by Andrew Rosenberg, 01/28/2014
Photo: Rob Buchanan
Life on the Canal
Contaminated soon after its mid-1800s construction as a drain for area marshlands and a conduit for commerce, the canal lengthened a creek that, according to Dutch settlers, held oysters the "size of dinner plates" that were "the best in the country." A few folks have dedicated themselves to bringing life—shellfish included—back to the canal and turning around its unsavory reputation. The Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club was founded in 1999 as an offshoot of a group that worked to repair the flushing pump for the canal, which was named a Superfund site in 2010. Coveting direct contact with the waters they've helped clean, the club takes canoes out for pleasure paddles and sunset skims; you can join them May through October. Daily memberships are available for Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons if you don't want to pay the annual fee; either way, a bit of experience is recommended. Besides exercise, a paddle around will give you an eye-opening perspective on your surroundings. They operate out of a riverbank container at the canal terminus of 2nd Street but are seeking a more permanent boathouse.