Join Our Mailing List:
Please enter your email address below for future emails and newsletters.
Geography and Geology
- The six-county Catskill region is about the size of Connecticut. It encompasses the 700,000-acre Catskill Park – a mix of private land and more than a quarter-million acres of state-owned forever wild land known as the Catskill Forest Preserve.
- The highest peak in the Catskills is Slide Mountain in Ulster County, at 4,180 feet.
- Much of the region was an inland sea during the Devonian period. The erosion of the massive Acadian Mountains to the east sent sediment sliding westward into that sea to create the Catskill delta. Fossilized sea creatures can be found atop Vroman’s Nose in the Town of Fulton, Schoharie County, 600 feet above the floor of the Schoharie Creek valley.
- A meteor is believed to have slammed into the inland sea some 400 million years ago, creating a six-mile wide crater (the “Panther Mountain Crater”) whose circumference can roughly be traced by Woodland Valley and Big Indian-Oliverea Roads in the Town of Shandaken, Ulster County.
- Tributaries of four major river systems drain the Catskills – the Delaware, the Hudson, the Mohawk and the Susquehanna.
- The tallest waterfall in New York State is Kaaterskill Falls in the Town of Hunter. Its two tiers drop 260 feet into the dramatic Kaaterskill Clove.
- Between 1905 and 1965, New York City dammed several streams in the Catskills to create six huge reservoirs that today supply 90% of the water consumed by 9 million people – half the State’s population.
Literature, Art and Music
- Legend has it that the fictional Rip Van Winkle’s deep sleep took place near Palenville, Greene County, but author Washington Irving acknowledged that he had never stepped foot in the Catskills before writing his 1819 classic.
- John Burroughs, the 19th-century naturalist and essayist whose books made him a celebrity and promoted the conservation movement in the US, was born and is buried in Roxbury, Delaware County.
- My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George’s 1959 story of a boy who runs away from the city to live off the land, was set in Delhi, Delaware County.
- Painters of the Hudson River School of Art helped make the Catskills a 19th-century vacation destination with their dramatic and often brooding paintings of “The First Wilderness”.
- The Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, established as an arts and crafts community in 1902 in Woodstock, Ulster County is the nation’s oldest.
- The 1969 Woodstock Festival was actually held in Bethel, Sullivan County, 43 miles southwest of Woodstock. The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts was established on the festival site in 2005.
- “Ashokan Farewell,” the haunting fiddle tune that became the title theme of the 1990 PBS documentary on the Civil War, was composed by musician/songwriter Jay Ungar in 1982 following a fiddle and dance camp at the Ashokan Field Campus of State University of New York at New Paltz. Jay Ungar, his wife Molly Mason and their Ashokan Foundation in 2008 acquired the facility, an environmental, cultural and history center located near the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County.
- The Catskills – specifically the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creeks -- are recognized as the birthplace of American flyfishing. The Catskill Flyfishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor, Sullivan County is a favored destination for anglers.
- Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and other early baseball stars once played on a ballfield in Fleischmanns, Delaware County. The field, still in active use today, was donated to the community by yeast and distilling magnate Julius Fleischmann who had a summer compound there.
- Jay Simpson Memorial Ski Slope, the first mechanized ski center in New York State, was established in Shandaken, Ulster County in 1936, built with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Tourism and entertainment
- The Catskill Mountain House, which opened in 1824 near Haines Falls, Greene County, is credited with beginning the tourist industry in the region. Located high atop the Catskill escarpment overlooking the Hudson Valley, the hotel attracted the rich and famous who often carved their names into the rock outcroppings. These signatures are still seen by visitors to what is now North-South Lake State Campground.
- The southern Catskills in Sullivan County is famed as the so-called Borscht belt, a Jewish resort area where many stand-up comedians either got their start or propelled their careers. They included Mel Brooks, Lenny Bruce, George Burns, Sid Caesar, Rodney Dangerfield, Jerry Lewis, Joan Rivers and many others.
- Many movies have been set or filmed in the Catskills. They include “Dirty Dancing,” “Manny & Lo,” “You Can Count on Me,” “A Walk on the Moon,” “Tootsie” and others. Many celebrities call the Catskills home, including Philippe Petit, French high wire artist and Woodstock, Ulster County resident, whose daring walk between the Twin Towers in New York City in 1974 is the subject of “Man on A Wire,” which won a 2008 Oscar for Best Feature Documentary.
- The world’s largest kaleidoscope (37 feet tall and 50 feet in diameter) is located at Catskill Corners in the Town of Shandaken, Ulster County.
- Catskill ash trees for many years were used to make the “slugs” that were turned into baseball bats for major league teams. For 95 years, Louisville Slugger bats were made from timber harvested and milled in Hancock, Delaware County, birthplace of baseball great “Honest Eddie” Murphy.
- Hancock is also the Bluestone Capital of the United States. This distinctive Catskill Mountain stone, quarried throughout the Catskills, was used to make New York City curbs and sidewalks and in the foundations of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.
- The Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens to the Hudson River and then by boat into New York City. He sold them all on a street corner in Manhattan. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.
- There are an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 black bears living in the Catskills.
- The threatened bald eagle is thriving in the Catskills. The federally listed bird uses the reservoirs in the Catskills for nesting and wintering. These eagles originated from a reintroduction effort that released more than 200 eagles in New York State beginning in 1976. Many other threatened or special interest species find sanctuary in the Catskills, including the timber rattlesnake, and Bicknell’s thrush, which was first discovered by Eugene Bicknell in 1881 on Slide Mountain.