The Ramble and Lake in Central Park together form an inseparable central feature of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's "Greensward" plan (1857) to provide a Central Park for New York City. The Ramble was intended as a woodland walk through highly varied topography, a "wild garden" away from carriage drives and bridle paths, to be wandered in, or to be viewed as a "natural" landscape from the formal lakefront setting of Bethesda Terrace (illustration below) or from rented rowboats on the Lake.
The 38-acre (150,000 m2) Ramble embraces the deep coves of the north shore of the Lake, excavated between bands of bedrock; it offers dense naturalistic planting, rocky outcrops of glacially-scarred Manhattan bedrock, small open glades and an artificial stream, The Gill, that empties through the Azalea Pond, then down a cascade into the Lake. Its ground rises northwards towards Vista Rock, crowned by Belvedere Castle, a lookout and eye-catching folly.
Overlooking the Lake at the rocky promontory that Olmsted called The Hernshead stands the Ladies' Pavilion, a wrought iron shelter in a playful gothic style. It provides a classic atmospheric view, changing with light and weather, of Midtown skyscrapers rising from a belt of trees, with the Lake as foreground. The Ladies' Pavilion was built, probably to designs of Calvert Vaux, to shelter ladies waiting to change streetcars at the Columbus Circle
corner of the park.
Oak Bridge spanning Bankrock Bay in the Lake's northwest corner, is the major entrance to the Ramble from the West Side and, since its recreation in 2009 from Calvert Vaux's original drawings, a picturesque feature. The bridge that was built in 1860 of white oak with decorative openwork panels of cast iron, has been recreated in steel clad in ornamental cast iron facings, with a wooden deck.
The Ramble is one of the major centers of bird-watching in Central Park: 230 species of birds have been spotted over the years, including more than twenty species of warblers that pass through during spring and fall migration in April and October.
The Ramble As A Gay Icon:
Since at least the early 20th century, the seclusion of the Ramble has been used for private homosexual encounters. In the 1920s, the lawn at the north end was referred to as the "fruited plain" and in the 1950s and 1960s the Ramble was feared by many as a haven for "anti-social persons".