Brooklyn’s shoreline has changed a fair bit over the centuries but there are still spots in the borough that spark the imagination and inspire visions of the past.
Gerritsen Creek, located within the 798-acre Marine Park, is one of those places. While it is only a sliver of what it once was, freshwater still flows to the inlet, nurturing marshlands that support a diversity of wildlife.
Wanderers to the beachfront and trails around the inlet are treated to an avian spectacle. Egrets, herons and ospreys can be spotted along with the more familiar seagulls and geese. The soft calls of warblers can be heard over the faint hum from the nearby Belt Parkway.
White Island, also known as Mau Mau Island, sits in the center of the inlet. A grassland restoration project completed in 2014 cleaned up the island, and it now serves as a habitat for migratory birds.
Amidst all the nature there’s also evidence of the colonial past. Wood pilings can be spotted peeking above the water and some of those are all that remains of Gerritsen’s Mill. The 17th century tidal mill was constructed by the Gerritsen family and operated until the late 19th century.
The survival of the marshland was ensured in 1917 when philanthropists Alfred T. White and Frederick B. Pratt donated 140 acres to the city. Unfortunately, the Gerritsen family mill did not survive to the present day; it was destroyed by fire in 1935.
Today the inlet is home to the Salt Marsh Nature Center. Opened in 2000, it hosts programs where you can learn about the Native Americans who hunted and fished on the land before colonization as well as try hands-on activities like canoeing and hit the trails for bird watching. If you can’t spot any wildlife during your walk, you also can pop inside the nature center for a peek at some of the smaller creatures that call the area home.
A new two-mile hiking trail at the Gerritsen and Seba avenues entrance to the park opened in May, offering another vantage point from which to enjoy the scenic vistas.
[Photos by Susan De Vries]
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