Catskills Part One: Kaaterskill Falls

Upper Kaaterskill Falls
Upper Kaaterskill Falls Creek, a rock cairn accents the view, mid-stream

Kill this. Kill that. Fishkill. Peekskill. Fresh Kills. Say what?

Okay. It’s a Dutch term meaning creek or waterway (a vestige of the area’s colonial past) and found its way into Catskill–ONE name for this dissected assortment of variously protected natural areas in New York State. The geology seemed familiar in places to me as someone familiar with the Ridge and Valley and Allegheny Plateau geology:

Geologically, the Catskills are a mature dissected plateau, a once-flat region subsequently uplifted and eroded into sharp relief by watercourses. The Catskills form the northeastern end of, and highest-elevation portion of, the Allegheny Plateau (also known as the Appalachian Plateau).

Although the Catskills are sometimes compared with the Adirondack Mountains further north, the two mountain ranges are not geologically related, as the Adirondacks are a continuation of the Canadian Shield.

Similarly, the Shawangunk Ridge, which forms the southeastern edge of the Catskills, is part of the geologically distinct Ridge-and-Valley province, and is a continuation of the same ridge known as Kittatinny Mountain in New Jersey and Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania.

The reference to the “CAT” of the region’s name is in some debate, and there have been many who argued for something less Dutch and more distinctive in contrast to the competing mountains in nearby states:

The locals preferred to call them the Blue Mountains, to harmonize with Vermont’s Green Mountains and New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It was only after Washington Irving’s stories that Catskills won out over Blue Mountains, and several other competitors.

And so Kaaterskill Falls inherited a name early on when the mountain label was still being established. It is the highest waterfall in NY state, and most likely, the most dangerous for the typical tourist to reach, as it requires a death-defying cliff-hugging scamper along a massively-busy Winnebago-traveled highway over the quarter mile that separates the parking lot from the trail at the base of the falls. Caveat emptor.

What we didn’t know until later that day was that traffic was WAY up because an impending major music festival (25k strong) near Tannersville–our original destination, aborted for less-traveled places that evening and the next day. And more on that, anon.

One Reply to “Catskills Part One: Kaaterskill Falls”

  1. Winnebagos on 2 lane roads with little or no shoulder. Not the place I have any desire to walk! It is even a little stressful to drive our little RV on those roads, especially if there are bicyclists. Hikers, I have never encountered, thank goodness.

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