April 19, 2020 – Pleasantville, NY
Length: Approximately 2 miles
Max elevation: 245 ft. – total elevation gain: approximately 53 ft.
Route type: Out and back
Trailhead parking: Old Sleepy Hollow Rd, Pleasantville, NY 10570
Pocantico Lake County Park is a 164-acre parcel of land that features the 69-acre Pocantico Lake, which formerly provided a population of 26,000 with drinking water. The property, situated mostly in the town of Mount Pleasant, is adjacent to Rockefeller State Park Preserve. The park which does not appear on Westchester County’s list of parks, is undeveloped and dedicated for passive park use only, including hiking, fishing, horseback riding and nature study.
There are three access points to the park, at the junction of Sleepy Hollow Rd and Old Sleepy Hollow Rd, in Pleasantville; from Pocantico Lake Rd, also in Pleasantville; and from Old Sleepy Hollow Rd in Briarcliff Manor.
There are no marked trails at Pocantico Lake County Park, just an abandoned section of Pocantico Lake Road that follows the contour of the lake along its eastern shore. The road does not loop around the lake, beginning at the southern end by the dam and ending at its northern point in Briarcliff Manor.
The Pocantico River and Pocantico Lake traverse the park from north to south where they empty into the Hudson River at Kingsland Point Park in Sleepy Hollow (North Tarrytown until 1996). The river was once called by the English as “the Mill river,” while the Native Americans called it Pocanteco, a derivative of the Algonquin term Pockóhantès, meaning a “run between two hills.”
The original dam and reservoir were built around 1888 by the Pocantico Water-Works Company to supply water to North Tarrytown and neighboring municipalities. Later it was owned and operated by the Consolidated Water Company of Suburban New York (circa 1910) and at some point after 1920, it was transferred to the the New Rochelle Water Company which operated it until about 1977 when the use of the facility as a water supply was abandoned.
The Pocantico Lake site was operated as a water supply until 1977, when it was considered more economical to buy water from the New York City reservoir system. In the early 1980’s, the site was sold to private interests and was expected to be used for residential development.
In 1992 Westchester County bought the 164-acre parcel, including the 69-acre Pocantico Lake, from a Pennsylvania developer for $3.7 million. After being classified by NYSDEC as “high-hazard,” the demolition and reconstruction of the Pocantico Lake Dam was completed in 2013.
This hike is an out and back along the paved service road that begins at the gate on Old Sleepy Hollow Road.
Proceed past the gate and walk along the paved road which parallels the Pocantico River on the left. In a short distance the road comes to the ruins of an old stone pumphouse near the base of the dam.
Walk along the left side of the building and follow the footpath to the top of the dam, along the spillway.
The spillway Is constructed on bedrock and discharges through a bedrock channel down to the Pocantico River.
Pocantico Lake, a reservoir was formed by the construction of a concrete and earth dam across the river. The dam was raised in 1916 and completely rebuilt in 2013.
Walk across to the other side of the dam and on the left you will see a woods road. This is an abandoned section of Pocantico Lake Road, which you will be following. You may want to take a moment to check out the abandoned structure that sits opposite the road.
The large stone building at the base of the dam served as a filtration plant and pumphouse.
Concrete water settling/treatment pools (coagulation basins) are now abandoned. From an intake shaft located near this dam, the water flows by gravity to a coagulating basin in the form of a steel stand pipe located below the dam. The suction lines of the pumps are led from this stand pipe.
When you are ready to proceed walk along Pocantico Lakes Road taking time to stop along the viewpoints at the edge of the lake.
In about 0.3 mile the road reaches a footbridge at the Pocantico Lakes Road Trailhead. Continue past the bridge and boulders that block vehicle access on the other side. You are now walking on the Pocantico Lake Trail.
The Pocantico Lake Trail crosses an old bridge at the northern end of the lake, with a view south towards the dam.
This is the Briarcliff Manor Trailhead which allows parking on either side of the sign.
Now retrace your steps and follow the road back the way you came.
Be on the lookout for birds that are active in this area. We saw several Turkey Vultures and a Red-tailed Hawk.
Recross the dam, walk along the paved service road and back to the parking area, where the hike began.
A very pleasant walk along the lake, with some interesting ruins to view. The roadside parking area on Old Sleepy Hollow/Sleepy Hollow Roads is usually lined with cars, but most are entering Rockefeller State Park Preserve. We visited at about 11:00 am on a Sunday for about an hour or so (during social distancing) and there were relatively few people there. A nice place to visit if you’re trying to avoid the masses.
Pocantico Lake, New Rochelle Water Company ruins, lightly trafficked, lots of bird activity.
Take a hike!