Bow Bridge at Dusk, Central Park, 2010 by James Maher.
(*I write these articles because I love the city and the incredible stories behind each grand structure. You can help support my photography and writing by purchasing an archival print of Bow Bridge for your home. Photos with links below them are for sale.)
The crown jewel of Central Park, Bow Bridge's slightly swooping 'archer's bow' has held held the hearts of native New Yorkers, tourists, couples, brides and grooms, movie-watchers, joggers, row-boaters, photographers, and fishermen since it was built in 1862.
The epitome of New York romanticism, this Victorian cast-iron bridge was built with 'classical Greek refinement,' incorporating elements of Gothic, Neo-Classical, and Renaissance design, and has eight three and a half foot tall planting urns. The bridge spans 87 feet, with a walkway of ipe, a South American hardwood that turns a deep red when wet. The bridge is the second oldest cast iron bridge in America.
The passageway was created as part of the plan of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (the creators of Central Park) to develop an interwoven transportation system of pedestrian paths, bridle trails, and carriageways, with a system of compact bridges and archways that would allow for a large amount of competing paths within a small area.
Bow Bridge and Leaves, Central Park, 2010, by James Maher.
Bow Bridge swoops gently over The Lake, connecting the lakefront setting of Bethesda Terrace and the hilly, grassy area of Cherry Hill, named for the Cherry Blossom trees that bloom in winter and popular with picnickers, readers, and sunbathers, with The Ramble, a tree-covered, hilly woodland walk, meant to allow New Yorkers to get lost in nature and often frequented by bird watchers and natives looking to momentarily escape the city.
A park favorite of New Yorkers and Tourists (and my #1 recommendation of things-to-do in New York), is to grab some sandwiches, rent a rowboat at the Loeb Boathouse, and travel under Bow Bridge (even better, grab a drink at the Boathouse before). The Lake has a huge network of hidden alcoves to stop and eat, to lie down, or read a book in (or to see turtles mating), and mainly to escape the other boats roaming the lake. Boats cost $12 for the first hour with a $20 deposit and each addition 15 minutes is $2.50. It is cash only and the nearest ATM is hard to find.
A six person gondola with a gondolier can even be rented for $30 per half hour, but reservations must be made in advance.
Bow Bridge and The Ramble, 1861.
Bow Bridge and Row Boaters, Central Park, 2009 by James Maher.
(Note: as I took the below image at dusk, a long exposure that made me stand still for 30 seconds, I looked down at the end to see a family of raccoons surrounding me.)
Bow Bridge at Dusk in Color, Central Park, 2010 by James Maher.
- Built: 1862
- Length: 87 feet, 60 feet over The Lake
- Second oldest cast-iron bridge in America
- Walkway made of South American ipe hardwood.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Bow Bridge can be best accessed by entering Central Park at 72nd street on either end of the park. It is also easily accessible from Bethesda Terrace.
Rowboats can be rented at the Loeb Boathouse on The Lake with a deposite of $20 (cash only). The cost is $12 for the first hour and $2.50 for each additional 15 minutes.
Bow Bridge is 87 feet long and 60 feet span over The Lake
Manhattan, The Way We Were, Spiderman 3, Highlander, Keeping the Faith, When in Rome, Made of Honor, Night at the Museum, Autumn in New York, Great Expectations, Uptown Girls, Glee.
The 150th anniversary of Bow Bridge occurs in 2012.