Current River Conditions

Natural and Social History

Photo Galleries

List of Native Plants and Animals

Bronx River Stories

Histories

Gators in the Bronx!

The Old Snuff Mill

Jumpin' Jupiter!

The Mile Square

What's an Alewife, Anyway?

Water for Concrete

Paddling Back in the Day

1895 Tragedy in a Bronx River Swimming Hole

William Hart, the Bronx River Cowboy

Cowboys on the Bronx

Brittannia Rule the Bronx

The Old Drovers Inn

Look Out for the Little People!

Happy Birthday Bronx River Alliance

The Witch Canoe

Woodlawn Brook

The Mighty Kensico

The Battle of White Plains

Launching the Golden Ball

The Left Bank of the Bronx

Awaiting the Alewife

The Boltons of Bronxdale

Ann Hanson, the Bronx River Stevedore

Aunt Sarah Held the Bridge

Jerry, the Bronx River Sea Lion

How the Bronx Got Its Name

Lloyd Ultan's History of the Bronx River

The Wishing Rock

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Bronx?

Big Brown Joe Plugs the Pipe

Ungrateful Old Scrooge

Jonas the Peacemaker

Beaver Tales

Why the Beaver?

Bronx River Parkway Reservation

The Pudding Rock

The Rocking Stone

Edgar Allan Poe and the Bronx River

Shipbuilding on the Bronx

The First Canoes on the Bronx

There Were Bears in There

McAdam's Bronx River Driveway

The Mid-Bronx Ride of Paul Revere

The Many Names of Van Nest

The Frozen Water Trade

Colonel Burr Burns the Blockhouse

Beavers on the Bronx

Songs

Greenway Stories

River Restoration Stories

Video

There Were Bears in There

One of the Bronx River’s vanished freshwater wetlands was the Bear Swamp.  Draining into the Bronx River about where the Bronx Zoo’s Boston Road entrance is today, it covered over 180 acres east of White Plains Road in the present-day Bronxdale and Van Nest neighborhoods.  Bronxdale Avenue follows the line of the old Bear Swamp Road that ran through this marshy area. There may have been a Native American settlement there at one time: in the early 1800s a basin for grinding corn was found cut into a rock outcrop.

 

About the only trace of the Bear Swamp you can see today is a gentle dip in the terrain east of White Plains Road.  The original Siwanoy name for the place appears to have been forgotten, but the early colonists called it “Bear Swamp” for good reason.  The swamp was a productive hunting ground, and among the animals hunted there were Black Bears, whom the Siwanoy trapped by driving them between converging wooden palisades.

 

Bears were an important part of the Native American economy.  Their teeth and claws were decorations a hunter could wear with pride, and their hides made wonderfully warm robes and blankets.  The meat was tasty and nutritious, and their fat, boiled down, was used as hair dressing, or served as an insect repellant handy for your next foray into the bug-ridden Bear Swamp.

 

The name of the Bear Swamp Road persisted until about World War One, when it was straightened out and renamed Bronxdale Avenue.  By that time bears were long gone from the banks of the Bronx River, and, with railroads and an elevated train line serving the area, the filled-in swamp was attracting the attention of real-estate developers, including a “Bear Swamp Realty Company.”

 

Stephen Paul DeVillo