The Kill Van Kull is a tidal strait between Staten Island, New York and Bayonne, New Jersey in the United States. It is approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) long and 1,000 feet (305 m) wide and connects Newark Bay with Upper New York Bay. The Robbins Reef Light marks the eastern end of the Kill, Bergen Point its western end. It is spanned by the Bayonne Bridge and is one of the most heavily traveled waterways in the Port of New York and New Jersey.
Historically, it has been one of the most important channels for the commerce of the region, providing a passage for marine traffic between Upper New York Bay and the industrial towns of northeastern New Jersey. During the colonial era, it played a significant role in travel between New York and the southern colonies, with passengers changing from ferries to coaches at Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth).
Since the final third of the 20th century, it has provided the principal access for oceangoing container ships to Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, the busiest port facility in the eastern United States, and Howland Hook Marine Terminal. The strait has required continued dredging and deepening to accommodate the passage of ever-larger ships. In many areas, the sandy bottom has been excavated down to rock and now requires blasting. In addition, the Bayonne Bridge's deck is being raised so that larger container ships can travel the Kill Van Kull.
Kill Van Kull translates as "channel from the pass" or "ridge". The sister channel to the Kill Van Kull is the nearby Arthur Kill, whose name is an Anglicization of achter kill meaning "back channel", referring to its location "behind" Staten Island.
The name "Kill Van Kull" has its roots in the early 17th century during the Dutch colonial era, when the region was part of New Netherland. Places were named by early explorers and settlers in reference to their shape, topography, or other geographic qualities. The area around Newark Bay was called Achter Kol. The bay lies behind Bergen Hill, the emerging ridge of the Hudson Palisades which begins on Bergen Neck, the peninsula between it and the Upper New York Bay. Behind or achter the ridge was a col or passage to the interior. Kill comes from the Middle Dutch word kille meaning creek. The bay was known as Cull Bay during the British colonial era.
Western part of the Kill from the Bayonne Bridge
USACE dredge brings up blasted bedrock in widening the channel
Ships in Upper New York Bay wait to enter the Kill