6. NYC’s Only Freshwater River, the 24-mile-long Bronx River Bisects the Garden

The Bronx River flows peacefully by the 1840 stone mill.

Thanks to relentless, knowledgeable advocates, the Bronx River is being restored to good health—so much so that beavers, who had disappeared from New York over 200 years ago, are returning. This is important because beavers are a keystone species, meaning they have a disproportionately large impact on the environment, creating or maintaining habitat for other animals and plants.

Named José in honor of Congressman José Serrano, who had secured substantial federal funding to restore the habitat, the 21st century’s first Bronx beaver built a 12-foot lodge on the river. “We’re delighted to welcome José and all he represents to the garden,” says Todd Forrest, “but we’ll keep an eye on his activities. We really don’t want him felling our old-growth trees.”