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The World's Largest Salt Water Pool... Or Was It?

by Vince Gargiulo

In 1995, a question was asked in the Asbury Park Press. It was in a Q&A column called "The Trouble Shooter." The reader wrote:

Q. Please help me settle arguments with friends on the former Monte Carlo pool in Asbury Park, always billed as the largest pool in the world. My friends said the former Palisades Park pool in Fort Lee was larger.

C.P., Allenhurst

A. A December 1988 story in The Record of Hackensack quoted Irving Rosenthal, owner of Palisades Amusement Park, as saying the pool there measured 400 x 600 feet and held 2.5 million gallons of water. Press files indicate the former Monte Carlo pool was 180 by 200 feet. However, the Monte Carlo pool advertised it was the world's largest salt water pool. The Palisades Park pool contained fresh water.

When I read this answer, my mouth dropped. From the day it was first opened to the public in 1913, Palisades always advertised its "salt water" pool. Anyone who ever swam in the Palisades Park pool knew that it contained salt water. I can still taste it!

So I wrote a letter back to the Asbury Park Press to give them the facts about the Palisades pool. I thought this would end the controversy but it was only the beginning. In November of 1995, I received a letter back from George Brown, the editor for the Trouble Shooter column that read:

We checked with Richard Cahill and Joseph Marshall of the New York regional office of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. They advise that the Hudson River contains only fresh water north of the George Washington Bridge, and that river waters in the vicinity of the park site are, at best, brackish. It may be nit-picking on our part, but the former Monte Carlo pool did pump water directly from the ocean, so it would definitely be salt water.

Well now my blood was really boiling. First of all, Palisades Amusement Park was SOUTH of the George Washington Bridge... not north. Secondly, what the heck did the word "brackish" mean? I was on a quest!

Step One: Look up the word "brackish". The "Facts of File Dictionary of Marine Science" defined brackish water as "water that contains too much salt to be drinkable (potable) but not enough to be seawater. Its average salt content ranges between about 0.5 and 1.7%.

Step Two: Find out the salt content of the Hudson River in the Edgewater area where Palisades pumped the water to fill its pool. I spent the next few days researching the levels of salt in various spots along the Hudson River. I then composed a letter back to the Asbury Park Press.

George Brown - Trouble Shooter

Asbury Park Press 

3601 Highway 66 

Box 1550

Neptune, NJ 07754  

Dear Mr. Brown,  

Although I must admit the debate over the larger salt water pool (Monte Carlo's or Palisades Amusement Park's) may seem to be a trivial matter, I feel compelled to defend the reputation of the Bergen County amusement park that always advertised having the "world's largest outdoor salt water pool".  

I don't believe there is any debate on the physical size of the two pools. Clearly the one at Palisades was larger (Palisades was 400x600 feet; Monte Carlo was 180x200 feet).  

There is also no debate as to the Monte Carlo pool pumping their water directly from the ocean; obviously salt water. The real question now shifts to whether the Palisades Pool, pumped from the Hudson River 1/2 mile south of the George Washington Bridge, contained fresh or salt water.  

I commend you for contacting the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the status of the Hudson's salinity. They said the waters north of the George Washington Bridge were fresh water. However, Palisades Amusement Park was located south of the bridge (see enclosed Map A). Therefore, by the EPA's definition of the Hudson's salinity, Palisades had the larger salt water pool.

The EPA speculated that the waters in this area might be considered to be brackish. But although the waters contained some fresh water, they must be considered salt water as they were closer to sea water than fresh water. The area from where the water was pumped, (near the Edgewater Boat Basin), is fed from the Atlantic Ocean, the Long Island Sound (both being salt water) as well as from fresh water from upstate New York.   

It should be noted that this section of the Hudson River is tidal water. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, 1995 Edition "Near Troy, New York, the Hudson enters a valley deepened by glaciers. South of this area, the river's bed lies below sea level and is subjected to tides from the Atlantic Ocean". On the New Jersey side of the Hudson, at Edgewater (the source of water for the Palisades' Pool) no fishing license is required. Under the State of New Jersey law, any body of water not requiring a fishing license is considered tidal. This is a key point as fresh water fishing licensing is a major source of revenue for the state. Tidal (salt) water is never categorized as fresh water.  

The original question to your column was not "which pool was saltier". The question was "which had the larger salt water pool". Neither park advertised having the world's largest sea water pool. There is a distinct difference between sea water and salt water. I will certainly concede that the waters of Monte Carlo were saltier, coming directly from the ocean. But it seems to me that the question which must be addressed is:  

What is salt water?  

First, what's the accepted definition of brackish water? The Facts on File Dictionary of Marine Science (c1988) defines brackish water as "Water that contains too much salt to be drinkable (potable) but not enough to be seawater. It's average salt content ranges between about 0.5 and 1.7%.  

Now lets look at the geography of the area as published in the book The Hudson River: A natural and unnatural history by Robert H. Boyle (W.W. Norton & Company Inc. - c1969):  

"From late summer to early fall, the salinity of the water at the bottom of the Hudson at the Battery is about twenty-three parts per thousand (2.3%). At Yonkers, seventeen miles upstream, the salinity is fifteen parts per thousand (1.5%); at Dobbs Ferry, fourteen parts (1.4%); Croton Point, eight to ten (0.8 to 1%); Bear Mountain, four to five (0.4 to 0.5%); and West Point, two (0.2%). The upriver penetration varies. Ordinarily, the "salt line" or "salt wedge," as this phenomenon is called, stops near Newburgh, sixty miles from the Battery. However, in 1966, a drought year, brackishness was detected at high tide at Poughkeepsie, seventy-five miles from the Battery... 

"Whatever the complexities of the salt line, marine fishes and other creatures from the Atlantic use it to work their way upriver to places where they are not supposed to be found. For instance, sea anemones (Sagartia leucolena) live on the bottom of the Hudson near the George Washington Bridge."

I have translated the salt levels mentioned in this book to the enclosed map to better survey the "brackish" area of the river. North of this area (0.5% and less), the waters are nearer to fresh than brackish. South of this area (1.7% and more), the water is considered closer to sea water than brackish. Again, clearly Palisades was located south of this area, with salt levels at approximately 2%.   

Now let's examine other facts about salt water and Palisades Park's experience with their pool: 

a) Salt water is not consumable by mammals. 

Discounting current pollution levels of the river, the Hudson River was never drinkable because of its salt content. 

b) Salt water has a corrosive effect on most metals 

The pumps and most piping within Palisades filtration system was constructed out of brass or cast iron to prolong its life from the harmful effects of the salt. 

c) Salt water leaves a white residue (salt) after evaporation 

The pool walls and decks at Palisades were cleaned daily with lime, an agent used to remove salt residue. (If those waters weren't salt water, Palisades spent an awful lot of money on lime unnecessarily.) 

d) Certain marine life can only survive in salt water and would die in fresh water. 

At the Edgewater Boat Basin, located several feet from the old Palisades pipeline, bluefish, striped bass, tommy cod and black fish are caught regularly from their location. These are all salt water fish. 

e) Salt water has an inherent salty taste without the need for additives.

Thousands of people who still vividly have fond memories of swimming in the Palisades pool all recall the salty taste. According to John Rinaldi, park superintendent from 1964 through 1971, no salt was ever added to the waters that were pumped from the river. The salinity that people tasted came naturally from the salty river water.  

Again, I do not dispute the fact that Monte Carlo's pool was saltier. Nor do I mean to diminish Monte Carlo's reputation as a great summer fun spot. I just wanted to clarify the historical accuracy of Palisades' claim of having the world's largest outdoor salt water pool.  

Cordially yours,        

Vince Gargiulo

Author - Palisades Amusement Park: A Century of Fond Memories

After receiving my letter, The Asbury Park Press sent me back the following note:

"You've certainly convinced me the Palisades Park pool was a salt water pool, even though the percentage of salt in the water may not be as great as that of the water in the Monte Carlo pool. We're forwarding your letter to the reader who made the original inquiry, and thank you very much for all of your research into this matter."

George Brown, Trouble Shooter Editor

With that, the case of the world's largest salt water pool was finally put to rest... and Palisades Amusement Park was the winner.


In November 2007, I received an email from Carl Hancock with information about the current day holder of the title of the Worlds Largest Outdoor Saltwater Pool. It is located at the San Alfonso Del Mar resort in Chile. The pool makes the one at Palisades look like a wading pool. You can see pictures of it at

Thanks, Carl, for letting us know about it.



In 2013, I received an email from Ken Liss who informed me that neither pool was the world's largest saltwater pool. The is a pool in San Francisco called the Fleishacker Pool. It held 6.5 million gallons of water (Almost 2 1/2 times the capacity of Palisades. It opened in 1925. The water came from the Pacific Ocean so it was definately salt water. And ironically, it closed the same year as Palisades... 1971.

So I'm sorry to announce that Palisades Amusement Park did NOT have the world's largest outdoor saltwater pool. But they did have a better advertising campaign than Fleishacker Pool in San Francisco.



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