Bill Clinton, Madonna, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis—for whom the Reservoir was named in 1994—have all jogged the surrounding 1.58-mile track. But countless others have opted for a scenic stroll around this vast man-made lake, with a historic fountain as its center and a classic backdrop courtesy of the Upper West Side skyline. Adding to the area’s beauty are nearly 200 Yoshino cherry trees planted on the east side of the Reservoir, with a similar number of Kwanzan cherry trees on the Reservoir’s west side, tended to year-round by Conservancy staff.
At 40 feet deep with a billion-gallon capacity, the Reservoir is more than just a pretty landscape. It was built in the 1860s as a backup to the Croton water system’s Receiving Reservoir, and was, at the time, the world’s largest man-made lake. Every day, hundreds of millions of gallons flowed from the Croton Aqueduct through three gatehouses—one on the south end and two on the north end—which still stand today. Though the Reservoir provided an ample supply for the time period, it is speculated that a modern-day New York City would drain the Reservoir in just one day. In 1993, the Reservoir officially retired as a water source.