THE BRONX - The Bronx River is thriving with wildlife years after officials described it as a cesspool and ordered it rehabilitated.

Around a decade ago, there was more garbage than fish in the river.

"We have gone from counting cars in the river to counting species that have returned," says one official.

One of the new features are aquatic ladders, which were installed to give migrating fish and eels a way past the 400-year-old Bronx Park River Dam that had blocked them from getting to breeding grounds upstream.

The Parks Department says it's considering placing the ladders on other dams to continue to improve wildlife.

And the department is teaming up with the Bronx River Alliance to call on students grades K through 12 to submit artwork based on the river's rebounding aquatic life.

The winning piece will be published on the cover of a new wildlife guide this summer.