Scale is easily estimated by the fact that the Park is one half of a mile across; I have also indicated the length of one sixteenth of a mile.
The map is oriented to conventional “Manhattan north”; true north is 29% to the west, as indicated.
The black double line indicates paved automobile roads: the main Park Drive, which circles the entire Park, and the 102nd Street Cutoff, which provides an east-west passage, though it is not generally open to cars. Also known as the Jogger Transverse, the Cutoff is often used by runners and bikers wishing to avoid the steep climb involved in the far north turn of the Drive. There is usually a police presence along the Cutoff, near the site of the infamous “Central Park Jogger” attack of 1989.
The thinner solid grey lines indicate paved footpaths with reasonable accuracy, though some fine details may have been lost.
Dotted lines are approximations of some of the unpaved trails used by birders (and others.) These vary as to condition, and some may change over time. The woodchip trail along the Ridge is well established, while others are less formal. Some may end in tangled thickets, but most are navigable. A basic degree of caution is always advisable, and it should be noted that thorns, burrs, and Poison Ivy are fairly common in the North End.
I have used triangular “tent” symbols to indicate a few spots that may be “inhabited.” These “campsites” are by no means always, or even usually, occupied, but they have developed a pattern of usage over time. The North End has nothing to rival the cruising scene in the Ramble, but there are plenty of trysts and nocturnal activities. It’s not unusual to encounter recovering partiers, of threatening mien, slinking through the morning, as well as persons of a more poignantly dislocated character, who occasionally seem to take up residence for an extended period. I won’t go into the evidence of animal sacrifice, but even though the indicated sites are hardly inclusive, neither are they meant to intimidate, only to promote a sense of awareness.
Restrooms are located on the top of the Great Hill, as well as at the Conservatory Garden and the Dana Discovery Center. Availability varies with seasonal schedules, and early-morning birders may find that none of these facilities are open.
Features of the Park
The Great Hill: In the parlance of birders, the Great Hill does not extend north or east of the Park drive. The hill as such might be thought to extend to the slopes of the Ravine and the Ridge in the east, and the abrupt descent of the Cliff to the north, but these areas have their own names and identities.
The North Woods: The name most often applies to the area I have indicated within the north-most loop of the Drive, but it’s a general term for the wooded area that extends over the whole western half of the Park above the Pool and the North Meadow. The Woods essentially covers the Great Hill, except for the circular clearing at its crown, extending north through the loop of the Drive and east through the Ravine and the Loch, with its fringes encompassing the north and south edges of the Wildflower Meadow, and climbing up the west slope of A. H. Green Hill.
Fortifications: As far as I know, the oldest names in use in the Park are associated with the remnants (or merely memories) of fortifications dating back to the Revolution and the War of 1812. The Blockhouse in the North Woods is the most substantial. With its flag flying, and a bit of rebuilding over the years, it retains a martial air. Of the string of forts to the east not much remains other than the names, but those are worth remembering. Nutter’s Battery and Fort Clinton were situated on the heights along the south edge of the Meer. The Meer was created for the Park, but the hills were already there, guarding the lowland of McGowan’s Pass, in concert with Fort Fish to the southwest.
A. H. Green Hill: Speaking of Fort Fish leads me to Green Hill, by way of the most twisted trail of titles in the Park. The sites are the same, though the place is most often referred to as the “Green Bench, ” which summons up an erroneous mental picture of a green-colored bench. The little hillock bears no trace of the former fortification, but there is a large white marble bench with an inscription in honor of Andrew Haswell Green. He is barely remembered today, but Green was considered a great man in his time. He was the guiding Commissioner during the building of the Park, managing the often-difficult mesh between political realities and the creative vision of Olmstead and Vaux. Olmstead cast Green as something of a villain in later years, but the successful creation of the Park required a bureaucratic achievement commensurate with its conception and physical construction, and Green, more than anyone, got it done. He also eventually saw the accomplishment of his own great vision: the consolidation of the five boroughs into Greater New York City. It was as much for that cause as for his role in the Park that he was honored, a generation after his death, with the placement of the bench. Its inscription extols him as “The Genius of Central Park” and the “Father of Greater New York” and states that: “this eminence is named Andrew H. Green Hill.” Unfortunately, the eminence in question in 1929, when the bench was erected, was a different hill: the Mount, to the southeast. The Mount has a long, changing history of its own, having housed at turns nuns and soldiers, as well as a fancy restaurant at the turn of the century. It might have borne Green’s name in honor, but fifty years later, when the composting operation was established there, his bench was removed across the Drive to the old Fort Fish site. It is perhaps a fitting irony that while the Park contains no monuments to Olmstead or Vaux, they are better known today than is Green, whose honors have been disregarded and displaced. A century after his death, today’s bureaucracy has little use for the distinguished city father of old. The least we can do is assume that the moving of the bench implies the relocation of the name as well.
The Mount: As mentioned above, this hill west of the Conservatory Garden was home to the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent, Civil War-era soldiers, and the McGowans’s Pass Tavern. More recently it has housed heaps of composting leaves, and the occasional intravenous drug-injection session.
The Lily Ponds: Located in a cove between the Ridge and the Cliff, this is a decrepit feature of the original Park. The lilies are long gone, but the foundations remain, running with water when there is snowmelt or heavy rain.
Sparrow Rocks: The term is used generically, indicating spots on the top of the Great Hill and along the edge of the North Meadow, which habitually attract grass-loving species. Not to be confused with the Sparrow Rock or Ridge located east of Tanner’s Spring in the central part of the Park.
The Loch: Originally more of a lake, the Loch has silted into an islet-filled stream course. A closer view would be useful, to show details of its course and its three waterfalls, or “Cascades,” but I have indicated the three Rustic Bridges, RB 30, 31 and 32, that cross over it. The stone crossing at its north end, beneath Huddlestone Arch, awaits a name.