Paddle around Manhatten?

My son and I are planning a canoe paddle around Manhatten and I’m a bit befuddled as to what direction to go and where to put in vis a vi (or however that is spelled) the tidal currents. It is my understanding that proper tidal timing one can circumnavigate with the current the entire trip.

I’ve checked the tide charts and know the predicted high and low times, but I don’t know how to interprete this data.

Can anyone with experience on this route enlighten me?

I have never done it, but friends have. From what I understand you leave the Battery about an hour before low tide & get to Hell Gate at slack tide then ride the incoming tide to Spuyten Divil on the East River. Getting to the Hudson in time to ride tide back to he Battery. There are not many places to stop on this trip. this is the website for a club that I think does it. If link does not work google mask kayak club

Timing is everything
Timing from Liberty State Park and Englewood are here:

You did not participate in this
discussion so I assume you missed it…

There is a lot to think about…especially in an unsupported canoe.

I have done it three times in a surfski. Mayors cup started at Battery park and went clockwise. At race speeds non stop, I don’t think you can do it without a head current at some point. I guess Hells Gate can be very rough at times, but I never had issues there (Mayors cup timing?). I had issues all three times at the south end of the island. It gets really rough with very confused water, and there is virtually no where to pull out. South of Battery park is flanked by a large cement wall where refractory waves bounce back creating instant haystacks that can pop up several feet tall. We took off at the start with a tail current going up the Hudson, but it turns into a head current by the time you come around the bottom, and it is fast and rough. I felt like I was standing still. I normally marathon at near 7mph. 4hrs total time with 30 miles on my GPS. A challenging course with lots of serious boat traffic. Cliff

I’ve done it a number of times.
Usually launch from the Englewood Boat Basin, which is across the Hudson from the Spuyten Duyvil, about an hour after low tide at the Battery and head south. You have about 2 hours of current to round the southern tip of Manhattan - I always take a quick bathroom break at pier 66 and still have no problem making it around Southern Manhattan. We then pull in under the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side where there is a small beach directly under the bridge. If at this point my wife or any females need to use the bathroom they climb a fence and go the South Street Seaport to use the bathroom there. Next stop will be near Hells Gate and there we have wait an hour and a half or so for current to change on the Harlem River.

I’ve only done it in a kayak and conditions can get bad in places.

If you can’t interpret the tide data…
you should probably rethink taking this trip unsupported, in a canoe. I’ve not tried it myself, but those who paddle down there don’t seem to take issue with the name Hell’s Gate.

Go with someone knowledgable
I think you need to hook up with a tour or someone who has experienced a Manhattan circumnavigation. I live here and wouldn’t attempt it on my own, even though I have access to a lot of knowledge about tides, traffic, etc.

Manhatten Paddle
You guys are wonderful! Thank you for all the info.

Based on the general tone, I think we’ll wait until warmer water weather.

Nice idea but
I would feel far safer paddling a river in the arctic. Seems a trip around Manhattan is a very serious undertaking.

I agree!
I have paddled around about a quarter of Lake Superior…most solo and the thought of circumnavigating Manhattan solo leaves me quaking.

This is one trip I would love to have lots of company on…Barges and ships to me are very scary and a canoe mighty invisible.

Maybe some of the experienced guys can go with you?

and longer days
It’s an 8 - 10 hour trip at an easy pace if all goes well.

an open canoe
I agree with other’s comments about not doing it on your own but would add that you should consider how easily an open canoe could get swamped. I’m sure it can be and has been done, but I think it’s the wrong boat for the conditions.


Hell Gate
Currents and eddies at Hell Gate are caused by tides AND the difference in tides causing tidal currents between Long Island Sound, East and Harlem Rivers and the upper bay of New York Harbor. It can be serene or have over a 5kt current. Example if the tide is higher in the Sound the current will flow from the sound to the river, etc.

can be done…
Hi, Lyn –

I have been around at least four times in my open canoe. Now, I have fore and aft, whitewater-style flotation in the boat, so that even when swamped it rides pretty high. And I have practiced self- and assisted rescue. And I go with others; I wouldn’t do it alone. And I plan the trip for a day when the tides put me at the Battery early on a weekend morning, so there isn’t much traffic.

Even with such precautions, I’m still a bit uptight at the Battery and Hell Gate. But no significant problems so far – fingers crossed!


I too, have been around 4 1/2 times, in the Mayor’s Cup Race. (The 1/2 was when the race was called due to conditions.) Hell Gate has always been a non event when I went through, but the East River and the Battery…well, they were…interesting. I’d definitely do it with others who know their way ‘round.’ The takeouts are fairly inhospitable. Under the right conditions, with the right support network, it’s quite an experience, though. Really miss the Mayor’s Cup Race. Ray built a good one.

homeland security
They can be very strict about chasing you away from ships that are moored towards the center of the channel

And of course make sure you have pic id. I often cross the border to canada. Police and other customs people are the boss. You must jump thru their hoops.