Esopus Island

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Esopus Island
A small, low island mostly covered with green trees at some distance from the camera, in the midst of a body of water. It runs the width of the image. The land behind it, also mostly covered with trees, rises to higher hills
Esopus Island from the Mills Norrie State Park marina in Staatsburg
EtymologyEsopus tribe of the Lenape Indian nation
LocationStaatsburg, NY
Coordinates41°49′31″N 73°56′51″W / 41.825340°N 73.947425°W / 41.825340; -73.947425Coordinates: 41°49′31″N 73°56′51″W / 41.825340°N 73.947425°W / 41.825340; -73.947425
Adjacent bodies of waterHudson River
Total islands1
Length1,500 ft (460 m)
Width120 ft (37 m)

Esopus Island is an uninhabited island in the Hudson River. It is part of Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park, located in the town of Hyde Park in Dutchess County, in the state of New York.


The island is located to the east of the center of the river channel, 84 miles (135 km) north of the river's mouth at New York City, roughly 1,200 feet (370 m) offshore, southwest of Norrie Point in Staatsburg, and opposite the mouth of Black Creek in the town of Esopus on the west shore. It is approximately 1,500 feet (460 m) long. In an 1894 book its shape was compared to "a great stranded and petrified whale". There is a beach on the southeast side and shoals at the north end. The island is wooded with outcrops of rock.[1] It is part of Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park and of the Hudson River Watertrail and has campsites, picnic areas, trails, and fishing access points, but can be reached only by boat.[1][2][3][4][5]

To the south of the island is the much smaller Bolles Island, which is private property with a residence.[1][4][6]


The Lenape Indians are presumed to have made use of the island, and a stone on the east shore shows signs of human working, resembling a megalith.[1] There is a legend of a Jesuit missionary killed on the island by the Indians.[7]

In October 1777, during the Revolutionary War, a British fleet laid off Esopus Island prior to destroying Kingston, then the provincial capital.[8]

In the second half of the 19th century the island was part of the estate of Robert Livingston Pell and was known as Pell Island.[1]

Aleister Crowley spent 40 days and 40 nights on Esopus Island (which he spelled "Oesopus") in 1918, translating the Tao Te Ching, meditating, and painting slogans on the rocks with red paint. Friends had given him money to buy a tent, a canoe, and stores for his retreat to the island, but instead of food he bought the paint, brushes, and rope for rappeling, saying that he would be "fed by ravens". Local people as well as friends brought him supplies.[1][4][5][9]

It was illegal to camp on the island until it was incorporated into the New York State parks system.[1]

In popular culture[edit]

Esopus Island is featured prominently in the novel Piper Houdini: Nightmare on Esopus Island, in which Aleister Crowley returns to the island in 1926 to complete the ritual workings he began in 1918.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Frances Marion Platt, "Retrace steps of famed mystic Aleister Crowley on Esopus Island", Hudson Valley One, October 24, 2011.
  2. ^ Final Master Plan/ Final Environmental Impact Statement for Ogden Mills & Ruth Livingston Mills Memorial State Park, Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park, and Staatsburgh State Historic Site, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, April 17, 2013, p. 24.
  3. ^ Map: Master Plan, Ogden Mills & Ruth Livingston Mills Memorial State Park, Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park, Staatsburgh State Historic Site, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, April 17, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Kandy Harris, "Destinations: Mysterious Esopus Island", Upstater, May 22, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Esopus Island, Atlas Obscura, retrieved September 23, 2016.
  6. ^ Esopus Island Area - Hudson River, The Travels of Tug 44, retrieved September 23, 2016.
  7. ^ Peter Lourie, River of Mountains: A Canoe Journey Down the Hudson, Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University, 1995, ISBN 9780815603153, Island&f=false p. 278.
  8. ^ Frances F. Dunwell, The Hudson: America's River, New York: Columbia University, 2008, ISBN 9780231136402, p. 37.
  9. ^ Lawrence Sutin, Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley, New York: St. Martin's, 2000, ISBN 9780312252434n.p..
  10. ^ "Supernatural thriller takes Houdini's niece from Coney Island to upstate's Esopus Island | Brooklyn Daily Eagle". Retrieved 2017-01-27.