Pelham Bay Park
Located east of Hunter Island along the northern point of Orchard Beach, the 19-acre Twin Islands and the surrounding environment are a valuable natural asset to New York City. The Twin Islands are one of the last remaining salt marshes in the New York City area. Among New York’s least known, and most valuable, natural resources are its salt marshes. Salt marshes are transitional zones: they lie at the border of land and sea, between the ocean's waves and freshwater rivers and streams. Salt marshes are natural filtration systems that trap pollutants from sewers and septic fields that would otherwise contaminate our bays and oceans. They have a self-cleansing ability and absorb fertilizers to improve water quality. They reduce erosion, and they provide for rich wildlife habitats.
The Siwanoy, a tribe of the Lenapes, originally inhabited the Twin Islands of Pelham Bay Park. Like the adjacent Hunter Island, the islands were known as “Laap-Haw-Wach-King,” or, “the place of stringing beads.” The Siwanoy used the islands for hunting, fishing, and collecting wampum. They also performed spiritual ceremonies on the large glacial boulders, Mishow and Gray Mare. On June 27, 1654, the Siwanoy sold the Twin Islands to Thomas Pell (1613-1669), as part of the Pell purchase. Pell’s manor once included the eastern half of the Bronx and Westchester. The islands changed hands many times before the 1880s, when banker James D. Fish built a red sandstone mansion on them. In 1888 the City of New York acquired the Twin Islands as part of the greater Pelham Bay Park purchase, and Fish’s mansion was torn down. The islands were a popular spot for German, Scandinavian, Czechoslovakian, and Russian boaters and canoeists in the early 1900s.
In 1936 Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) removed the bungalows along Rodman’s Neck, Hunter Island, and the Twin Islands for the construction of Orchard Beach. Moses’ ambitious $8 million plan to renovate the area added 115 new acres of land, using over 3 million cubic yards of sanitation landfill to join Rodman’s Neck to Hunter Island. Construction crews added white sand from the Rockaways in Queens and Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to the beach at a rate of 4,000 cubic yards a day. The islands, originally know as East and West Twin, were joined to Orchard Beach in 1947.
The Twin Islands are home to a wide variety of animal and plant life. Migratory birds like the Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), Black-crowned Night Heron (Nyctiorax nyctiorax), Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea), Great Egret (Casmerodius albus), Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), and the Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) feed off the fish of the salt marsh. The area also holds saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), the signature plant of a salt marsh.
The Twin Islands received an important restoration in 1995. The $850,000 Twin Islands Salt Marsh Restoration Project was funded in part by grants from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Environmental Quality Bond Act. Parks’ Natural Resources Group carefully dredged 2,000 cubic feet of marshland and carried out extensive plantings to bring the islands back to their natural state.
Directions to Pelham Bay Park
Know Before You Go
Pelham Bay Park
Raccoons in Pelham Bay Park have tested positive for canine distemper virus. Although the virus cannot be transmitted to humans, it may be transmitted to dogs. Keep your pets safe in the park.
Please avoid wildlife and make sure your pets have up-to-date distemper and rabies vaccines. We strongly recommend keeping your pet on a leash, especially during dawn and dusk.
Please call 311 or notify an on-site Parks employee if you see a sick or injured animal.
If you are bitten, wash the wound with soap and water immediately. Call your doctor to see if you need tetanus or rabies shots, and call 311 to report the bite.
The Health Department will continue to monitor this condition.
Anticipated Completion: Fall 2018
- NEW YORK CITY’S 14 MILES OF PUBLIC BEACHES OPEN THIS WEEKEND
- SPRING BREAK: NYC PARKS’ URBAN PARK RANGERS OFFER SCHOOL RECESS FUN FOR KIDS ACROSS THE CITY
- NYC PARKS OPENS OUTDOOR GYM AND NATURE WALK AT PELHAM BAY PARK
- Fall Cocktail Party
- Smithsonian Museum Day Live!
- Wholesome Eating
- Survival Series: Shelter Building
- CityParks Seniors Fitness Tennis
- Barbecuing Areas
- Baseball Fields
- Basketball Courts
- Bicycling and Greenways
- Bocce Courts
- Dog-friendly Areas
- Football Fields
- Golf Courses
- Great Trees
- Handball Courts
- Hiking Trails
- Historic Houses
- Horseback Riding Trails
- Kayak/Canoe Launch Sites
- Nature Centers
- Roller Hockey
- Running Tracks
- Spray Showers
- Tennis Courts
- Wi-Fi Hot Spots