(Use this page to print out the hike. Click the back button to go back to the webpage - www.berkshirehiking.com)
In America there are two bridges that vie for most recognizable - Brooklyn Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge. Brooklyn is older so I'm giving the Brooklyn Bridge the title of America's Bridge. The day it opened it was a literal and figurative giant. It dwarfed everything in sight and it bridged the immigrant neighborhoods of Brooklyn with bustling Lower Manhattan. It's not a stretch to say it changed America and thus the world because at the time it was light years ahead of anything accomplished and it inspired nearly everyone to dream a little bigger and feel a little more secure about the future after a difficult post-Civil War America. It was an architectural wonder and changed the way the world dealt with urban landscapes.
Walt Whitman had to take a grungy crowded ferry from where he lived in Brooklyn to get to Lower Manhattan on May 23, 1883. The next day, Brooklyn Bridge allowed him to walk across, and high above, the filthy East River right into Lower Manhattan. He was thrilled along with the hundreds of millions who have followed. The bridge was 5 years before the Eiffel Tower, 50 years before the George Washington Bridge and Empire State Building, 60 years before the Golden Gate Bridge, 90 years before World's Trade Center and Sears Tower. Las Vegas and Phoenix were dirt-town outposts decades away from becoming part of America. The Brooklyn Bridge was the Wright Brothers' first flight and the Apollo moon mission all wrapped up into one. It was the future and everyone in America and the world was stunned and awed by it and what it represented -- a move into uncharted territory that excited and inspired nearly everyone. Once it was built, modern cities changed and sprung up everywhere.
Whitman is thought of as an old time writer and pictured in a way that suggested he may have preferred "the old ways". Not true. He loved technology, steel, iron, tall buildings, row houses, big cities, throngs of people, dank city streets, dirty people, cultured people, people on the cutting edge of new things. It's why he loved the Brooklyn Bridge and wrote of it so often. You can follow in his footsteps and experience the same excitement. For our purposes here, it's an amazing hike with stunning views, "wildlife", big blue skies, open spaces, and about the best river hike available!! There are far too many reasons to list why you should hike across the bridge so I'll keep it simple. Unreal views, world famous bridge, prime people watching, thrilling river views, easy access, water wonders, safe urban adventure - it should inspire you to get to the bridge if you haven't been yet. It's easy-on/easy-off access and perfectly kept walkway just invites a person to rise up into the bridge and overlook New York City for a perspective like no other.
Walk one way, just over a mile in total distance from entry/exit points, and you'll see everything there is too see...or fairly close to it. Walking over the bridge during the day is breathtaking. At dusk or dawn, in the rain, it's cinematic. At night it's stunning. Go when it's busy and your eyes will see urban throng. You'll meet every single type of person that exists on the planet. Churches, skyscrapers, homes, boats, planes, subway trains, bikes, cars, motorcycles, birds, people, fish, ocean crabs riding river currents, sky, clouds, earth, water, and rural distances. If you put your head down and just walk you'll miss it all. You'll feel the weather in a way not possible "back on land". You can walk under it, around it, and perhaps can get a tour inside of it. Have fun and enjoy the day but take the time to look how intricate and massive a project it must have been to build back then. Notice the historical plaques along the way and remember the 23 people who died building it. Thank them. Take your lunch and lean up against a massive pillar and look up into the maze of steel strings holding it all together. Imagine how they worked back in those days and realize even today it would be a monumental feat. If you take a child and look out over the world from the top, they'll remember it for the rest of their life. They'll never forget it. Neither will you.
For most people it will be easier to access from the Manhattan side and over to Brooklyn and back again, but doing it the opposite way is fine of course. Over on the Brooklyn side is a beautiful, bustling river front park, looking back out over to Manhattan, with scenes you'll recognize instantly from movies you may have seen. In Brooklyn it's easy to drift off into the neighborhoods to find all sorts of history, architecture, shops and amazing places to eat with a world-wide cuisine for all budgets. Over in Manhattan the bridge pours you right out into Lower Manhattan near City Hall, Chinatown, Wall Street, not far at all from the tip of Manhattan and South Seaport region. As far as hikes go, you can't go wrong! Just don't expect peace and quiet...or you could put on your headphones and play your favorite peaceful music to drown out the noise and add a cinematic score to your cinematic experience...but sometimes peace and quiet is boring. Brooklyn Bridge is one place where peace and quiet just wouldn't be right!Directions:
For directions on how to get onto the walkway that spans the bridge it might be best to visit the website Transportation Alternatives (http://www.transalt.org/bridges/brooklyn.html) as they name the street access and made two small but nice maps to help folks get onto the bridge from either Brooklyn or Manhattan. And easy way to find the Manhattan access is to walk along City Hall Park along Centre and Chambers streets and the bridge is right across the street.
New York City also maintains live webcams all over the city at their traffic/transportation website. Visit this page, scroll down the page, then click the Brooklyn Bridge @ Centre Street. It'll give a live video of the entrance into the bridge. http://nyctmc.org/xmanhattan.asp
Wikidedia also has an amazing resource with all sorts of info and web links about the Brooklyn Bridge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooklyn_BridgePrintable version of the Central Park page
© Berkshire Hiking 2006