This small forest in the Bronx could be the most important woodland in the city of New York. The Thain Family Forest, a 50-acre plot of trees within the New York Botanical Gardens, is the largest surviving remnant of the city’s original woodland.
The old-growth forest provides a rare opportunity to walk among trees that pre-date the American Revolution by centuries. The patch of trees has never been logged and has remained largely untouched. Visitors can traverse paths that follow the original hunting trails of the Lenape Native Americans and pass by marks carved by glaciers thousands of years ago.
In a metropolis famed for its reputation as a concrete jungle, it’s a refreshing treat to meander among flora that has managed to withstand the centuries of industrialization and development happening all around it.
The forest’s location and survival is no accident. In 1895, a co-founder of the Botanical Garden, Nathaniel Lord Britton, picked the northern part of Bronx Park for the garden’s location. He specifically sought a spot covered with a dense woodland. Though greenhouses and education centers were built as part of the botanical garden, the founders’ decision to leave the Thain Family Forest alone has preserved a rare piece of the city’s pre-industrial ecology.