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Photo: Kathryn Geurin

Rensselaer Lake Preserve/Six Mile Waterworks

For city folk, dreams of summer recreation—wooded picnic grounds, kayaking, fishing, waterfront walks—usually include travel, at least beyond the city lines. But Rensselaer Lake Preserve, better known as Six Mile Waterworks, offers an unexpected oasis in Albany. The gravel driveway lot across from the Thruway entrance on the commercial conduit that is Fuller Road doesn’t look particularly enticing. But up that drive, tucked between mega malls, big-box stores and railroad tracks, Rensselaer Lake Preserve is a respite of conservation and recreation.

Located on the eastern edge of the Albany Pine Bush, the 57-acre park boasts a 43-acre manmade lake, ringed by glacial sand plains. Patches of irises and scrub pines spring up on the banks. Picnic tables and barbeques are scattered throughout shaded tree groves. There is a shiny new playground for the kids, and on a recent visit, a group was practicing Tai Chi under the lakeside gazebo while fishermen hauled in their evening catch.

In the early 1800s, the property, located six miles from City Hall, was owned by the Albany Waterworks company (hence the familiar moniker). In 1850, the city procured the property and built a dam across Patroon creek, creating Rensselaer Lake—and Albany’s first municipal water supply.

Today, the city maintains the reservoir as an emergency water supply, and the park as an open water sanctuary in the city. The lake is stocked regularly with fish from the Alcove Reservoir. Kayaks and rowboats can be carried in for fishing, paddling or birdwatching.

Recent grants and donations have furnished the park with new fishing docks, a boardwalk, nature trails and a wildlife viewing platform for those who want to catch a glimpse of the many aquatic and terrestrial species that call the lake, wetlands and Pine Bush home.

The park and picnic facilities are free and open until dusk. Work is beginning on the development of a Sattelite Interpretive center, which will feature exhibits and education programs exploring the ecology and history of the area.

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