The East River begins at the Long Island sound at the eastern boundary of New York City and flows between the boroughs of Bronx and Queens under the Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges. At approximately its midpoint, the East River changes from going east-west to going north-south at a turbulent channel called Hell Gate. Hell Gate is spanned by both the Triborough Bridge and the Hell Gate Bridge, the latter being the longest railroad bridge in the world. The southern segment of the river is the more famous one, with Manhattan on the west side and Queens and Brooklyn on the east.
In addition to several minor islands, the East River contains Riker's Island, North and South Brother Islands in the upper segment and Roosevelt Island (formerly Welfare Island) in the lower segment. Ward's Island and Randall's Island are at the junction of the two sections. The latter two have been joined by landfill.