The 315-mile Hudson River flows from north to south through eastern New York. The river flows past Albany, and finally forms the border between New York City and New Jersey at its mouth before emptying into Upper New York Bay. Its lower half is a tidal estuary, which occupies the Hudson Fjord. This was created during the most recent North American glaciation over the latter part of the Wisconsin Stage of the Last Glacial Maximum, 26,000 to 13,300 years ago. Tidal waters influence the Hudson's flow as far north as Troy.
In 1609, the Dutch East India Company had financed English navigator Henry Hudson to search for a Northeast Passage. In an attempt to find this undiscovered route, Henry Hudson decided to sail his ship up the river that would later be named after him (Hudson River). As he continued up the river, its width expanded, into Haverstraw Bay, leading him to believe he had successfully reached the Northwest Passage. He docked his ship on the western shore of Haverstraw Bay and claimed the territory as the first Dutch settlement in North America.
The river was called Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk, the Great Mohegan, by the Iroquois, and it was known as Muhheakantuck ("river that flows two ways") by the Lenape tribe who inhabited both banks of the lower portion of the river - all of present day New Jersey and the island of Manhattan. The Hudson was named the "North River" by the Dutch, who called the Delaware River the "South River." The name "North River" was used in the New York City area up until the early 1900s, with limited use continuing into the modern day. The term persists in radio communication among commercial shipping traffic, especially below Tappan Zee.
In the 18th Century, the river valley and its inhabitants were the subject and inspiration of Washington Irving, the first internationally acclaimed American author. In the 19th Century, the area inspired the Hudson River School of painting, an American pastoral style, as well as the idea of "wilderness" and "conservation."
Haverstraw Bay, just north of the Tappan Zee (the widest part of the river), is located between Croton Point in the Southeast and the town of Haverstraw in the Northwest. The bay's physical and biological characteristics make it one of the most significant estuarine areas in the Hudson River. The bay is deeper on its western side with a shipping channel of minimum 32 feet in depth and 300 feet in width. The bay's eastern side is shallower with most of that section of bay not more than 10 feet deep. Shallow depths with ample sunlight lead to robust aquatic vegetation. Inflows of brackish Atlantic Ocean water overlaid with fresh stream water promote a nutrient rich environment for myriad invertebrate, fish, and bird species. The bay's ecology plays a central role in the health of fish populations in the Hudson River, including the endangered shortnose sturgeon and the larger, more abundant Atlantic sturgeon. New York State has designated Haverstraw Bay a "Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat". Up to the mid 1950s, Haverstraw Bay was once a productive oyster habitat.