Winters so cold, the East River froze over

Who wouldn’t love to see the East River temporarily become an ice skating rink?

Unfortunately, the river—or more accurately, tidal estuary—hasn’t frozen enough to make it walkable, let alone skate-able, since the 19th century.


But back in the days before warmer winters and heavy ship traffic, it happened a handful of times.

After the Blizzard of 1888, an ice floe stretched from the shores of Brooklyn to Manhattan near the Brooklyn Bridge.


With the bridge shut and ferries halted out of safety concerns in the harrowing wind and snow, people walked across the water in the morning before the ice began to crack, reported the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on March 13.

“It is asserted that nearly three thousand persons crossed on the ice , among whom were many women,” wrote the Eagle.


An East River ice bridge hosted foot traffic in 1867 too.

Eastriverfrozencolor“As news spread that such a feat was possible, thousands left their business to gratify their love of adventure by a run across the newly constructed bridge, and for about two hours a torturous black line upon the ice marked the spot,” reported the Eagle on January 23.

A frozen river was also recorded in 1871, 1875, four years in the 1850s, and 1821.

And the East River, Hudson River, and all of New York Harbor turned to a sheet of ice during the brutal winter of 1779-1780 amid the Revolutionary War.

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4 Responses to “Winters so cold, the East River froze over”

  1. S. Says:

    Nowadays the Nanny state would likely forbid us to go anywhere near the ice, let alone walk on it.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Though walking does burn calories, so it could count as part of an anti-obesity health measure….

  3. January so cold… | Life & The Times Says:

    […] this great city through things both forgotten… or simply overlooked. The post titled “Winters so cold, the East River froze over” inspired me to share my photograph of the Hudson that has frozen and melted and frozen […]

  4. MeToo Says:

    I was a young lad living on the Lower East Side (when the tenements were still there) and there was so much ice in the East River that it lifted tug boats out of the water. That was by the park along the river around or just above 8th St. Does anyone else remember the event. Family who would remember are long since gone.

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