pond by dredging a swamp on land formerly owned by Carolyn C. Leith, lying west of Rolling Hills Road and south of Charlotte Place.
Lodge Pool (Briarcliff Manor), a huge outdoor pool, was a feature of the Briarcliff Lodge, which was destroyed in a spectacular fire Sept. 20, 2003. In 1924, Johnny Weismuller trained here for the Olympics held at Paris, France, where he won three gold medals (in the 100- and 400-meter freestyle races and as a member of the victorious 4 x 200-meter relay team.
Lounsbury Pond (Cortlandt) was created when the Lounsbury family dammed Dicky Brook to create an ice pond. The first Lounsbury in the area was a tenant farmer in Van Cortlandt Manor who later bought his farm. The pond is now in the Blue Mountain Reservation.
Macy Pond (Briarcliff Manor) takes its name from owner V. Everitt Macy. From 1914 to 1924 he was Westchester's Commissioner of Public Welfare. He was also president of the County Park Commission. His son, J. Noel Macy, created the Macy newspaper chain.
Meahagh Lake (Cortlandt). The name is from an Indian word meaning "small island," and was used in the deed when the Indians sold what was later called Verplanck Point to Stephanus Van Cortlandt in 1683. In 1872, a swamp along the eastern side of Verplanck Point was dammed to create the lake.
Melvin Pond now lies under Dale Cemetery in Ossining. Thomas Melvin cut ice in this pond before the cemetery association bought it and filled it in.
Miller Pond (New Castle) was not named for an unknown miller but for the owner, J.A. Miller, who owned the land south of Teatown Lake and north of Croton Dam Road.
Mill Pond (Yorktown). A mill once operated here where Hunter Brook was dammed just north of White Hill Road. Mill Pond Road leads to the pond from Crompond Road. The millstones can be seen now at the Davenport House in Yorktown Heights.
Mirror Lake is a name used on an early land records map for what is now Vernay Lake.
Mitchell Lake (Peekskill) is in Depew Park. Mitchell was Chauncey M. Depew's mother's name and his middle name.
Mohansic Lake (Yorktown) is in Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, formerly named Mohansic State Park. Once known as Cedar Pond, the pond is shown on a 1732 map as Crom Pond. Mohansic Brook, also known as Hallock's Mill Brook, drains the lake into the Muscoot River.
Mohegan Lake (Cortlandt) takes its name from the Indian tribe that inhabited the area. Although the names are sometimes used interchangeably, the Mohegans should to be confused with the fierce Mohicans of the upper Hudson Valley. Mohegan Lake drains into Peekskill Hollow Brook. Judge Enu Brown employed from 30 to 40 men to cut ice here during the winter.
Munson Pond (Mt. Pleasant). Frank Munson once owned 108 acres north of Bear Ridge Road at the present Munson Road.
Muscoot Reservoir is an arm of the New Croton Reservoir created after 1906 by the construction of the New Croton Dam (to use their official names).
Naumburg Pond (Cortlandt) lies southeast of the intersection of Quaker Ridge and Blinn roads, and is named for George W. Naumburg, an investment banker who owned land here.
New Croton Reservoir. The original Croton Dam was constructed near the Gate House Bridge in 1842 and traces of it can be seen at times of low water in the reservoir. With the enormous population growth of New York City, this dam soon became inadequate. It was replaced by the New Croton Dam, work on which was started in 1892 and completed almost fifteen years later. Until it was officially named, the dam was informally called the Cornell Dam, from Aaron Cornell, who owned the land on which the New York City Board of Water Supply built it.
Odell's Pond (Cortlandt) was an early name for Furnace Brook Pond. Benjamin Odell operated a gristmill here in the nineteenth century.
Oneonme Lake (New Castle). In 1913, when the dam creating a second New Castle Water Company lake came in over budget, Victor Guinzburg admitted that he had goofed by waggishly naming it Oneonme ("one on me") Lake.
Oppermann's Ice Pond (Mt. Pleasant) takes its name from J.H. Oppermann, who cut ice in the pond south of Carrigan and Franklin avenues.
Osceola Lake (Yorktown) lies north of Route 6. In the past it has been variously called Round Lake and Hollow Lake (both names were also applied to Mohegan Lake) and Jefferson Lake. It took its present name in the early 1900s from the Hotel Osceola. The hamlet to the east was developed in 1923 as Osceola Heights. The name Osceola is not of local origin but memorialized the Seminole Indian chief in Florida who refused to resettle his tribe west of the Mississippi. This touched off the Second Seminole War (1835-1843) that ended with Osceola's capture while negotiating under a flag of truce.
Ossining Reservoir, also called the Pleasantville Road Reservoir, is south of Pleasantville Road between Orchard and Old Briarcliff roads. It is no longer used as a reservoir and has been supplanted by storage tanks. The area around the former reservoir has been improved and made into an inviting park.
Penelope Lake (Peekskill), a dammed portion of McGregory Brook, lies between East Park and Main streets in Tompkins Park. Its name is pronounced "penny-lope" by local residents.
Peterson's Pond (Cortlandt). Created by the New York Central Railroad, it took its name from one L. Peterson, who operated a tree nursery near Washington Street and Montrose Station Road. The railroad constructed a dam to collect water, which was then led through underground pipes to the tracks north of Montrose station. Instead of stopping to take on water, express trains would "jerk water" by scooping it from troughs installed between the rails. Towns where trains seldom stopped but which provided water for locomotive boilers on the fly were referred to as "jerkwater towns."
Phillips Pond was a former name of Furnace Brook Lake.
Playhouse Pond (Mt. Pleasant) is the name given to the pond south of Bedford Road, near the Rockefeller "Play House."
Pocantico Lake (Mt. Pleasant). Like Echo Lake, this is another lake formed by damming the Pocantico River. Pocantico is an Indian word used in the 1681 deed to Frederick Philipse. It means a stream between two hills."
Purdy Pond (Ossining) lies west of Croton Dam Road (Route 134) just south of the New Castle line.
Railroad Pond was another name for Peterson's Pond and Furnace Brook Pond in Cortlandt.
Rockhill Pond (Ossining) is a tiny pond at the base of Rocky Hill, north of Spring Valley Road, immediately south of the New Castle town line.
Round Lake. The name of Mohegan Lake in Yorktown on a 1779 map.
School House Pond (Mt. Pleasant) lies to the east of the Pocantico Hills Central School.
Shadow Lake (Yorktown) is northwest of Croton Dam Road (Route 134) and east of Vernay Lake.
Shrub Oak Pond (Yorktown) is located north of Route 6 between the park and Mill Street. A sawmill off Mill Street cut lumber here for many years.
Silver Lake (Croton-on-Hudson) is the name given to the park and swimming area created by a small dam in the Croton River below Truesdale Drive.
Sparkle Lake (Yorktown), an elongated pond lying west of Granite Springs Road. Around 1927, Frederick Merk, a nurseryman, dammed a spring-fed brook. It took its name from the lake's clear and sparkling water.
Spring Lake was the original name for the Duck Pond, a spring-fed lake at the intersection of Bungalow Road and South Riverside Avenue (Route 9A) in Croton-on-Hudson.
Spy Pond (Cortlandt) is north of Gallows Hill, where British spy Edmund Palmer, a lieutenant in a loyalist regiment, was hanged Aug. 7, 1777, by order of General Israel Putnam.
Still Lake (New Castle) lies west of the Taconic State Parkway and north of Pines Bridge Road. Not a descriptive name; George W. Still owned land here.
Swan Lake (Mt. Pleasant) lies west of André Lane, just south of the Ossining town line. Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., had Trout Brook, a tributary of the Pocantico River, dammed here to create a bird sanctuary. The name Swan Lake has also been applied to the large lake to the south of Route 117 in Rockefeller State Park.
Swope Lake (Yorktown) was named for Gerard Swope, former president of General Electric. It is today called Vernay Lake.
Teatown Lake (Yorktown) in the Teatown Lake Reservation lies to the west of Vernay Lake along Spring Valley Road. Gerard Swope built it.
Tercia Pond (New Castle). After creating two lakes with humorous names (see Heaptauqua and Oneome), Victor Guinzburg's New Castle Water Company added still another lake. Called Tercia Pond, the name is a bastardization of tertia, Latin for third.
Travis Pond is another name of Dickerson Pond in Cortlandt. The name came from Frederick Travis, who owned 330 acres here, 60 acres of which are this pond.
Twin Lakes (Cortlandt) are located south of Maple Avenue and west of Croton Avenue.
Vernay Lake (Yorktown) is located south of the intersection of Blinn Road with Spring Valley Road. It had been formerly called Mirror Lake and Swope Lake. Phil E. Gilbert bought the land from Gerard Swope in 1967 and renamed the lake for Arthur Vernay, who built a house there in 1914.
Wallace Pond (Cortlandt) took its name from Thomas Wallace, operator of a wire mill here. The Wallace Pond Ice Company owned the pond in Annsville Creek west of Route 9 in the early 1900s. A square icehouse measuring 150 feet on a side was located below the outlet of the pond. It had double wall, with 4-by-12-inch studs and measured 37 feet from sill to plate. The one-foot void between the walls was filled with sawdust for insulation. Pond ice was cut by hand and moved through the water by workers with iron-tipped pikes to a continuous chain conveyor that would lift it into the icehouse. One of the biggest users of its ice was Peekskill's Van Cortlandt Dairy. Wallace Pond is now called Westchester Lake.
Whippoorwill Lake (New Castle). Created by the New Castle Water Company's damming of Whippoorwill Brook, it lies between King Street and Frog Rock Road. The name of the brook dates from Colonial times.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

What's In a Name? A Catalog of Indian Place Names in Westchester


Indian names are everywhere in these United States. Thirteen of our largest U.S. rivers have Indian names: Mississippi, Ohio, Yukon, Missouri, Tennessee, Mobile, Atchafalaya, Stikine, Susitana, Arkansas, Tanana, Susquehanna and Willamette. Ten of the major U.S. lakes bear Indian names: Michigan, Erie, Ontario, Okeechobee, Winnebago, Tahoe, Upper Klamath, Utah, Tustumena and Winnibigoshish.

Many of this nation's other natural wonders are of Indian origin: The falls of Niagara and Yosemite, the Adirondack, Allegheny and Appalachian mountain chains, and the Denali, Sequoia, and Shenandoah national parks. And two-thirds of the last 36 states to enter the Union since the late 18th century chose Indian names.

William Penn, writing from Pennsylvania in 1683 to the Free Society of Traders, extolled the virtues of the Algonquian language he had learned and understood, "I know not a language spoken in Europe that hath words of more sweetness or greatness, in accent or emphasis, than theirs: Octococken, Rancocas, Oricton, Shak, Marian, Pequesien, all of which are names of places and have grandeur in them."

Early settlers readily accepted Indian names for natural features, and such names are widespread to this day. Thus, the Indian names of many lakes, ponds, brooks and mountains have survived, often in truncated or Anglicized form. Here are the Indian origins of some Westchester place names:

Allapartus. The area between Croton Dam Road and Spring Valley Road was known by the Indians as Allapartus.
Alipkonk. The Indians' encampment at Tarrytown. It means "where the elm trees grow."
Amackassin. A large rock on the shore of the Hudson River. It marked the northern boundary of Van der Donck's purchase. A similar rock, known as Sigghes stands on the Andrus Foundation property and marks the boundary between Greenburgh and Yonkers.
Amawalk. The name of a reservoir and a mountain, this was the Indian name for a small settlement near the junction of Route 35 and Quaker Street. It means "people gathering up on a little hill."
Armonk. An adaptation of the Indian word for the Byram River. Several meanings are offered: "beaver," "fishing place," "fishing place between the hills," or "came out of the bush."
Apawamis. The area known as Rye Neck was called this by the Indians. They sold it to John Budd, and it was later known as Budd's Neck.
Appamaghpogh. The area to the east of Verplanck's Point sold to Stephanus Van Cortlandt in 1683. The mayor of New York from 1677 to 1678, he eagerly began acquiring land in what would become the manor of Cortlandt in 1697. At the time of his death in 1700, the manor comprised some 200 square miles.
Apwonnah. Milton Bay in Rye was called this ("land-locked bay") by the Indians.
Aqueanouncke. The Indians' name ("red cedar trees"?) for the Hutchinson River.
Aquehung. The Bronx River. Its meaning is disputed.
Armenparal. The brook that became known as Sprain Brook in Greenburgh.
Asoquatah. East Long Pond Mountain in Lewisboro was called this (pine tree sap place?") by the Indians.
Aspetong. The hill northeast of Bedford Center ("the high place").
Asumsowis. The land bordering the Lower Harbor in Pelham ("by the straight inlet")
Bisightick. Used in the deed of 1681 to Philipse to describe Sunnyside Brook.
Cahotatea. "River that flows from the mountains," one of the Indian names for the Hudson River.
Canopus. Sprout Brook in Cortlandt, possibly the name of an Indian chieftain.
Cantitoe. The intersection of Cantitoe and Jay streets in Bedford is known locally as "The Corners." Cantitoe is believed to be a version of Katonah.
Caywaywest. "The other side"--the Indian name for Orienta Point in Mamaroneck.
Chappaqua. The area around the Quaker Meeting House here was called Shappequa, "the place where the brush makes a rustling sound when you walk through it."
Chaubunkongamaug. The Byram River. Reliable accounts report that the Indians used to paddle up the river and ask to "buy rum," from which the river takes its present name. Alternate names are Cohamong, Cobamong, the name of a pond north of the intersection of North Post Road and Old Patent Road in North Castle. The name of the Coman Hills between the Mianus River and Byram Lake is a shortening of the same name.
Cisqua. This name for the meadows north of Mount Kisco and the Beaver Dam River means "a muddy place."
Croton. Adapted from the name of a local chief, Kenotin or Knoten, who lived at the mouth of what is now the Croton River.
Gramatan. To prevent the expansion of New Amsterdam eastward, Thomas Pell bought a large tract of land in what is now Pelham from the Siwanoy Indians in 1654. The name of the Siwanoy sachem who sold the land was Gramatan.
Honge. This name for Blind Brook in a 1681 deed from an Indian named Maramaking and may mean "blind" or "concealed." It forms the boundary between Harrison and Rye. Another name for it was Mockquams, meaning "blind cover tree."
Katonah. Named for the Indian sachem Katonah, a shortened form of Ketatonah, meaning "great mountain." He sold the land in 1680.
Keakates. This name for the large lake in Yorktown appears in a 1686 deed to Stephanus Van Cortlandt. The Dutch called it Crom Pond ("crooked lake"); it is now two bodies of water, Mohansic Lake and the smaller Crom Pond.
Kensico. In 1849, a post office was established in a hamlet that now lies under the Kensico Reservoir. The name was adapted from that of a Siwanoy chief, Cokenseko.
Keskeskick. The name ("a grown green place") for the area north of the Harlem River sold to the Dutch West India Company in 1639.
Kewightequack. This name ("green place") for a bend in the Croton River now submerged under the New Croton Reservoir is mentioned in the 1699 deed to Stephanus Van Cortlandt.
Kightawanck. The Kightawancks, a branch of the Mahicans, lived in the area between the Croton River and Anthony's Nose. The name is in a 1683 deed to Van Cortlandt. A variation of this name appears in the name of the hamlet at Kitchawan and Pines Bridge roads in Yorktown, and in the name of Lake Kitchawan, formerly called Cross Lake, in Lewisboro-Pound Ridge.
Kittateny. This name was once applied to part of Anthony's Nose. It is a variation of Ketatonah, meaning "great mountain."
Laapawachking. An Indian name for Croton Point, "a place of stringing."
Mamanasquag. The area around Peach Lake in North Salem.
Manhattans. De Laet's 1625 name for the Hudson River. The name of the tribe that occupied Manhattan Island and the mainland north to the Saw Mill River and east to the Bronx River.
Manitou. A mountain in the Camp Smith reservation. In Algonquian religious belief, manitou was a supernatural power that permeated the world. The word is from the Ojibway or Chippewa word, manitoo.
Manunketsuck. An Indian word for Long Island Sound, "broad, flowing river."
Mattegticos. This word meaning "clear mud" is found in the 1699 Indian deed selling the Muscoot River to Stephanus Van Cortlandt.
Meahagh. Meaning "small island," the name of this lake in Cortlandt appears in the 1683 Indian deed to Stephanus Van Cortlandt.
Mianus. This river, which rises in Bedford and flows into Connecticut, is named for a sachem ("he who gathers the people") who was killed in 1643. It has been spelled many ways (Maharness, Meyanos, Mayanos).
Miosebassaky. The meadows along the Byram River.
Mohegan. The name of Mohegan Lake, a hamlet in Cortlandt, is also rendered as Mahican and Mohican. The name was given to an Indian confederacy of subtribes that inhabited the Hudson Valley. James Fennimore Cooper's 1826 novel, The Last of the Mohicans, perpetuated the name.
Mopus. Applied to a brook in North Salem and presumably named for an Indian.
Moshulu. The name for Tibbetts Brook.
Mt. Kisco. See Cisqua.
Mughititicoos. The name for the river now called the Titicus.
Muscoot. Applied to a mountain, park, reservoir and river. The county park was formerly the estate of Ferdinand T. Hopkins, developer of a widely sold early seasick remedy.
Nanahagan. A corruption of Nanageeken, the name for this brook (Nanny Hagen Brook) in Mount Pleasant.
Nanichiestawack. An Indian village destroyed by John Underhill in 1664. The exact location is unknown. It may have been at what is known as Indian Hill in Bedford or in Somers, northeast of Whitehall Corners.
Nappeckamax. The Indian village in Yonkers where the Saw Mill River empties into the Hudson. It means "the place of fish traps."
Narahawmis. The area south of Lake Kitchawan in Lewisboro appears on a 1708 deed.
Navish. The name for Croton Point, used in a 1682 deed to Cornelius Van Burgum.
Nepperhann. Also spelled Neperan, this Indian name for the Saw Mill River means "cold running water."
Oscawana. The name of the island and a county park comes from the name of one of the Indian signers of the 1682 deed to William Teller.
Osceola. A lake in Yorktown. The name is from a former hotel popular around the turn of the last century. Actually, Osceola was a Seminole chief who resisted the removal of his tribe from Florida in the 1830's. He died under suspicious circumstances after having been tricked into surrendering in 1837.
Ossining. This Indian name denotes "a place of stones" and came from the dolomitic limestone outcrops.
Pahotasack. McGregory Brook in Peekskill was so designated in a 1695 deed from McGregor to Stephanus Van Cortlandt.
Paquintuk. Peekskill Hollow Brook and Annsville Creek were called this in the same deed.
Peespunk. In Lewisboro, this Indian name was applied to a spring near Route 116 and the Connecticut border.
Pehquenakonck. The name ("the nearby hill place") for Peach Lake and the area along Hardscrabble Road in North Salem.
Peningo. The area between Blind Brook and the Byram River in Rye.
Pepemighting. This was the Indian name ("place where people congregate") for the Kisco River.
Peppengheck. Meaning "chosen land," this was the name for Cross Pond and the Cross River.
Pocantico was applied to the river that flows into the Hudson at Kingsland Point. It means "a stream between two hills."
Pockerhoe. The name for what is now Sleepy Hollow, near the mouth of the Pocantico River.
Pockcotessewake. The Beaver Swamp Brook in Rye, used in the 1661 deed for Apawamis.
Punka-Barre. The area east of Broadway in Hastings-on-Hudson, later called Uniontown by developer Samuel Blackwell.
Quaropas. The Indian name ("white marshes") for White Plains. Obviously, the more names change the more they remain the same.
Rippowam. The Stamford Mill River was called the Rippowam by Indians. In the 1800's it was called the Tatomuck River. It retains its Indian name in Connecticut.
Sachera. Before it was known as the "Westchester Path" or the Boston Post Road, this was the Indians' name for their trail that ran along Long Island Sound.
Sackhoes. The Indian name ("near the mouth of the river") for what is now Peekskill. In 1685, Ryck Abrahamse bought the land between Dickey Brook and McGregory's Brook. The name appears in the 1685 deed.
Sagamore Park in Bronxville perpetuates the Algonquian term for a subordinate chief.
Senasqua. An Indian name ("the grassy place") for Croton Point.
Sepackene. The name for André Brook in Tarrytown is mentioned in Philipse's royal charter.
Sepperack. This name ("a rock with water coming out") for a stream on Croton Point appears in the 1682 deed to Cornelius Van Burgum.
Shatemuc. An Indian name for the Hudson River.
Shenorock. This manmade lake in Somers bears the name of a sachem who lived along Long Island Sound.
Shippa. An Indian settlement near where Davenport Park now is located in New Rochelle.
Sing Sing. Named for the Sint Sinks, Indians living at the "place of rocks."
Siscowit. An Indian word ("muddy place") applied by the Stamford Water Company in 1891 when it acquired Mud Pond (also known as Mead Pond) in Pound Ridge.
Tamoesis. Dickey Brook in Peekskill.
Tanracken. A creek at the base of Croton Point referred to in the 1682 deed of Senasqua.
Tappan. The name of this creek in Cortlandt ("cold stream") was used for what is now called Dickey Brook in a 1683 deed to Stephanus Van Cortlandt.
The Toquams. The name of the tract Nathaniel Turner bought in 1640 for the New Haven Colony from Ponus, the Sagamore of Toquams. It ran eight miles along Long Island Sound and extended inland. In 1684, when the boundary between Connecticut and New York was set at eight miles inland, this created the right-angle notch in Westchester's eastern border south of Armonk and resulted in Westchester’s narrowest width at this point.
Tuckahoe. The name means "place of the tuckah," the root of the golden club, an aquatic plant the Indians roasted and ground into flour.
Waccabuc. Developer Frederick B. Studwell used this name for the lake and community on Lewisboro he created in the 1870's. The Indian name for the lake was Wepuc.
Wampus. In 1696, an Indian by this name (it means "opossum") sold land to Caleb Heathcote, Lord of the Manor of Scarsdale. The name is now applied to a brook, pond, reservoir and park.
Weckquaeskeck. The name of the Indian tribe and settlement at Dobbs Ferry has persisted in the anglicized name of a brook, Wickers Creek.
Wescora. An Indian sachem. Scarborough had this name briefly in 1867.
Wickapy. The name ("at the end of the land") of an Indian settlement near Anthony's Nose.
Wishqua. The area west of Annsville Creek was so called in a 1685 deed to Dekay.
Wykagl. The name of the country club, famous for its golf tournaments, was adopted in 1905. This Indian name comes from a 1614 Dutch map in the Royal Archives in The Hague.

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