Indian Lake and Boathouse
Indian Lake and the Boathouse are at the heart of 127.5 acre Crotona Park, located in the South Bronx. The name “Indian Lake” is thought to have been given by local youths who resided in the area in the late 1800s. They imagined that the formation of rocks at the southern end of the lake was the site of a Great Council Meeting of Native Americans. They envisioned Weckguasgeeck Indians sitting around the lake on the ledge of the rock surrounding their chief, who would be smoking the legendary peace pipe with newly-arrived Europeans seeking land to settle. Thus, the lake came to be known as “Old Indian Lake” by the community, although now many people simply refer to it as Crotona Lake.
When first settled, the area around Indian Lake was said to have some of the finest forest habitat downstate, comparable to the Adirondacks. Black bears, pheasants, rabbits, and deer were all abundant, making Indian Lake a popular hunting ground. The Morris family, who settled 2000 acres of land in southeast Bronx in the mid-1600s, sold the property to Andrew Bathgate, their manor foreman, and his family controlled it from 1847 to 1888. During this time the Bathgate family opened the lake area to the public for picnicking and recreation, and they leased the rights to harvest ice from the lake to a local brewery. The area just west of the park retains the Bathgate name.
Parks acquired the property that was to become Crotona Park in 1888 as part of the newly created Bronx Park System. Many changes were made to the landscape to accommodate the influx of people seeking recreational activities such as ice skating and boating on the lake. At the turn of the century a wooden cabin with a patio overlooking the lake was built on the site of today’s boathouse to serve concessions to park patrons. By 1914, the natural perimeter of the lake had been replaced by concrete walls and pathways and gas lamps were installed.
During Parks Commissioner Robert Moses’ (1888-1981) tenure, many improvement projects were completed throughout the park. When the original boathouse on the north end of the lake burned down in the 1940s, a new brick boathouse was constructed. The Boathouse was renovated in 1982, and serves Urban Park Rangers and Parks maintenance staff.
Directions to Crotona Park
Know Before You Go
Crotona Park Nature Center
The Crotona Park Nature Center is currently closed, with no public access.
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