I remember hearing about Dead Horse Bay ages ago and thinking it sounded interesting. Then this past Friday I followed a link from somewhere and ended up here, at which point I said to myself, Self, you should go there and see what that’s all about. So I did.
Dead Horse Bay is out on the far eastern edge of Brooklyn, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was home to a number of horse-rendering plants, where dead horses were taken to be turned into glue and fertilizer and whatever else one can turn a dead horse into. Post-processing, the bones were just dumped in the water. Once automobiles became more popular and there were fewer horse corpses to go around, the area was used as a landfill. The trash heap was capped in the ’30s, but exploded onto the beach a couple decades later and because of whatever tidal oddities go on there, a lot of it remains to this day.
It’s actually pretty easy to get there: take the 2 train to the last stop, then pick up the Q35 bus right outside the station. I asked the driver to give me a head’s up when we got to the last stop before the bridge, which he was nice enough to do after double-checking that I knew where I was headed. The trail leads off right from the bus stop and it’s about a ten-minute walk before you hit sand. I’d checked the tide tables beforehand to make sure I’d arrive around low tide, since there didn’t seem to be much point if everything I wanted to look at was under water. There were a handful of other people walking around, but few enough to really feel like I’d somehow managed to remove myself to a different place and/or time entirely.
Early on in my wanderings, I met a mysterious old man who gave me this clay pipe he’d just found. As I mentioned on twitter yesterday, there’s pretty much no way it doesn’t have magical properties.
I did find a fair number of intact old bottles in the midst of all of those shards, but honestly, I don’t really have any use for old bottles. So the only things I brought home with me were the pipe and an interestingly calcified clam shell. I don’t know that I’d necessarily be in a hurry to return, but I’m glad I went. It was a fascinating glimpse into a little-known piece of New York history, as well as its potential future (hundred-year-old glass on the beach has a certain kind of charm; this much modern garbage decidedly would not), and gave me a chance to explore a part of Brooklyn I’d never visited. If you do decide to take a trip out there, wear your absolute sturdiest shoes. I was wearing hiking shoes and was fine, but I think walking over that much broken glass would have ripped normal sneakers to shreds.