The Ashokan Watershed offers abundant recreational activities to residents and visitors to the area. Town centers sport a variety of restaurants and shops. Nearby Belleayre Mountain has downhill and cross-country skiing in the winter and music festivals in the summer. The Catskill Forest Preserve offers the opportunity to hike numerous trails, camp, and in some locations, even swim. Most parcels owned by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are open to the public for a variety of activities including hiking, hunting, and fishing. Visit this DEP website for more information on obtaining access to City owned lands. Be sure to check the signage on land that you wish to visit.
Ulster County has developed an excellent online, interactive map for locating popular sites for fishing access, hiking trails, and campgrounds. Visit the Ulster County REConnect website to use this nifty online tool.
Fishing is an important part of the culture of the Ashokan Watershed and the Catskill Mountain region. The Catskills are known as the “Birthplace of American Fly Fishing” and were the home of pioneers of the sport including Theodore Gordon, who is widely considered to be the father of American dry fly fishing. Fishing is an important part of the local tourism economy in the Ashokan Watershed. Because of stocking efforts in the early 20th Century, the Esopus Creek has earned a reputation as a wild rainbow trout stream. Anglers can find brook trout in the cooler headwaters of most streams. Rainbow and brown trout are found in larger streams, such as the Esopus Creek. Over 200,000 brown trout are stocked annually by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in the Esopus Creek.
A number of public fishing access locations are available to anglers in the Ashokan Watershed. Public Fishing Rights (PFRs) are permanent easements purchased by the NYSDEC from willing landowners, giving anglers the right to fish and walk along the streambank. Visit this NYSDEC website to locate fishing access sites. The NYC DEP also offers access to some areas for fishing. While many DEP lands are free to access, some require a water supply land access permit. Visit DEP’s watershed recreation website for information on obtaining permits.
In addition, there are many clubs and organizations that can help you become acquainted with the sport of fishing if you are new to it. The Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of Ulster County and similar organizations give fishing classes and offer youth and family fishing days. The area also has two chapters of Trout Unlimited, The Catskill Mountains Chapter and the Ashokan-Pepacton Watershed Chapter, where trout fishing enthusiasts can meet others who share their passion. Please remember that to fish anywhere in New York State you must possess a valid NYS fishing license. Some waters also have additional restrictions. Back to top
Whitewater Activities (Tubing, Canoeing and Kayaking)
The Esopus Creek is classified as a navigable stream under New York State Law, which allows users to access the stream for whitewater recreation, including canoeing, kayaking, and perhaps the most unique Catskill region recreational activity: tubing.
The American Whitewater and Whitewater Classification System considers the Esopus Creek to be a Class II-III stream meaning that much of the stream is appropriate for beginners with some more challenging sections appropriate for intermediate paddlers. The creek is also home to the second oldest kayak slalom race in the United States, in existence since 1964, sponsored by the Kayak and Canoe Club of New York (KCCNY). The KCCNY also hosts an annual Esopus Whitewater Funfest, usually in early June, with races, river-runs, and a freestyle “rodeo” where paddlers perform maneuvers and tricks on standing waves.
Tubing has been a popular pastime on the Esopus Creek since at least the mid-20th Century when school-aged children would take old truck inner tubes, inflate them, and coast down the creek to cool off on a warm summer’s day. As time went by and this activity increased in popularity, entrepreneurs began to fill the need for available tubes and safety equipment. There is a tube rental agency operating in Phoenicia: Town Tinker Tube Rentals .
The entirety of the Ashokan Watershed is located within the Catskill Park, which is a patchwork of New York State Forest Preserve and privately owned land. On the publically owned lands there are a variety of recreational opportunities including: camping, hunting, fishing, and hiking. Many of the hiking trails double as cross-country skiing/snowshoeing trails in the winter months. There is an abundance of long hiking trails that transverse many miles of ground and reach several of the high peaks, such as Slide Mountain. These trails offer exercise and the chance to enjoy the beauty of nature. For more information on NYS public trails, please visit this NYSDEC website describing hiking and rock climbing opportunities. DEP also has many lands that are open to the public with designated trails as well as backcountry hiking opportunities. Back to top