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The East River is a tidal strait in New York Citymarker. It connects Upper New York Baymarker on its south end to Long Island Soundmarker on its north end. It separates Long Islandmarker (including the boroughs of Queensmarker and Brooklynmarker) from the island of Manhattanmarker and the Bronxmarker on the North American mainland. In reference to its connection to Long Island Soundmarker, it was once also known as the Sound River.


The river was formed approximately 11,000 years ago at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation. The distinct change in the shape of the river channel between the lower and upper portions is evidence of this glacial activity. The upper portion (from Long Island Soundmarker to Hell Gate), running largely perpendicular to the glacial motion, is wide, meandering, and has deep narrow bays on both banks, scoured out by the glacier's movement. The lower portion (from Hell Gate to New York Bay) runs north-south, parallel to the glacial motion. It is much narrower, with straight banks. The bays that exist (or existed before being filled-in by human activity), are largely wide and shallow.


Historical film of the east river, leading up to a final shot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The East River is dangerous to people who fall in or attempt to swim in it, although as of mid-2007 the water was cleaner than it had been in decades. Anyone in the channel would find there are few places to climb out. According to the marine sciences section of the city Department of Environmental Protection, the channel is swift, with water moving as fast as four knots (just as it does in the Hudson River on the other side of Manhattan). That speed can push casual swimmers out to sea. A few people drown in the rivers around New York City each year. The strength of the current foiled an effort in 2007 to tap it for hydroelectricity.
Historically, the lower portion of the river (separating Manhattan from Brooklyn) was one of the busiest and most important channels in the world, particularly during the first three centuries of New York City's history. The Brooklyn Bridgemarker, opened in 1883, was the first bridge to span the river, replacing frequent ferry service. Some passenger ferry service remains between Queens and Manhattan.

The Bronx River drains into the East River in the northern section of the strait.

North of Ward's Islandmarker, it is joined by the Bronx Killmarker. Along the east of Ward's Island, at approximately the strait's midpoint, it narrows into a channel called Hell Gate, which is spanned by both the Triborough Bridgemarker, and the Hell Gate Bridge. On the south side of Ward's Island, it is joined by the Harlem Rivermarker.

Southern view of the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges (front to back), seen from the East River.
Newtown Creek on Long Island drains into the East River, forming part of the boundary between Queens and Brooklyn.

The East River contains a number of islands, including:



The river is spanned by eight bridges, which from north to south are:


The river is spanned by thirteen tunnels. From north to south, along with uses as of July 2006:


See also


  1. Montrésor, John (1766). A plan of the city of New-York & its environs. London.
  2. The Queens Gazette: The East River Flows From Prehistoric Times To Today
  3. [1]"Welcome, Students. Now Watch It.", no byline, article in The New York Times, "Metro Section", August 30, 2007, accessed same day
  4. [2]"East River Turbines Face Upstream Battle" Gothamist

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