Ashokan Center

Ashokan Center

The Ashokan Center (formerly the Ashokan Field Campus) is an outdoor education center and retreat/conference facility located in the Catskills of upstate New York. Schools have used Ashokan's "classroom" of forests, waterfalls, stream fed ponds, and open meadows for over 40 years. Music camps, blacksmithing conferences, and retreat groups have called Ashokan home while schools are not in residence.


* "Ashokan" means "Place of many fishes" or "Where waters converge"
* Pronunciation: (UH'show'kin)
* Outdoor education program began in 1967
* Inspiration for "Ashokan Farewell" composed by Jay Ungar



The story of Ashokan begins over 400 million years ago during the Devonian Period. The vastly swollen Esopus Creek struggled to find its present path through Ashokan which was well-blocked by glacial moraine. Winchell’s Falls and Cathedral Gorge are relatively recent (past ten-thousand years) features. The newly uncovered till (glacial soil) was rocky and sterile, and much like northern Canada today. It was covered by tundra where feeding mammoths and other ice age mammals migrated along the un-crossable Esopus. As the climate continued to warm, the open landscape gave way to spruce and fir of the boreal forest. Mastodons and woodland caribou took over the trail blazing begun by earlier mammals. At some point during this time, the first people entered the area hunting the ice-age “mega-fauna”. Evidence of these first people is scant in this area, but they undoubtedly followed the game trails along the Esopus.

Living History

The first homesteaders were a third generation Dutchman named Jacobus Bush, and his wife, Eycke Vandermerke, born in Marbletown, Ulster County, New York in 1692 and 1687 respectively. Jacobus Jr. and his wife Annetje Merkel, recorded their ownership on a deed of remembrance in 1762. In 1755, his brother Thomas and his wife’s sister Elizabeth built a homestead a few hundred yards up the road. This is the house from which his son Fredrick’s children were kidnapped by Tory inspired “Indians”. Thomas was an outspoken proponent of the patriot cause. This was the frontier during the Revolutionary War and it was a common practice for Tories and their Indian allies to raid frontier homes. It had become such a problem that General Washington authorized the building of a fort at Shokan, now under the waters of the Ashokan Reservoir.


External links

* [ Ashokan's Website]

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