Daylighting the Saw Mill River in Yonkers

Having only been born in 1981, it was recently that I even realized the Saw Mill River ran underneath Larkin Plaza, terminating finally after its 20 mile journey through Westchester at Dock St., spilling into the Hudson.

Originally called the Nepperhan River, meaning “rapid little stream”and getting its present day name from the Saw Mill that was built near Philipse Manor Hall in the 1600’s, it serves as just one of over 65 tributaries that feed the mighty Hudson.

However in the 1920’s, the river that flowed through downtown Yonkers was indefinitely placed underground, into a concrete flume that would allow for a parking lot to be built on top of it and for new generations of Yonkers families to not have any idea as they made their way downtown that a river runs rapidly under their feet still.

Then in December of 2010, ground was broken to “daylight” the river, and now the base flow of the river will be re-directed, out of the flume and the darkness and into a new natural river bed in the daylight!

Being one of the larger public green spaces that Yonkers has introduced in a while and one of the largest Daylighting projects ever in the country, it will serve as a scenic oasis in downtown and in my opinion, an excellent introduction to those who come off the train at the Yonkers Station as to what Yonkers is all about.

Construction as of April 2011 can be seen here:

According to the project’s website, “The overall goal of this project is to create vibrant public spaces and programs in the new Saw Mill River Park at Larkin Plaza that will engage residents and visitors in a multitude of ways so they will care for and love the park and the river.”

I am very interested to see if the rapid flow of the River has helped keep this portion of it vibrant for all these years.  All in all, the river only goes underground for less than a mile before in ducks in and out of daylight, before flanking the Saw Mill River Parkway in total daylight, even flooding the parkway on more than one occasion!

There are some great websites where Urban Adventurers have braved the underground caverns of the Saw Mill River to seek it out in downtown…like this website here…Check out the Saw Mill River as it looks today BEFORE they Daylight it! will have to do their Urban Exploration elsewhere come next year, but hey there is always Tibbetts Brook where parts of that water way also have not seen daylight in dozens of years!

So we look forward to 2012, when there will be a new Greenspace in Downtown Yonkers and the Saw Mill River will once again see daylight!


*** All Archive Photos Courtesy of


5 thoughts on “Daylighting the Saw Mill River in Yonkers

  1. Hi, folks. Congratulations on daylighting the Saw Mill!

    I’d like to talk about it in my community revitalization talks and workshops, but can’t find a “before” photo. I’ve found photos of the river being buried and being daylighted, but not one of the area above ground before daylighting work started.

    If you can help, please contact me at

    Thanks! – Storm

    • There should be a few photos out there Storm. It was like that for 50 years! I have a before and after shot in the article but if you are looking for something from say the 1990’s or 1980’s, google probably has it somewhere.

      • Yeah, that’s what I thought too, until I spent 20 minutes trying to find one on Google. That’s why I posted this comment: Google is always my first resort. Not being local, I don’t know all the key words that would bring up the exact two-block area I need. Amazing that not one of the articles or websites dealing with this project thought to include a “before” photo.
        Cheers! – Storm

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