It’s a paddler’s perfect location – if it were only clean.

I first canoed on the canal in 1998. Owen Foote brought the Gowanus Dredgers to life. From a couple of padlocked canoes at the end of Second Street on the canal, the club now sports a boathouse in the first luxury condo building built on its banks.

The lazy waterway is a calm location for an easy boat ride out to Gowanus Bay, and eventually New York Harbor. Politicians come up it on sightseeing boats, the sunken boats have been pulled out, and EPA barges are now the common site.

The Gowanus Canal has been used as a poetry platform during the Brooklyn Book Festival in 2018, with members of the Dredgers presenting a poetry reading of Lorine Niedicker. Christopher Swain took a dip in the Gowanus Canal for Earth Day, April 22, 2015. The activist made the journey to bring attention to the Brooklyn Superfund site. The Brooklyn Folk Festival brought visitors from around the world to try their hands at throwing a banjo as far into the canal as they could. Hey, it’s Brooklyn. Watch out though, will it be Venice or San Antonio?

All images are ©Mark D Phillips. Photos may be licensed and downloaded through our site.

Mark D Phillips' photographic collection documents his generational view of the Gowanus Canal from abandoned, industrial filth to the beginning of gentrification and the EPA's start to cleaning the Superfund site.

“I discovered the Gowanus Canal in 1989, an abandoned, desolate location in the heart of Brownstone Brooklyn. The more time I spent on its length, the more I came to love it,” said Phillips.

All images are ©Mark D Phillips. Photos may be licensed and downloaded through our site.