Inwood Hill Park is a city-owned and maintained public park in Inwood, Upper Manhattan, New York City, operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. It stretches along the Hudson River from Dyckman Street to the northern tip of the island. Inwood Hill Park's densely folded, glacially scoured topography contains the largest remaining forest land on Manhattan Island. Unlike other Manhattan parks, Inwood Hill Park is largely natural (non-landscaped).
Between 1915 and the early 1940s, the City purchased the parcels of land that make the park what it is today. The park was officially opened on May 8, 1926. The park's western boundary is the Hudson River, and the southern boundary is 200th Street. From Dyckman Street to 204th Street the eastern boundary is Payson Avenue, from 204th to 214th Street it is Seaman Avenue, and from 215th Street to the park's end at 218th Street the eastern boundary is Indian Road.
Before becoming parkland, it was known from Colonial to post-Revolutionary War times as Cox's Hill or Tubby Hook Hill. As the current name suggests, large areas of the park are hills, mostly wooded. A number of foot paths criss-cross it, allowing easy access to Dyckman Street, Fort Tryon Park and the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. Some of these trails are former roads leading to what were once summer estates that later were brought under the control of the city in the creation of the park. Bolton Road, which was the main drive to the Bolton estate, is now the primary pedestrian pathway within the park; its entrance marked by a sign located on Payson Ave.
The area of the park along the Harlem River includes one of Manhattan's last remaining natural salt marsh, the other being Smuggler's Cove, which attracts large numbers of waterbirds. These waterfowl can be studied further via educational programs held at the Nature Center at the north end of the property. Mallards, Canada Geese and Ring-billed gulls are year-round residents, using both the water and the nearby lawns and ballfields. Many wading birds and waterfowl pass through on the spring and fall migrations, and herons and cormorants often spend the summer.
The Park Today:
Today, the park contains three children's playgrounds, baseball and soccer fields and tennis and basketball courts. The Inwood Hill Nature Center at the north end of the park is both a location for educational programs and the local headquarters of the Urban Park Rangers.
The lack of green space in the eastern part of Inwood and the Bronx nearby creates an enormous demand for picnicking with barbecues and table/chair setups, activity that is either illegal or tightly controlled in most city parks; however, Inwood Hill Park has managed this by permitting such setups on the manicured, maintained peninsula portion of the park. This has not been without controversy as during the warmer spring and summer months the area becomes unmanageable at times with a lack of policing in the later hours of the day leaving the area open to automobiles, motorcycles and larger open fires in undesignated areas. This is all allowed to happen without regard for safety or for the primal natural surroundings of the area.
The Park In Popular Fiction:
A cave in Inwood Park is where Pete Hamill's protagonist in the 2003 novel Forever receives the gift of immortality as long as he never leaves Manhattan. The name "Inwood" is repeatedly invoked in the novel as a site of destiny. Fiction authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child used Inwood Hill Park as a mysterious locale for their 2009 bestseller Cemetery Dance. The book also goes into some of the history of the park, but plays a bit of artistic license in adding a small dark enclave within the area as a plot device. Previously, mystery writer S. S. Van Dine (Willard Huntington Wright) set the plot of his novel The Dragon Murder Case (1934) in a fictional estate located in the middle of Inwood Hill Park.