Native Americans called this area “esepu” meaning “high banks.” Gently sloped lands with banks high above the Hudson River and a tall ridgeline offering shelter from the prevailing westerly winds create an ideal and varied agricultural environment. Wineries sell locally produced wine and farm stands offer freshly picked fruits and vegetables, baked goods, hot cider, and local crafts. For those who prefer a step fresher, you can pick-your-own apples or pumpkins.
Founded in 1811, Esopus is historically a port town. Esopus’s marine heritage is evident at the many active marinas in the hamlets of Connelly and Port Ewen. The Klyne Esopus Museum, housed in an 1827 church and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has many artifacts and documents relating to maritime activity, as well as those reflecting our local and Native American history. The Hudson River maritime heritage is also evident in the Shrine of “Our Lady of the Hudson”, a bluestone statue at the Presentation Church, overlooking the river, sculpted by Thomas Penning in 1952 with funds raised by local boatmen and towing companies. For many years boatmen would blow the “Port Ewen Salute” as they passed the ‘Madonna cradling a tug boat”.
Esopus is bordered on three sides by water: the Hudson River to the east, the Rondout Creek to the north, and the Wallkill River to the west. At Sleightsburg Park on the Rondout, fishing is available as well as a public boat launch. Spanning the Wallkill River in Rifton is the famed Perrine’s Bridge – the oldest remaining covered wooden bridge in New York, built in 1835. Upstream from here, the gentle current of the Wallkill River offers leisurely canoeing, kayaking or fishing. Whether viewed via the 2-mile drive along scenic River Road, or a 3-hour narrated cruise aboard the Rip Van Winkle sailing out of Rondout Creek, you will see the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse which is the last remaining wooden lighthouse on the Hudson. It is within viewing distance from the 100 acre Esopus Meadows Point Preserve and Environmental Center, offering Greenway trails and an interpretive botanical trail. Hiking trails ranging from Sunday strolls to rigorous hikes abound at nature preserves including the 570 acre Shaupeneak Ridge Recreation Area, featuring Louisa Pond, in Ulster Park. In West Park is the 130 acre Black Creek Forest Preserve. Not to be overlooked in that hamlet is the 192 acre John Burroughs Sanctuary, home of the National Historic Landmark “Slabsides” rustic cabin retreat built in 1895.
Port Ewen is the town center, which boasts an environmentally friendly Town Hall. A small park there is dedicated to the memory of Isabella Baumfree – the abolitionist and suffragist known as Sojourner Truth who was born, lived and worked in a number of places in Esopus. At the north end of the village with a beautiful Hudson River view, duck pond, and resident turtle is the Esopus Library, offering a variety of adult and children’s programs, lectures, and art exhibits. Heading south along Route 9W is the business district and further along are fine restaurants, family entertainment venues and affordable lodging facilities. Lining the shores of the Hudson along that route are stately religious institutions and monasteries; most with bookstores, gift shops and public tours. Enjoy your Esopus experience.
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