The IJ (originally spelled "Y" or " Ye") is a lake, formerly a bay, in the Dutch province of North Holland . It is known for beingAmsterdam's waterfront. The name derives from the generic Germanic term for " water." In historic times, the IJ was a long and narrow brackish bay that connected to the Zuiderzee (itself a bay of the North Sea) and stretched from Amsterdam in the east to Velsen in the west. At its west end, only the natural dune ridge across the Dutch North Sea coast prevented the IJ, which grew ever larger through the centuries, from directly connecting to the North Sea and so making the North Holland peninsula into an island. This isthmus was known as "Holland op zijn smalst" ("Holland at its thinnest"). The IJ became troublesome due to sand bars across its mouth, and ships becoming bigger, and it was nearly impossible for seafaring vessels to reach the city. At the same time, the bay gnawed away at the surrounding farmlands, almost connecting with the Haarlemmermeer (Lake Harlem) and seriously threatening the cities of Haarlem and Amsterdam. Plans were put forth to close off both the Haarlemmermeer and the IJ and turn them into polders. The Haarlemmermeer was first, falling dry in 1852, and the largest part of the IJ followed suit between 1865 and 1876 , with only a small lake remaining at Amsterdamthat was closed off from the Zuiderzee by the Oranje locks. At the same time, the North Sea Canal was constructed in the former IJ basin to provide Amsterdam with access to the sea again and revive its ailing port. BB IJ is still that original waterfront toAmsterdam.