Sunday, December 20, 2020

6 Hudson River islands & a mission....

The Hudson Valley of New York gets its name sake thanks to the 315 mile long Hudson River. which starts in the Adirondack Mountains and empties out into the Atlantic Ocean between Manhattan Island and Jersey City.

There are only six present recognized islands in the Hudson River but many former islands that have been lost thanks to human based expansion. 

Over the last 200 years, islands which were close to shore were reattached to the mainland by filling them in with construction debris or earth materials to help make room for rails, bridges and roads.

As of 2020, the remaining official six islands of the Hudson River are:

  • Schodack Island
  • Esopus Island
  • Pollepel Island
  • Constitution Island
  • Iona Island
  • Hudson River Islands Park

HVDN & Islands

When Hudson Valley Digital Network was formed in 2017, the goal was to find areas of convergence between wireless technology and other hobbies. 

The word "convergence" is referenced many times across our website, other articles and presentations. 

This article will help share a great example of convergence thanks to these six islands and some ways that area outdoors enthusiasts and conservation groups can work with amateur radio aficionados to broaden the reach for needed donations related to the upkeep of these island treasures.

Esopus Island, Iona Island, Constitution Island, Bannerman Island, Pollepel Island

Lets explore some history of these six islands and why they matter to the future of the Hudson Valley and the evolution of amateur radio activities related to these treasures and extending to other destinations in the future like the man made Walkway Over The Hudson and our many peaks that flank either side of the mighty Hudson River.

Schodack Island

This 1,052 acre island is actually no longer an island since it became a continuous peninsula in the early 1900s, but its still called an island, just like New York City's famous Manhattan Island which some may call a peninsula too. 

A small land bridge at the north end of the Schodack Island now connects it to the mainland, while the New York State Throughway Connector passes over the island and links I-87 and I-90 together for more efficient transportation. 

Before a federal government project dredged up material from the river to create deeper water navigation, Shodack Island was actually six islands. 

Schodack Island
Going back to the time before Europeans had settled in the area in the 1500s, the native Mahicans called the area home and was considered a major settlement area dues to its abundance of life sustaining animals, fertile farming conditions, access to fresh water and natural security brought on by the river.

Little Shodack Island, Moesmans Lower Schodack Island, Mull Island, Houghtaling (Schutters) Island, Schodack Island and Mull's Platt are the six islands that now are simply referred to as Shodack Island. The only free standing island of Schodack is the tiny Little Schodack Island.

In 2002,  Schodack Island State Park was created to help maintain its conservation and enjoyment.  

This relatively large island has parts that span Rensselaer, Greene and Columbia Counties.  The island is also located in what is known as grid FN32 for those interested in a really short international standard way of defining a location using the Maidenhead Locator System.  Schodack Island also can be known as K-2136 thanks to the "Parks On The Air" initiative.  Unfortunately, Schodack Island is not part of IOTA or USIAP

Esopus Island

Compared to the expansive Schodack Island, the much smaller Esopus Island can be found in Dutchess County and is roughly 1500 feet long and 120 feet wide. The Lenape native American tribe had made use of the island for centuries and prior to its current name, Esopus Island was once known as Pell Island dating back to the 1800s.

While now uninhabited and under the control of the New York State parks system, back in 1918 there was a Mr. Aleister Crowley who spent 40 days and 40 nights on the island, who has a somewhat sordid story himself involving the occult and magic.  

K-2101 POTA Esopus Island
There is some further mystery surrounding this island, including its stone boat house and a small million dollar cottage on nearby private Bolles Island, which is considered part of Esopus Island under the same park system name linked to Mills Norrie State Park

Sadly, Esopus Island is not currently recognized as an "Islands On The Air" destination, but it is part of POTA thanks to it being officially part of Mills Norrie Park (K-2101), where you can launch a kayak from if you wish to access the island. It is also part of the US Islands Awards Program.

Pollepel Island

This rocky island is also more famously known as Bannerman's Island and is also located in Dutchess County.  

Before it was purchased by Francis Bannerman VI in the mid-19th century, the island was already part of American history as a defense point during the Revolutionary War where "chevaux de frise" were put in place to help slow down British military ships.

Following the American Civil War and the later Spanish-American War, Mr. Bannerman purchased surplus military equipment and he needed a place away from population centers in New York City to store the more "explosive" merchandise in his inventory.

In 1901, Bannerman started construction on his newly acquired and soon to be island fortress.  A castle like structure was built to hold over thirty million munition cartridge's and his name was boldly painted across its widest wall, some of that lettering can still be seen over a 100 years later.

The same year that Mr. Crowley was squatting on Esopus Island, Mr. Bannerman passed away and two years later in 1920, a large explosion destroyed much of Bannerman's Castle.  Luckily, no one was injured and the family residence building was not harmed since it was located further away on the island from all the arsenal remnants.

Fires and natural conditions have started to reclaim parts of the magnificent buildings, but the Bannerman Island Trust which was formed to protect this national landmark has helped maintain what is left for future generations to enjoy.

While Bannerman/Pollepel Island is now also considered part of the New York State park system, it is not qualified as part of IOTA, but is registered as part of USIAP, but not activated.

Via the core mission of HVDN, we seek to not only change this, but to do so in a way where this historic site will be able to benefit through the generosity of amateur radio enthusiasts wide reach that many do not really think about to help with needed donations.

The bigger challenge is explaining how we will do this, so please keep on reading.

Constitution Island

The name of the island is directly related to our rich regional history and is the only part of the famed West Point U.S Military Academy to be located on the eastern side of the Hudson River.

This island was home to the earliest of the Revolutionary War fortifications and now includes an amazing educational center which details the last 250+ years of natural and human influenced history. 

Constitution Island is home to the important conservation center known as Constitution Marsh Audubon Center, which is a hidden gem along the shores of the Hudson River and nearby the famous Boscobel House and Gardens.

Just like Schodack Island, its possible to access some of the Constitution Island property without needing a boat and this is thanks to a series of walk ways that spread out into the marshlands funded by donations and built by volunteers. 

While almost everything in the surrounding area is considered as historic as you can get in American history, there is no official Parks On The Air,  Islands On The Air or US Islands Award Program designation for this fantastic day trip destination located in Putnam County. 

Iona Island

The only major island on the Hudson River that is part of the western shore county of Rockland, is Iona Island and is officially part of the USIAP via its NY022R designation. While this island sometimes is referred to as a stand alone park, it is actually part of Bear Mountain State Park.  

Until 1947, the island was used as a Naval Ammunition Depot and has since been added to the National Natural Landmark register in 1974.

Iona Island is part of the POTA program with its K-2081 designation, but is not part of IOTA.  This island located in grid FN31 is also very close to FN21 nearby, which may interest those interested in grid chasing expeditions, another popular amateur radio activity.

Hudson River Islands Park

We close this journey along the Hudson River with the most unimaginative named island on this important waterway, which also holds the POTA designation of K-2080.

This state park is located in Greene County and is comprised of the Stockport Middle Grounds, the Middle Ground Flats and Roger's Island if you were wondering how did this park get the name. Roger's Island has USIAP NY043P status.

The downriver Esopus Island is not the only island to have a history of those looking to have a temporary island home, but the scenery certainly makes one wish to spend an extended time here, especially in the warmer months in part to its natural beauty in Columbia County.

A second POTA designation exists for the same park, which is pretty rare plus it is also part of USIAP too, making this a triple threat activation or reason to visit by boat, car or bike.

The Middle Ground Flats has K-5417 assigned to it and if you have a boat, its possible visit and make an additional POTA activation that technically should really be an island, but is not recognized by IOTA or USIAP.

Explaining IOTA & POTA Importance

Unless you are an amateur radio enthusiast already, the constant reference to IOTA, POTA, grid squares, chasers and  activations may have been confusing.  

The reason why explaining this last was important and hopefully draw you into something interesting without getting super technical right away, but hopefully you noticed the many hyperlinks you can go back to visit.

Most people associate amateur radio with people spending late nights in a dimly lit basement conversing via Morse code on big radios that have ancient vacuum tubes inside them.

While that image may have been true overly 50 years ago, much has changed in the radio enthusiast hobby which now encourages the ability to get outside and play radio from temporary locations with very modern equipment, a DIY kit or something entirely homemade.

Various recognition awards exist which "gamifies" the ability to either make contact with many other POTA or IOTA based stations or even get out and allow you to become the sought after station yourself.

It is very easy to obtain a General class amateur radio license which permits almost all use of the  "high frequency" 1.8 to 30 MHz spectrum used that amateurs and make wireless contact without the need of any network for long distance communications.

An example station used by Don WV1W is pictured and who also has a great book available for purchase with lots of helpful tips to get started with POTA and related operating activities. 

There are actually other ways to activate parks, islands and even summits on the air (SOTA) using satellite communications capabilities or even simple hand held radios too on the VHF/UHF bands. 

An example is Steve K2GOG who is shown with handheld radio he used to make contact with others from on top of the fire tower in his background since space was limited and did not allow for larger HF antennae at the top of the tower!

Amateur radio offers something for everyone and if you like talking with other people about your recent hikes, bike rides, geocaching adventures or country side strolls where you may end up painting or sketching your destination, imagine the discussion you may start with a fellow human when they ask you about your radio equipment when trying to make contact with other people.

How can IOTA, POTA & XOTA help great causes?

If you have ever participated in different walks or events to raise awareness and donations to support great causes like Wounded Warrior Project, National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Walks or Relay For Life; its possible with amateur radio to open up new possibilities in creating awareness on a much greater scale and beyond just your local community.

For over 130 years, amateur radio operators have sent each other commemorative keepsakes called QSL cards.  These postcard sized tokens often include a special photo on the front and contact details such as time, date, frequency and location on the back.

During certain contests or special events, sending a small donation to support the event in question, would certainly motivate who you contacted to send you a QSL card.  

In the past, for those extra rare contacts it was even common to mail ahead some extra stamps or something called an international reply coupon (IRC) to help offset return reply costs.

If local communities of amateur radio operators and the clubs they are members of can help raise exposure for great causes like Bannerman Island conservation through a special event activation, it should be easy to raise funds via a donation page where the contact can be confirmed and a QSL card be mailed out.

2021 Resolution: HVDN GO:GREEN Initiative

Using the Hudson Valley Digital Network callsign N2HVD, we expect to schedule an official activation of Bannerman Island in the May/June timeframe.

The 1st initial planning meeting among area amateur radio leadership took place in December and will meet monthly to help organize efforts and to engage in advance with other organizations who may wish to help make the event a success. Things we will be looking for include, but not limited to:
  • A uniquely designed QSL card to commemorate the event
  • Help with a donation landing page, with all proceeds going to Bannerman Island Trust
  • Willing and capable radio operators interested in a boat journey to the island
  • Assistance with marketing and advertising of the event
  • Other area communications and well wishes for success
If you have questions or are interested in more information, please contact:

Steve Bossert K2GOG
Co-Founder, HVDN
Personal E-Mail: 


  1. Steve:
    Thanks for this informative article and outstanding initiative which I would be glad to participate in.
    Actually did a POTA activation at Iona Island yesterday as part of a RaDAR (rapid deployment) starting at Storm King State Park then moving south thru Bear Mountain for a 2-fer with the W3R trail.
    I am sharing this with the FLARC (Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club) Portable Ops SIG and I'm sure this will generate additional interest.
    Thanks again and happy holidays.
    Best wishes and 73.
    :Steve Rosman KA2YRA

  2. Check out the FLARC PortableOps SIG
    This is a Special Interest Group (SIG) for members interested in portable ham radio operation such as POTA, SOTA, IOTA, LOTA, etc.
    The purpose of this SIG is to get outdoors and practice our operating skills from different places. We can share outing experiences, tips and work on our operating skills.


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