If you long to sit under the shade of towering trees and listen to the splashing of a waterfall, you can find it in Brooklyn. Prospect Park’s Ravine meanders through Brooklyn’s only forest and passes a babbling stream, a verdant pool, and a fall along the way. It’s just slightly off the beaten path in popular Prospect Park and it is one of my favorite spots in the city.
Step Away from the Crowd
The Ravine is located between the Long Meadow and the Nethermead, the two great open meadows in the park. One of the pleasures of the Ravine is moving from a huge rolling expanse (often crowded with picnics and games) to a shaded narrow path. You are suddenly surrounded by some of the oldest trees in the park. No buildings or roads can be seen from within the Ravine. The sounds are dampened. Within a few steps you have travelled far away.
Follow the Sound of Water
You can begin at the Esdale Bridge which overlooks the Ambergill stream. Often you can see starlings, sparrows and other birds bathing here. As you enter the Ravine, you may see chipmunks or even rabbits along the left slope of Sullivan Hill. As you follow the stream, you’ll come to the Ambergill Pool, a forested glen often visited by mallards or herons. You may be able to spot a turtle or two sunning along the banks. Follow the sound of rushing water and you’ll soon be standing at the Ambergill Falls.
The Ravine is a perfect place to listen carefully. If you hear a non-human voice, pause and listen closely. It was in the Ravine that I heard the loud smacking call of the chipmunk for the first time. It was here that I first heard the haunting flute call of the wood thrush.
Inspired by the Adirondacks, Almost Lost to Erosion
The park’s designers, Frederick Law Olmested and Calvert Vaux, were inspired by their time in the Adirondack Mountains. The Ravine’s stream and steep gorge is a recreation of that landscape. Unfortunately, the sandy clay of Brooklyn’s terminal glacier moraine eroded badly. Over time, silt filled and then completely buried the original waterways. The beauty you see now is because of the rehabilitation effort that began in the 1990s and is still ongoing.
Pausing in the Oldest Part of the Forest
Passing the Falls you can now see the oldest, thickest parts of Brooklyn’s only forest. You’ll find all types of oaks (white, red, scarlet, and black), hickory, black birch, black beech, tulip trees, and sweet and sour gum trees. Woodpeckers, hawks, and even owls have been seen in this part of the woods. This is a good place to take a long, considered look at a tree.
To learn more about the Ravine and how to get there, check out the Prospect Park site.