Catskills Summer Things - Purple Mountain Press


by Pete Senterman

The very best hikes, family walks, road and mountain bike tours,
flatwater and whitewater adventures, and swimming holes to be found in the Catskills

From: "Swimming Holes"

The Catskills abound with streams and waterfalls creating numerous places to swim. On any weekend with temperatures approaching 90, you need only look for an abundance of parked cars and follow the sound of children frolicking in the water. The state maintains supervised swimming facilities at North Lake, Wilson Pond, Little Pond, and Mongaup Pond Campgrounds and Belleayre Day Use Area in the Catskills and Lake Minnewaska and Lake Awosting in Minnewaska State Park in the Shawangunks. All have lifeguards, maintained beaches, and picnic facilities. There is also a large complex of pools at Mine Kill State Park on Route 30 north of Grand Gorge. All charge an admission.

Many towns and villages maintain supervised beaches or pools. Most charge admission, but some are free. For those who like their swimming unsupervised and free, there are a few places of note. Along with your choice to swim unsupervised comes the responsibility to be mindful of the dangers. Keep a close eye on your children. Never dive into unknown waters. Litter is an ongoing problem so please make sure that you keep these areas clean. You are responsible for your actions. Floods can drastically change the character of rivers. It is possible a natural pool listed may totally disappear or move as a result.

Colgate Lake in East Jewett is a very popular swimming site. It is a shallow lake, one of the few in the Catskills that warm up quickly in the early summer and stay comfortable throughout the season. There is a large field surrounding the swimming area with ample shoreline access. The shore is not sandy but provides a pleasant area. You can also launch a non-motorized boat or sailboard to take advantage of the full extent of the lake. At the traffic light in Tannersville, turn north, go uphill on County Route 23C and bear left at the stone church at the top of the hill. In East Jewett, turn right on Colgate Lake Road, County Route 78, and travel a mile and one-half to the lake. There is a large parking lot on the left just before you reach the lake.

Along the Schoharie Creek, a few miles west of Lexington, County Route 2 crosses the creek. Under the bridge is a large and very deep natural pool. There is room for parking along Route 23A and on the side road. This is mostly a rocky and cobbled area, so you must be cautious as the rocks are quite slippery when wet. There may be a rope swing hanging from the bridge. Farther downstream are several more opportunities for swimming where there are pools near the road.

In Mount Tremper, there is a green bridge over Esopus Creek, which is closed to traffic. It is a short distance off Route 28 on Riseley Road. Under it is a deep swimming hole and a nice sunny, gravel beach a little downstream. The Esopus is usually quite cold as the flow is augmented from the Schoharie Reservoir via the Shandaken Tunnel at Allaben. Because the Esopus's flow is augmented, it is famous for its tubing. Several businesses in Phoenicia and Mount Tremper rent large tubes and provide upstream transportation. There is even a "tube train" to bring tubers upstream for a several-mile run through mild to medium rapids. If you try tubing in the Esopus or any fast water, a word of caution: Always wear a life jacket and sneakers. Most injuries and deaths from the sport occur to tubers who are not wearing life jackets. It only takes one bump to become disoriented and in trouble. Trees, branches, and other debris are natural hazards that create situations that can drown you. Be very careful when approaching any obstacle! Leave plenty of room around any hazard, or get out of the water and walk around it. The heaviest rapids are upstream of Phoenicia. . . .

Rondout Creek is an exceptionally clear stream draining a narrow mountain valley in the southeastern Catskills. The easiest approach is from Route 55A at the upper end of Rondout Reservoir. From 55A, follow Sundown Road, County Route 155, upstream to Peekamoose Road and continue upstream with the creek on your left. There is an informal campsite about three miles above Sundown. For the next few miles upstream from the campsite there are several deep pools offering excellent swimming in cold, clear water. Do not park on the pavement, there are plenty of pull-outs and parking spots.

In Arkville, where Dry Brook Creek crosses under Route 28, there is a popular swimming area. This is not a deep pool and is ideal for small children as there are large areas of smooth rock to sit and slide on, plenty of sun, and ample water to splash in.

Alder Lake in the southwest offers a small grassy area near the dam where you can take a swim. (See the map on page 28.)

There are numerous other opportunities to get wet. If you are looking for a place to let small children play in shallow water the opportunities are only limited by accessible shoreline. If you are canoeing, any pool is fair game. Most waterfalls have plunge pools below them and simply standing under one is refreshing. Almost all water in the Catskills is clear and cool to cold. Respect property owner’s rights and remember—the New York City reservoirs are patrolled and always off limits for swimming.

104 pages, illustrated, 5.5 x 8.25, 2003
$12.50 paperback--A Purple Mountain Press original

This is the second in a series of recreation guides for the Catskills.
The first, The Catskills: A Winter Sports Guide by George Quinn, was published in 2001.

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Copyright © 2006 by Purple Mountain Press. All rights reserved.