The most familiar part of the Hudson River, running from Albany to New York City, is an estuary - a long arm of the sea subject to tides and the upriver press of salty ocean water. The estuary is home to a diverse array of plants and animals that depend on its productive waters for essential activities such as spawning and wintering.
The Hudson River Estuary, its tributaries and the lands that feed them are home to over 200 types of fish, 19 kinds of rare birds and 140 rare plants (one of which – the Hudson River water nymph – grows nowhere else on earth).
Oysters were once plentiful in the mouth of the Hudson River. In 1911, records show a peak harvest of almost 25 million pounds! In the ensuing years, oysters virtually disappeared from the Hudson, victims of pollution, dredging and over-harvesting. Decades after their disappearance, the oyster may be poised for a comeback – native oysters have been found at the Palisade Boat Club in Hastings-on-Hudson!
Prior to 1900, Atlantic sturgeon were abundant in the Hudson River estuary, especially south of Hyde Park. Nicknamed the "Albany Beef," people once caught large numbers of these huge fish for their delicious meat and caviar. The sea-going Atlantic sturgeon may grow to a weight of 800 pounds and a length of fourteen feet. Years of overfishing have caused Atlantic sturgeon numbers to decrease dramatically. Currently they are federally endangered.
Where salt and fresh water mix, it makes a salty “brackish” home for creatures like the lined seahorse. Yes, the seahorse is a fish! It uses gills to breathe and fins to swim. Its long tail helps it to swim upright and cling to underwater grasses along the riverbank. Sometimes seahorses use their tails to cling to each other and mate. In the warmer months, you can find seahorses in the river’s shallow water around piers and in grassy areas from Staten Island to the Tappan Zee Bridge in Westchester.
Peregrine falcons are listed as an endangered species in New York State. They were nearly eliminated in the 1960s, due mainly to pesticide residues in their prey. The release of young captive bred birds from 1974 to 1988 helped bring them back. Peregrines currently nest on buildings or bridges in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton and Buffalo, with about twenty pairs present in the Adirondacks. The Department of Environmental Conservation has set up several web cams to monitor the animal’s activities.
Hudson River Water Nymph
Animal, vegetable or mineral? You would be correct if you answered vegetable – an aquatic plant to be exact. The water nymph is a lacy, aquatic plant that lives nowhere else on earth. It has long, flexible, string-like branches and leaves that are about one inch long with microscopic teeth along the margins. During low tide, you may find a few plants stranded on the tidal mudflats; otherwise, you are only likely to see this plant when your canoe paddle catches a few stems.