What a history. What a name. One legend says the little island's title derives from a British practice during the Revolutionary War where Colonial prisoners were brought to the island and chained there at low tide to await their deaths as the water rose. Another legend simply attributes the name to the fact that these rocks have "executed" so many ships. Some mariners claim to have seen ghosts around the island, but the ghosts have never confirmed either story.
In either case, the name points to a gruesome past for this tiny bit of rock in the middle of the southern Sound. When the lighthouse was built in 1850, legend has it that keepers were allowed a transfer without question upon request, though still another story has it that both the transfer grants, and the name of the island, derive from the keeper's complaints that the lonely job felt like a sentence of death.
Today there are no keepers. The lighthouse has long been automated and is now completely closed off. The island is fenced off and full of sensors for a monitoring station. There is no access to the island for the general public. But honestly, with such a past would you want to land if you didn't have to?
Use Sands Point on the Long Island side for the closest approach. Orchard Beach, Glen Island and Larchmont are the closest put-ins on the mainland side. Dog Beach in Larchmont is the only free one on the mainland. All the mainland put-ins require a significant open water crossing and are for experienced paddlers only.
When I cross the sound, I frequently take a route that hops from the mainland shore to David's Island or Huckleberry Island off of New Rochelle, goes past Execution Rocks and then finishes at Sands Point in Long Island. Though the distance between Westchester and Long Island is several miles, I am never very far from a place to land in the event of an emergency. Though, again, this is a significant open water crossing and is for experienced paddlers only.
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Copyright 2005 - by Jacob Tanenbaum. All rights are reserved.