Cranberry Lake Preserve and Kensico Dam are so physically close together that I would recommend visiting both in one trip. It’s also appropriate to cover to two together because they share a history – the large amounts of granite dug up from the quarries around Cranberry Lake made the dam what it is today.
The lake preserve is about 190 acres, containing both a lake and several ponds. It has a good mixture of high and low terrain – grey cliffs give way to swamp in a concentrated area. Several trails provide a good introduction to the area. I’m going to guess that the purple trail is very popular because it leads you high up on the cliffs to survey the remains of a geological goldmine. But first, let’s highlight the views along the way…
Cranberry Lake itself is quite large and very peaceful.
What looks like a stone shelter is really the remnants of a farmer’s storage shed.
What would a forest be without a few moldering antique cars?
At last we come to the quarry cliffs. I was told people would swim down there in the summertime. The water looks highly questionable though.
This large railroad wheel reminds us of what it took to get quarried stone from one place to another.
The cliffs are everywhere – just a little rock scrambling up to the top will reward you with views of the hawks that live nearby.
Kensico Dam is monstrous, to put it lightly. On one side is a flat park with a lot of lawn space. On the other side a gazillion gallons of water. The granite stone from Cranberry Lake is what keeps the water safely where it belongs. The dam has been in place since 1917.
Rather than just stare upwards from the foot of the dam, you should take a walk along the length at the top. To get to the top, you have choices on either end of the dam. If you choose the left side, you will encounter some steep steps. The right side has a gentle slope that’s good for bikes, strollers, and wheelchairs. There used to be car access at the top, but that is no longer the case after 9/11.
The view at the top is lovely. So much water! I’ve heard that people fish for trout here.
Cranberry Lake Preserve is in Westchester near White Plains. It is open from dawn to dusk and there is no entry fee. No dogs or bikes are allowed. Kensico Dam is a 3-minute drive away. It also has no entry fee. Feel free to bring your dogs and bikes here. The wide open lawn space is also ideal for kite flying.