9. Gowanus Canal is Known for its Sports, Animal, and Wartime History

Gowanus Canal

Gowanus Canal is arguably one of the strangest bodies of water in New York City. As one of the most polluted bodies of water in the Northeast (which dates back to the 1800s due to sewer backups), the canal expectedly has been the site of many attempts at rebirth. Use of the canal dates back to the mid-1600s when it provided a route that avoided the dangerous waters around Red Hook. The canal was inhabited by giant oysters, some of which may have measured over a foot long, that were traded throughout the colonies. Centuries later, the canal also was home to quite a few whales, the earliest recorded sighting of one going back to 1922, as well as dolphins and sharks.

The canal played a surprising role in the Revolutionary War as well; during the Battle of Brooklyn, an earthen wall was constructed that stretched from the canal to the current-day Brooklyn Navy Yard. Despite the wall, American forces still were defeated in the battle. Much of the fighting took place right near the canal. Some American soldiers were said to have swum naked in the canal, which disturbed many female locals. Near the canal is the Old Stone House, which also played a significant role in the war. The Old Stone House is also the birth place of ice baseball, a now-lost sport in which players would skate across frozen ponds and play baseball.