Bridges & Arches of Central Park
In New York, United States
How Geocaching Works
An extensive multi-cache (offset) that brings you on a tour of Central Park's historic bridges and archways. Bring a calculator if you intend to solve in the field!
Welcome to the Bridges and Arches of Central Park! This ambitious challenge takes you on a grand tour of the most famous park in the world. Central Park covers over 800 acres of greenery and recreation areas in the middle of Manhattan, so prepare for a long (but pleasant) walk.
Central Park is a masterpiece of urban landscaping. A key component of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted's award-winning 1858 vision was keeping pedestrians, horses and (especially) vehicles out of each others' way. These bridges and archways are the linchpin of their "separate circulation system", brilliantly routing various traffics around the park while often going unnoticed by those actually traveling over or under them.
Although many of the bridges fell into disrepair as the 20th century rolled on, the Central Park Conservancy has worked diligently in recent times to restore them to their original majesty. At many of the waypoints below you may find signs showing "before" and "after" photographs of some of the more impressive reclamation projects.
At each bridge I've asked you to find a particular number, marked as variables A through Z and AA through FF. These numbers, when combined in the equation at the end, will give you the final coordinates (also somewhere in the park).
Please do not attempt this cache at night. Central Park has come a long way from where it was 20-30 years ago, but this is still New York and the prudent urban adventurer takes care to avoid dark, isolated places. In addition, you'll be looking for a handful of numbers which are almost impossible to read after dark.
I would suggest breaking this into manageable pieces and chipping away over the course of a few trips, rather than trying to hit all 30-some stages all at once. Although the archways can be visited in any order you choose, I've laid the waypoints out in an order I think makes for a relatively straightforward and efficient path to completion. I've started things at the northernmost arch in the park - if you misjudge the time required for this challenge and nightfall catches you, I'd prefer that you find yourself in the southern part of the park, which has better proximity to almost everything - people, lighting, restaurants, subways, etc.
Successful solvers will receive special, limited-edition coins to commemorate their finds! The design took several months to perfect, but they have finally arrived and I can't tell you how excited I am about how they came out. Each is marked with a serial number - the FTF will lay claim to the coveted #1 coin. There are also trackable versions of the same coin (that only finders may obtain) - I will be contacting successful solvers with information on the trackables. Below is a sample image (if you want to see a more close-up view, you'll just have to complete the challenge):
Consider this coin a no-strings-attached gift from me to you. And with that in mind, know that you are completely free to do whatever you wish with it - keep it, trade it, sell it online, etc. I do ask that you take only one gift per ID - even if you return multiple times in the coming months to make trades or move trackable items along, please leave the "gift coin" in place for future first-time finishers of the multi. Thanks! (Note - if you plan to complete this as part of a group outing, please contact me ahead of time so that we can coordinate the appropriate number of coins, etc.)
Let's get on with the challenge! The listed coordinates are for no existing bridge, but is the approximate spot of Central Park's greatest loss - the Marble Arch (so named because its marble construction stood in stark contrast to the stone and brick found elsewhere in the park). It was demolished in 1938 to make way for increased vehicular traffic, a mind-boggling decision with the benefit of 70 years of hindsight. Interestingly, the pieces of the arch are still there - they're just buried underground, near the entrance to the Mall and Literary Walk.
Special Note - Maintenance in Central Park is constantly in flux, and you and I may both be surprised by sudden construction or repair that cuts off access to one or more of the arches. If we are both caught unaware, don't sweat it! I carry the answers to each of these stages on a laminated card in my wallet, and messages sent via the web site are routed to my cell phone. We will be able to work around any problems.
Extra Special Note - I am honored to report that Bridges & Arches of Central Park has received three 2008 Awards from the Metro New York Geocaching Society - Best Themed Cache, Nicest Scenery / Best Hike, and most humbling of all, Cache of the Year. Thanks so much to all who have taken the time to enjoy this cache - here's hoping that 2009 is just as busy.
Thanks, and good luck!
1. Mountcliff Arch (1890) N 40° 48.002 W 073° 57.473
The tallest bridge in Central Park, 48 feet high, made of ashlar and gneiss rock. A truly massive bridge that is much grander in person than any photo will do justice.
What you need for Variable A:
Look for the black lamp post closest to the West entrance to the arch, on the North side of the path. The lamp post has a four-digit serial number - "A" is the second digit of this serial number.
(Error check - it is also the same as the number of curved brick ceiling sections under the archway.)
2. Huddlestone Arch (1866) N 40° 47.749 W 073° 57.337
Perhaps the most aggressively natural archway in the entire park, almost looking like a cave depending on the light. Construction plans called for collecting the largest, craziest boulders in the park - one near the foundation is reputed to weigh approximately 100 tons (200,000 pounds).
What you need for Variable B:
On the Northern exterior of the archway (on the East side) is a green plate with a seven-digit serial number. "B" is the sixth digit of this serial number.
(Error check - it is also the eighth digit of the phone number on the "North Woods" sign near the South entrance.)
3. Springbanks Arch (1863) N 40° 47.620 W 073° 57.487
Originally, the path through Springbanks Arch shared space with a small stream. Although the stream is now rerouted beneath the pavement, Mother Nature is not so easily deterred - during heavy rains, especially in the springtime, rushing water often cascades through the arch to join Montayne's Rivulet just ahead.
What you need for Variable C:
Above the Southern entrance of this archway you will notice an iron railing featuring a number of small circles (over 100 of them). "C" is the total of these circles.
(Error check - the total is evenly divisible by 9.)
4. Glen Span (1865) N 40° 47.688 W 073° 57.547
A walk under Glen Span is shared with Montayne's Rivulet, feeding The Pool just to the west. Originally, Glen Span featured grand wooden trestles above, with a wooden walk and railing, but wear led to replacement with additional stonework in the 1880s.
What you need for Variable D:
As you exit the arch on the West, you will see a path stairway leading up and to the Southwest. Atop these stairs is a black lamp post with a four-digit serial number (hyphenated). "D" is the second digit of this serial number.
(Error check - it is also the second digit of the serial number for the lamp post atop the crude stone stairway leading up and to the Northwest.)
5. Gothic Bridge (1864) N 40° 47.334 W 073° 57.726
The most famous and picturesque of Central Park's northern bridges. The curved spandrels evoke graceful church architecture of the Middle Ages. It doesn't blend in as well as other Central Park bridges, but given its classic lines that is easily forgiven.
What you need for Variable E:
Underneath the bridge, attached to the Southern support, is a green plate with a seven-digit serial number. "E" is the fifth digit of this serial number.
(Error check - it is also the third digit of the serial number on the black lamp post to the West of the bridge, on the North side of the path.)
6. Claremont Arch (1890) N 40° 47.275 W 073° 58.023
Named for the nearby Claremont Riding Academy, whose riders would cross the bridge to access the bridle path (Claremont was the last riding stable in Manhattan, closing its doors forever in April 2007). Currently the path under the arch is closed to pedestrians, a rather regrettable state of affairs.
What you need for Variable F:
"F" is the number of bollards at the top of the stairs which lead to the Northern entrance to the arch.
(Error check - there is a black lamp post near these Northern stairs, a few feet to the West, with a four-digit serial number. If you divide the first digit by the fourth digit you will get a whole number which is also equal to "F".)
7. Reservoir Bridge Southwest (1864) N 40° 47.066 W 073° 57.974
After falling into disrepair in the 1970s (did anything not fall into disrepair in 1970s New York?), this bridge carrying Reservoir pedestrians over the bridle path was taken apart and carefully restored and reconstructed piece-by-piece precisely according to the original plans.
What you need for Variable G:
Look for the black lamp post to the West of the bridge on the North side of the path. "G" is the third digit of the serial number.
(Error check - it is also the fourth digit of the serial number for the black lamp post East of the bridge, on the South side of the path.)
8. Reservoir Bridge Southeast (1865) N 40° 46.914 W 073° 57.763
Reservoir Bridge Southwests's less popular sister, possibly because the platform is flat rather than elegantly curved like the other cast iron bridges nearby. It's a shame, because the intricate ornamental work deserves a better fate.
What you need for Variable H:
Look for the green plate under the bridge, attached to the Southern Support. "H" is the sixth digit of the serial number.
(Error check - it is also the first digit of the serial number on the black lamp post to the West of the bridge, on the North side of the path.)
9. Winterdale Arch (1862) N 40° 46.912 W 073° 58.163
Winterdale is the widest of all of the stone/brick arches, leaving plenty of room for both pedestrians and equestrians to share the throughway. The cast iron railings, repeatedly damaged by automobile accidents on the upper level, were replaced with cheap chain link fencing during the mid/late 20th century, only to see good sense return in the 1990s when the fencing was replaced with new cast iron approximations of the originals.
What you need for Variable I:
Look for the green plate affixed to the Eastern face of the arch. "I" is the fifth digit of this serial number.
(Error check - it is also the fourth digit of the serial number for the black lamp nearest the East entrance.)
10. Greywacke Arch (1862) N 40° 46.736 W 073° 57.930
With the disappearance of Marble Arch, Greywacke is now the only bridge in Central Park named after its construction material (greywacke is a kind of sandstone found in the Hudson Valley). The pointed Saracenic of the arch itself evidences a slight Middle Eastern architectural influence.
What you need for Variable J:
On the bench nearest the East entrance to the arch, on the South side of the path, is a plaque dedicated to the memory of Laurie. "J" is the fourth digit of the year she was born.
(Error check - it is also the number of red brick sections running lengthwise under the archway.)
11. Glade Arch (1862) N 40° 46.590 W 073° 57.939
This bridge owes its restoration to an out-of-control snow plow that wiped out most of the balustrades lining its north rail in 1980. Rather than simply repairing the damage, the Central Park Community Fund, the Greensward Foundation and the Central Park Conservancy over the course of the 1980s restored Glade Arch to its original, subtle elegance.
What you need for Variable K:
There is a green plate on the underside of the arch, near the West entrance and on the North wall. "K" is the sixth digit of this serial number.
(Error check - There is a black lamp post to the North of the entrance to the arch on the West side of the path, with a serial number consisting of four digits followed by a letter of the alphabet. If you sum the first two digits of this serial number and divide by 3, you will also arrive at "K".)
12. Trefoil Arch (1862) N 40° 46.470 W 073° 58.132
Trefoil features one of the more distinctive arch designs on its eastern face - instead of trefoil decorations around the entrance, the portal itself is an actual three-lobed shamrocky-thing. It is the only archway in the park to feature asymmetrical entryways (the west side is more conventionally round).
What you need for Variable L:
The stairs leading down to the West entrance of the arch are broken into three flights - the top flight contains eight stairs, the middle flight contains ten stairs, and "L" represents the number of stairs on the bottom flight.
(Error check - it is also the fourth digit of the serial number attached to the black lamp post at the very top of all three flights of stairs.)
13. Terrace Bridge (1863) N 40° 46.430 W 073° 58.261
Unquestionably the most spectacular of all Central Park structures. From the grand gestures (the famous Bethesda Fountain) to the tiny details (staircases carefully decorated with intricate and light-hearted stone carvings). Words don't do Terrace Bridge much justice; plan to take some extra time when you visit and really check it out.
What you need for Variable M:
A series of designs adorn the blind arcades underneath the bridge. You will notice that several of these designs feature blue diamonds. "M" is the total number of blue diamonds all throughout these arcades.
(Error check - if you multiply the number of stairs in the center stairway leading down into this area by 3, you will get the same answer - "M" is a number greater than 100.)
14. Bow Bridge (1862) N 40° 46.547 W 073° 58.305
Bow Bridge is one of the most picturesque bridges in all of the park, and doubtless the most photographed. Unlike most of the other bridges, designed to be overlooked, Bow Bridge demands your attention with its grace. It's close to perfect.
What you need for Variable N:
Near the Southern end of the bridge is a plaque honoring Lucy Moses and Lilia Wallace. There are two dates on this plaque - the year the Bow Bridge was completed, and the year it was restored. "N" is the third digit in the year it was restored.
(Error check - it is also the first digit of the serial number on the black lamp post near the Southern end of the bridge, on the West side of the path.)
15. Ramble Arch (1863) N 40° 46.703 W 073° 58.280
The Ramble Arch is the narrowest of all archways in the park, measuring just five feet across. It has the feel of a giant keyhole, sort of giving the pedestrian the perception of passing into a secret world of literary enchantment.
What you need for Variable O:
Look for the black lamp nearest the Eastern entrance to the arch, on the South side of the path. "O" is the fourth digit of the serial number for this lamp.
(Error check - if you go to the topside and cross over the arch instead of through it, you will see a black lamp to the South, on the West side of the path. "O" is also the fourth digit of this lamp's serial number.)
16. Bank Rock Bridge / Oak Bridge (1860) N 40° 46.721 W 073° 58.300
Originally a beautiful footbridge over a narrow arm of the Lake, in 1982 Oak Bridge was redesigned to be entirely utilitarian - simple wooden planks, steel pipe railing. Boo. It is currently being restored to its original design - the bridge itself is in back in place after several months of work, with the ornamental railing scheduled to be finished in 2009. Yay.
Update - The restoration is complete! And it is phenomenal! Yay CPC!
What you need for Variable P:
Just past the East end of the bridge you'll see one of two grates set into the ground within a few feet of the bollards. Each grate is etched with the name of a country, and is held in place by a bolt in an unusual shape. The number of sides of the bolt is the same as the number of letters in the country's name; this number is "P".
(Error check - it is also the fourth digit of the serial number on the black lamp post just past the West end of the bridge, on the North side of the path.)
17. Balcony Bridge (1860) N 40° 46.719 W 073° 58.342
Named for the balconies (and resting spots) featured along the eastern top of the bridge, Balcony Bridge is one of just two intentionally asymmetrical bridges in the park (along with Trefoil). The underpass is designed for waterway (although current restoration of the lake may not make that obvious at first glance).
What you need for Variable Q:
"Q" is the number of balcony sitting areas located along the East rail of the bridge.
(Error check - it is also the last digit of the serial number on the green street lamp (not black) on the East side of the road.)
18. Eaglevale Bridge (1890) N 40° 46.756 W 073° 58.396
Eaglevale is the only double-arched bridge in the park, for which you can thank the long ago presence of the Ladies' Pond. Ladies required their own pond back then because changing into ice skates might have shown a little ankle, and if the menfolk saw that, it would have been crazy-times. The turret-like facades between the arches give Eaglevale a kind of cool castle-like feel.
What you need for Variable R:
Underneath the Eastern arch, on the East wall near the North entrance, you will find a green plate. "R" is the seventh and last digit of this serial number.
(Error check - it is also the fourth digit of the serial number for the black lamp at the North entrance of the Eastern arch.)
19. Riftstone Arch (1862) N 40° 46.563 W 073° 58.537
Riftstone in many ways is one of the most hidden archways in the park. Many who pass over it are doubtless unaware that it even exists, given its naturalistic design, the sloping nature of the surrounding area, and the fact that both pedestrian and vehicular traffic are routed over rather than under the bridge at the 72nd Street entrance (the bridle path flows under).
What you need for Variable S:
On the underside of the arch, near the South entrance along the West wall, is another green plate. "S" is the fifth digit of this serial number.
(Error check - If you walk to the topside of this arch you will see a large street sign for Central Park West Drive, with rush hour traffic schedules. In the lower-left of the sign is a four-digit number preceded by "SR-". "S" is the first digit of this number.)
20. West 65th Street Transverse (1950s) N 40° 46.299 W 073° 58.723
There is simply no reason this bridge couldn't have been awesome. It's in a great part of the park - near Tavern on the Green, plenty of landscapy advantages. And no new bridges had been constructed in the park over the previous half-century or so, so you'd imagine that New York could create something fantastic. And yet this arch just drips with unfulfilled potential. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, there's just not much that would make you want to take a picture of it. A real shame. Where were Olmstead and Vaux when we needed them?!? (They were both dead by then? Oh. Sorry.)
What you need for Variable T:
You will find yet another green plate on the underside of this archway, near the South entrance along the West wall. "T" is the fourth digit of this serial number.
(Error check - it is also the second digit of the hyphenated serial number for the black lamp found near the North entrance to the arch, along the East side of the path.)
21. Dalehead Arch (1862) N 40° 46.244 W 073° 58.703
A simple, unassuming bridge with quatrefoil cutouts on the railings.
What you need for Variable U:
Apologies for the repetition, but you guessed it - there is another green plate on the underside of this arch, near the East entrance along the South wall. "U" is the sixth digit of this serial number.
(Error check - on the topside of this archway you will find a green street lamp a tad to the South, on the West side of Central Park West Drive. It features a five-character serial number. The second character and fifth character are both numbers; add them together and it will also equal "U".)
22. Pine Bank Arch (1861) N 40° 46.155 W 073° 58.737
Pine Bank was spared when other cast iron bridges along the bridle path in the south were waylaid in favor of vehicular traffic. But to quote the Greensward Foundation, "subsequent neglect of Pine Bank Arch over the years almost accomplished what demolition could do in a day". In 1984, on the verge of almost literally falling apart, the bridge was rescued and painstakingly restored to its previous glory.
What you need for Variable V:
As you cross this bridge topside, "V" is the number of bollards in the *middle* of the path at each end of the bridge (not added together).
(Error check - it is also the third digit of the serial number for the black topside lamp to the North.)
23. Greyshot Arch (1860) N 40° 46.149 W 073° 58.785
Greyshot was one of the first bridges completed because of anticipated traffic levels, and today it continues to anchor the busist corner of the entire park.
What you need for Variable W:
On the underside of this arch you will find another green plate. "W" is the fourth digit of this serial number.
(Error check - it is also the number of small circular drainage holes set along the bottom edge of each side of the archway - not added together.)
24. Dipway Arch (1862) N 40° 46.051 W 073° 58.686
The quality of the granite used in Dipway's construction (from Rackcliff Island near Seal Harbor, Maine) has led this bridge to weather the elements better than any other in the park. Even the original railings have survived to this day, despite the heavy traffic of Center Drive (and the inevitable accidents).
What you need for Variable X:
Look for the black lamp near the South entrance to the arch along the East side of the path. "X" is the first digit of the serial number.
(Error check - on the ceiling of the archway towards the North entrance is a green five-character identifier, most likely for an original light fixture. This identifier begins with the letter "T" and ends with the letter "A". The second and fourth characters are both numbers; subtract the fourth from the second and it will also equal "X".)
25. Driprock Arch (1860) N 40° 46.114 W 073° 58.550
Originally, Driprock provided passage for the bridle path underneath, but when the bridle path was re-engineered in the 1930s the path was converted into a pedestrian walkway.
What you need for Variable Y:
Underneath the archway near the South wall, near either the West or East entrance (it's the same at both locations), is a green plate with another seven-digit serial number. "Y" is the sixth digit in this serial number.
(Error check - on the ceiling of the archway towards the East entrance is a green five-character identifier for another original light fixture. This one begins with the letter "T" and ends with the letter "B". The third and fourth characters are both numbers; add them together and it will also equal "Y".)
26. Playmates Arch (1861) N 40° 46.177 W 073° 58.489
Playmates owes its whimsical name to its location in the "Children's District" of Central Park - including the Carousel, the Central Park Zoo, the Dairy (kids drank milk before soda!), Children's Cottage (a sort of petting zoo), and so on. The current Carousel (which you can still ride) dates to 1950, when it moved from Coney Island after a fire destroyed the previous Central Park version.
What you need for Variable Z:
On the ceiling of this arch, near the locations for the original light fixtures, are grey metal plates. Sandwiched between two letters are identical four-digit numbers stamped into these plates. "Z" is the third digit of these four-digit numbers.
(Error check - it is also the third digit of the serial number on the black lamp near the East entrance to the arch, on the North side of the path.)
27. Willowdell Arch (1861) N 40° 46.205 W 073° 58.268
Willowdell is a fine archway in its own right, with a bright contrast between its red brick facade and sandstone trim, and the vermiculated detail of several of the blocks. But it's one of my favorites for two other reasons. The first is its proximity to the Balto statue, honoring the sled dog who heroically led the final stage of the diptheria serum run to Nome, Alaska in 1925 (and serving as the inspiration for today's Iditarod race). The second is that it is the setting for a brilliant photograph of the chief architects of Central Park (and, of course, its bridges).
What you need for Variable AA:
To the East of the arch you will find my favorite statue. "AA" is the number of sled dogs depicted on the plaque dedicated to Balto.
(Error check - it is also the second digit in the serial number for the black lamp near the Western entrance, on the South side of the path.)
28. East 65th Street Transverse (1950s) N 40° 46.125 W 073° 58.257
Like its cousin on the West Side, this bridge could have been so much more. The 50s just weren't known for architectural creativity.
What you need for Variable BB:
Near the North entrance to the arch, on the East side of the path, is a bench with a plaque in the memory of Grandpa Vic's birthday. "BB" is the second digit in Vic's age as of that birthday.
(Error check - it is also the fourth digit in the serial number on the green plate fixed to the underside of the arch, near the North entrance on the West wall.)
29. Denesmouth Arch (1860) N 40° 46.106 W 073° 58.266
Denesmouth was an early archway providing pedestrian access to the Central Park Zoo. Originally there were four beautiful ornate bronze lamps atop the large posts on the upper level of the bridge, but three were stolen in the 1970s (again with 1970s New York). The fourth is currently hiding in storage for possible use as a model if these lampposts are ever recreated in the future.
What you need for Variable CC:
Along the upper railings are a number of quatrefoils cut into the sandstone. "CC" is the number of these quatrefoils along each railing - not added together (the total is less than 10).
(Error check - to the South of the archway is the Honey Bear statue, and just to the West of the statue is a plaque dedicated October 30, 2007. On the very last line of the plaque is engraved a year; the sum of the last two digits of this year is also equal to "CC".)
30. Green Gap Arch (1861) N 40° 46.077 W 073° 58.401
As recently as ten years ago, you could enter the Central Park Zoo by way of Green Gap. Construction in the early part of this decade has rendered the pedestrian walkway inaccessible, unfortunately. It's not clear when, if ever, the route will be re-opened.
What you need for Variable DD:
On the bench closest to the arch, along the South side of the path, you will find a plaque dedicated to Heide, Paul and Erika Kessel. "DD" is the third digit in the year of Erika's birth.
(Error check - it is also the fourth digit in the serial number for the black lamp along the South side of the path, behind these benches.)
31. Inscope Arch (1873) N 40° 46.007 W 073° 58.375
Traffic in the 1870s was becoming a problem - and Inscope Arch was conceived ten years after most of the other bridges in the park had been completed, to iron out some of the wrinkles developing in pedestrian-equestrian relations. The land under which Inscope rests was once a swamp, so the foundation under the bridge is among the most formidable in the park.
What you need for Variable EE:
Look for the black lamp near the West entrance to the arch, on the South side of the path. "EE" is the fourth digit in this serial number.
(Error check - it is also the second digit of the serial number on the black lamp on near the East entrance, on the North side of the path.)
32. Gapstow Bridge (1896) N 40° 46.017 W 073° 58.427
The original Gapstow Bridge lasted barely two decades, its wood and cast-iron frame just not able to handle the levels of traffic it generated. Its replacement of sturdy stone has fared much better. Gapstow is a gorgeous bridge in its natural setting, and affords visitors equally gorgeous views of Central Park against the New York skyline.
What you need for Variable FF:
Look for the black lamp to the East of the bridge on the topside, on the South side of the path. "FF" is the third digit of the serial number.
(Error check - it is also the third digit of the serial number for the black lamp to the West of the bridge, along the North side of the path.)
The degrees coordinates for the final stage are 40 degrees North, 73 degrees West. For the minutes, apply the following equations:
North: 40 degrees, and this many minutes (note that the horizontal rule is a divisor line):
[ ( B * X ) + ( C * J ) ] * W * L * M
( A * FF * G * DD * O * BB * Q * T )
West: 73 degrees, and this many minutes (note that the horizontal rule is a divisor line):
[ ( AA * E ) + S ] * ( I + R + F ) * H * V * EE * D * CC * N
( Z * K * Y * U * P )
Good luck and enjoy. Special thanks to lostnak for helping with the design of the coin, and to childofatom for helping with the final stage!
You can check your calculations on Geochecker.com.
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