the Sturgeon of Liberty State Park

Posted in harbor wildlife, historic vessels, jersey city, liberty state park by bowsprite on 2009/06/25


If you take this little water taxi from Manhattan’s World Financial ferry terminal across the river, it will first stop at Warren street, Jersey City, where you can explore Paulus Hook.

Next stop: south across the Morris Canal Basin to Liberty State Park.

This old Morris & Essex Canal once ran once ran all the way to the Delaware River. Barges carrying mainly coal from Pennsylvania and finished goods from NYC shuttled back and forth. Today, two marinas are here, home to luminaries like the historic–and working!–Tug Pegasus and the hearty denizen of the cold, battering North Sea: Cape Race. (And, a peek here of some of their neighbors.)


pegasuscolortug Pegasus

caperace Cape Race

Liberty State Park is 1,122 acres of open space with sea breezes, parks, salt marshes, wildflowers, two little beaches lined by rocks and flora, and the expansive Hudson Liberty Walk. I save the gem of this park for another post, but for today:


if you walk along the red brick boardwalk that suspends over and transverses the sea into which fishermen cast off,

ellisIsle2and walk behind Ellis Island’s hospital and old buildings
(that walkway over to the island is guarded and not open to pedestrian traffic),


and if you meander through the wildflower fields where you almost can pretend you are in a far away meadow
—until the helicopters and party boats’ booming music remind you of where you really are,


and then go behind the Statue of Liberty with the ferries pulling in and out,
and then turn your back to Lady Liberty, you will see a little beach.


And if you go onto that beach and follow the wrack line, you will see the shells of:
ribbed mussels, clams, oysters and bright orange little crabs.

Signs of life returning to NYHarbor! signs beyond the wood piling eating worms (that are so hardy they begin to bore into concrete!) Signs that the clams and oysters are coming back! How would one have known? there is hardly any access to the water in our harbor!

But there are bigger signs: a 6′ carcass of a sturgeon!


Atlantic Sturgeon  (Acipenser oxyrhynchus)

Recent studies indicate that a population of approximately 150,000 juvenile Atlantic sturgeon may reside in the Hudson River at any one time. This species is not currently fished very heavily; in the past it was harvested in large numbers and often called “Albany beef”.

Atlantic sturgeon can reach lengths in excess of 10 feet and weigh several hundred pounds.

Sturgeons are primitive fishes with rows of bony, armorlike plates on their sides and a skeleton of cartilage rather than bones.  Barbels hang under the sturgeon’s long, flattened snout in front of the mouth. Sturgeon are bottom feeders, their sensory barbels being used to detect food and their protruded, tubelike mouth, to suck in bottom-dwelling plants and animals uncovered as they move along the mud.

Sturgeon flesh is of good quality, and the roe (eggs) of Atlantic sturgeon is the well-known delicacy caviar.

The Atlantic sturgeon is anadromous, ascending large rivers and estuaries to spawn. New York’s Atlantic sturgeon population is restricted primarily to the Hudson River.


IMG_8561 IMG_8566 IMG_8568 IMG_8622

What else lies in the waters that surround us? Both the schooner Pioneer and the sloop Clearwater have trawling sails, where nets are launched and harbor life is brought up to be observed and released.

The Battery Park City Parks Conservancy sponsors the occasional Go Fish event down near Pier A where you can bring  the inhabitants of the deep up yourself, have it recorded, put it in a tank, and then set free.

Of the clams, oysters and mussels, asked Tugster: “Is it edible?” Hmmm. Maybe soon. Maybe, one day, the waters will be so clean that we can wade into our waters with children, pick up a shellfish or two, and have no adverse reactions to popping them down the gullet. I shall keep the vision and hope we move in that direction. In the meantime, move upwind of that sturgeon!

12 Responses

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  1. tugster said, on 2009/06/25 at 09:50

    bowsprite . . . this time you really did it: a book’s worth of watercolors (my favs are three: the shells & crabs, wild meadow flowes, and pegasus with its summer-watermelon-colored house) and a fantastic title: statue of liberty will from now on conjure up . . . sturgeon of liberty. oh to the day we can gorge ourselves on bay shellfish!

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/06/25 at 09:54

      Mmmm! clambake on the Gowanus! bring alcohol–to imbibe & disinfect.

  2. Clearwater « tugster: a waterblog said, on 2009/06/25 at 10:04

    […] Hudson and elsewhere.   Just clear enough water to swim in, at least.  To drink . . . and the shellfish of which to eat . . […]

  3. tugster said, on 2009/06/25 at 10:07

    oh . . .if yer going there . . . bring mayo from the depths of newtown creek and greens from flushing creek. now what dainties might the bushwick inlet offer and what bounties from fresh kills, which truffle would you like from sawmill creek . . . all done in a salad with peking bilge water dressing

  4. Celeste Maia said, on 2009/06/25 at 13:35

    Here’s to “the vision and hope” that soon the waters will be clean so you can go in and swim with the children! I love the watercolors, and I guess you are the artist. I put my nose to the screen to read the little writing under the drawing of clams because it looked like a signature and I read “maggot heaven”…then watched the little video and oh the maggot heaven…
    Really enjoyed this entry.

  5. Mage Bailey said, on 2009/06/26 at 09:24

    Oh, thank you. I’m captivated. Look at those wild flowers magically capturing the imagination. The sturgeon sweeps me away in reality and the beauty of the drawing. You inspire me…….truly. If I could walk the remaining lengths of the canal, I would. You free up my thinking with the sketch of the lady. I’m so hidebound. You are so free.

  6. Michael said, on 2009/06/26 at 16:08

    How wonderful will it be when we can fish from urban shores?! Wonderful like the watercolors.

    Meanwhile, even in the most pristine of waters, a rotting fish stinks. At some point in the millions of years of our evolution, it served our survival purposes to Just Say No to rotting fish. Ixnay on the fish carcassay.

    Or as my nose says: That sh** is WRONG!

  7. Mage Bailey said, on 2009/06/28 at 15:20

    Dear You…… My friend Tom has been involved with this group for a couple of years.

    They have flats of filtering Oysters tied up hither and yon, but there’s no funding any more.

    He said he couldn’t get your email to work nor leave you a note. 😦

  8. Buck said, on 2009/06/29 at 10:10

    Very, very nice post. As always, I can’t tell if I like the drawings or the commentary best. A wonderful predicament to be in!

  9. […] Central New Jersey Rail Road Terminal, Jersey City Posted in harbor wildlife, jersey city, liberty state park, new york harbor by bowsprite on 2009/08/13 Voila, the gem of Liberty State Park! […]

  10. Suzanne said, on 2009/09/02 at 15:28

    This is my favorite urban waterways site yet. Just gorgeous!

  11. frank@nycgarden said, on 2009/12/03 at 16:39

    Very nice. I really like your boats, but particularly the maps! The sturgeon is like a sea monster, what a find!

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