If you’ve ever strolled over to the edge of the lawn at Boscobel – the mansion where the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival takes place each summer – to admire the spectacular panorama of the Hudson Highlands while waiting for the play to start, you’ve undoubtedly noticed all that green space in the middle of the river. It looks almost as if you could walk across it all the way from Cold Spring to West Point.
You can’t, quite; but Constitution Island and the adjoining Constitution Marsh do take up a fair bit of real estate on what is widely regarded as the Hudson’s most scenic, Rhinelike stretch, just downstream of Storm King. Viewing them from on high in summertime, you might have made a mental note to come back and explore them more closely, when marshy places are no longer plagued by biting insects. Consider this your reminder to do just that.
The 270-acre Constitution Marsh is home to an Audubon Center and Sanctuary, because it’s a rich estuarine habitat, particularly for birds. It’s a great place to spot bald eagles, and home to thriving populations of red-winged blackbirds, mallard and black ducks, herons and kingfishers. The Hudson Valley is also a busy migratory flyway, so two-legged spring and fall visitors have a good chance to see uncommon winged passers-by as well. Mammals to look out for include the rare bobcat, plus coyotes, minks and muskrats.
Though accessible both on foot and by water, Constitution Marsh is quiet and rarely crowded. The season is over for guided canoe trips out of the Audubon Center and kayak expeditions led by Hudson Valley Outfitters; but if you have your own non-motorized watercraft, you can still pick a nice late fall day to launch from Foundry Dock Park in Cold Spring and explore the wetland habitats. For safety’s sake, buddy up, wear your PFD and pay attention to the tide charts.
The easiest way in is to hike. From the designated parking area at the intersection of Warren Landing Road and Indian Brook Road, a little ways off Route 9D, the walk into the Marsh and back is slightly less than a mile round-trip – though you might want to extend it with a side trip to the lovely Indian Brook Falls, a bit further inland from the river’s edge. The short hike into Constitution Marsh starts with a brief scramble over some rocky terrain, but is not otherwise difficult. It ends in a 700-foot boardwalk leading to rustic benches where you can enjoy a bag lunch while birdwatching.
The Audubon Visitors’ Center, which has restrooms and running water, is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. most of the year, with limited weekend hours during the winter. Dogs are not permitted inside the Sanctuary. Bring your own water bottle, and be prepared to pack out your own trash. Wear sturdy footwear for the steeper section of the trail.
For detailed directions for parking and trailfinding, plus a map, visit https://bit.ly/2heC9JN. To find out more about Constitution Marsh, including schedules for canoe tours next season, call (845) 265-2601 or visit https://bit.ly/2g7RICo.