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Exploring with James

Crossing the Hell Gate from Wards Island to Queens

Published 2013-05-06 · By James Bursa

One evening in early September I found myself on Randall’s and Wards Island in New York. This island (formerly two, now joined) is in the East River between Manhattan and Queens.

I’d gone there with a friend for a music event, but unfortunately it sold out exactly when we arrived. Instead of taking the bus back to Manhattan, we decided to walk across the RFK bridge to the Astoria area of Queens.

Two bridges lead from the island to Queens. On the left is the railway heading to the Hell Gate Bridge, and on the right the RFK (formely Triborough) Bridge carries road traffic between Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens. The towers of the RFK suspension bridge to Queens are visible behind the water tower and chimney.

Panorama of bridges on Wards Island

The pedestrian walkway attached to the RFK Bridge to Queens starts here.

Entrance to pedestrian walkway from Wards Island to Queens

Here’s the view back to the island from a point high up. The large buildings on the left are the Manhattan Psychiatric Center. Harlem (Manhattan) is visible in the background.

View back to Wards Island from RFK Bridge to Queens

We proceeded along the pedestrian walkway. It’s a long walk, but the views were very good. It was just before sunset.

Pedestrian walkway across RFK Bridge to Queens

From the top of the bridge, looking across the continuous traffic, we saw the Manhattan skyline.

Manhattan from RFK Bridge to Queens

Looking north, the entire Hell Gate Bridge was visible. Hell Gate is the name of this strait.

Three of New York’s boroughs are visible here. In the left background is Manhattan (Harlem). Behind the bridge is the Bronx. On the right shore is Queens.

Panorama of Hell Gate Bridge

The bridge mostly carries only Amtrak trains to Boston. We didn’t see any in the whole time we were crossing.

Hell Gate Bridge from the South

Our destination was Astoria in Queens. This is Astoria Park. LaGuardia airport’s control tower is just visible in the background.

Astoria in Queens from the RFK Bridge

About a month later I happened to be driving across the bridge in heavy rain. I couldn’t even see both suspension bridge towers at once.

Driving across the RFK Bridge to Queens in rain and fog

Once in Queens, we headed to the Bohemian Beer Garden in Astoria to complete our exploring. This photo is from a different day, but I probably had the same thing then – Řízek (breaded pork) and a Czech beer.

Řízek at the Bohemian Beer Garden in Astoria