Catskill Mountains

Catskill Mountains

name =Catskill Mountains

image_size =300
image_caption =Slide Mountain and the peaks around it as seen from Twin Mountain in the northern Catskills.
country =USA
state =New York
region =Hudson Valley
region1 =
district_type =Counties
district =Ulster
district1 =Greene
district2 =Sullivan
district3 =Delaware
district4 =Schoharie
city_type =Communities
city =Hunter
city1 =Tannersville
city2 =Monticello
city3 =Liberty
unit =Appalachian
unit1 =Allegheny Plateau
border =Poconos
border1 =Shawangunk Ridge
geology =Sedimentary
geology1 =
period =Devonian
period1 =Mississippian
orogeny =
orogeny1 =
area =15259
length_imperial =111
length_orientation =N/S
width_imperial =102
width_orientation =E/W
highest =Slide Mountain
highest location =S of Shandaken
highest_country =
highest_state =
highest_region =
highest_district =Ulster
highest_elevation_imperial =4180
highest_lat_d =41
highest_lat_m =59
highest_lat_s =55
highest_lat_NS =N
highest_long_d =74
highest_long_m =23
highest_long_s =11
highest_long_EW =W
lowest =
lowest_location =
lowest_country =
lowest_state =
lowest_region =
lowest_district =
lowest_elevation_imperial =
lowest_lat_d =
lowest_lat_m =
lowest_lat_s =
lowest_lat_NS =
lowest_long_d =
lowest_long_m =
lowest_long_s =
lowest_long_EW =
free_type =
free =

map_size =300
map_caption =Map of the main regions of the northeast Appalachians, with the Catskills as "C".
map_first =
The Catskill Mountains (also known as simply the Catskills), a natural area in New York State northwest of New York City and southwest of Albany, are a mature dissected plateau, an uplifted region that was subsequently eroded into sharp relief. They are an eastward continuation, and the highest representation, of the Allegheny Plateau. They are sometimes considered an extension of the Appalachian Mountains into Upstate New York, although they are not geologically related. The Catskills are west of the Hudson River and lie within the bounds of six counties (Otsego, Delaware, Sullivan, Schoharie, Greene, and Ulster). The Catskill Mountains are also considered a physiographic section of the larger Appalachian Plateau province, which in turn is part of the larger Appalachian physiographic division.cite web | title = Physiographic divisions of the conterminous U. S. | publisher = U.S. Geological Survey | url = | accessdate = 2007-12-06 ]


At the eastern end of the range the mountains begin quite dramatically with the Catskill Escarpment rising up suddenly from the Hudson Valley. The western boundary is far less certain, as the mountains gradually decline in height and grade into the rest of the Allegheny Plateau. Nor is there a consensus on where the Catskills end to the north or south, with it being certain only that by the time one reaches either I-88, the Delaware River or the Shawangunk Ridge that one is no longer in the Catskills.

Whether you are in the Catskills or not in these peripheral regions seems to be as much a matter of personal preference as anything else as an old saying in the region — "When you have two rocks for every dirt, you are in the Catskills" — seems to suggest.

Many visitors, including owners of weekend or vacation homes in the region, seem to consider almost anything sufficiently rural west of the Hudson yet within a short drive of New York City to be in the Catskills.

The Poconos, to the immediate southwest in Pennsylvania, are technically a continuation of the Catskills under a different name. The Catskills contain more than thirty peaks above 3,500 feet and parts of six important rivers. The highest mountain, Slide Mountain in Ulster County, has an elevation of 4,180 feet (1,274 m).

Within the range is the Catskill Park, part of New York's Forest Preserve. Not all the land is publicly owned; about 60% remains in private hands, but new sections are added frequently. Most of the park and the preserve are within Ulster County; however Greene County accounts for a significant portion as well and there are areas in Sullivan and Delaware counties too.


Originally, the mountains' name was spelled "Kaatskil" by the 17th Century Dutch settlers - a spelling still attested in Washington Irving's "Rip van Winkle", taking place in this area and emphasizing the Dutch origin of the earlier European settlers there; moreover, the old spelling is still used in various names such as that of the Kaatskill Kaleidoscope at Mount Tremper and the locally-published "Kaatskill Life" magazine.

In later times, the area became known mainly as a traditional vacation land with many summer resorts and camp grounds. During the first part of the 20th century, many ethnic groups (Germans, Czechs, Jews, etc) established summer resorts in the nearby Shawangunk Mountains, located south of the Catskills near the town of New Paltz. However, since the Shawangunk name was both hard to spell and to say, those resorts cleverly adopted the Catskills as their home, thereby capitalizing on the strong reputation the area already enjoyed. The resorts together became known as The "Borscht Belt," a collection of Jewish resorts (Brown's, Grossinger's, etc) in this region, where many comics and musicians got a start in show business (hence another misnomer for the Catskills, the "Jewish Alps"). Meanwhile, the actual Catskills continued to enjoy success with its large-scale resorts, country-style inns and lodges, and smaller operations. For most of the 20th century, the Catskills were also the summer home to thousands of kids and adults attending the area's numerous sleepaway camps, including Camp Ma-Ho-Ge,
Anawana, Chipinaw, Ranger, Timber Lake West, Brookwood, Ta-Go-La, Kennybrook, Roosevelt, Tremper Lutheran, Lakonda, Olympus, Camp Diana-Dalmaqua, Camp Omega, Camp Shane, and many more.

This ethnic tradition has mostly disappeared, but the Borscht Belt reputation, though misdirected, is still considered part of the Catskills' heritage. Recently, a few small scale resorts have begun to return to the area, catering to outdoor adventurers and winter snow sport enthusiasts.


The history of the Catskill Mountains is a geologic story come full circle, from erosion, deposition and uplift back to erosion. The Catskill Mountains are more of a dissected plateau than a series of mountain ranges. The sediments that make up the rocks in the Catskills were deposited when the ancient Acadian Mountains in the east were rising and subsequently eroding. The sediments traveled westward and formed a great delta into the sea that was in the area at that time.

The eastern escarpment of the Catskills is near the former (landward) edge of this delta, as the sediments deposited in the northeastern areas along the escarpment were deposited above sea level by moving rivers and the Acadian Mountains were located roughly where the Taconics are located today (though significantly larger). The further west you travel, the finer the sediment that was deposited and the thus the rocks change from gravel conglomerates to sandstones and shales. Even further west, these fresh water deposits intermingle with shallow marine sandstones and shales until the end in deeper water limestones.

The uplift and erosion of the Acadian Mountains was occurring during the Devonian and early Mississippian period (395 to 325 million years ago). Over that time, thousands of feet of these sediments built up, slowly moving the Devonian seashore further and further west. A meteor impact occurred in the shallow sea approximately 375 mya creating a convert|10|km|mi|0|abbr=on diameter crater. This crater eventually filled with sediments and became Panther Mountain through the process of uplift and erosion.

By the middle of the Mississippian period, the uplift stopped and the Acadian Mountains had been eroded so much that sediments no longer flowed across the Catskill Delta.

Over time the sediments were buried by more sediments from other areas until the original Devonian and Mississippian sediments were deeply buried and slowly became solid rock. Then the entire area experienced uplift, which caused the sedimentary rocks to begin to erode. Today, those upper sedimentary rocks have been completely removed, allowing the Devonian and Mississippian rocks to be exposed. Today’s Catskills are a result of the continued erosion of these rocks, both by streams and in the recent past by glaciers.

Some traces of the most recent sedimentary layers remain for the discerning eye to discover, however. Even along the glacially-scoured eastern escarpment and in the upper Hudson Valley just below it -- not to mention the glacial till-dumps and occasional terminal moraines of the southern-facing mountain slopes and valleys of the eastern and central Catskills -- fragments of quartzite ranging from bright white, banded orange and tan, to deep red and dark gray are found. Many if not most of these are no more than 6" thick, have two flat sides and are without inclusions of other native rock, e.g., gray or blue sandstone ("bluestone"), most likely indicating the presence of a shallow, wave-beaten sandy delta or beach area at the base of the Acadian ranges in the delta's final stages of sedimentation. That sand layer, mostly free of silt (hence less opaque than older layers formed with higher concentrations of silt and mud under deeper water at more remote reaches of the delta) formed one or more upper layers of the delta. With compression and time, thin layers of sandstone formed of which only the here-mentioned fragments of sandstone remain now though in comparative abundance, if one measures their frequency against those of glacial erratics of similar size and shape which are typically metamorphic in origin (e.g., feldspars, granites, basalts), which most likely originated in the geologically complex region of the Adirondacks to the north. Such sandstones and erratics are frequently found collocated in cairns and other anomalous rock arrangements of the Eastern Catskills. In successive Ice Ages, both valley and continental glaciers have widened the valleys and the notches of the Catskills and rounded the mountains. Grooves and scratches in exposed bedrock provides evidence of the great sheets of ice that once traversed through the region. Even today the erosion of the mountains continue, with the region’s rivers and streams deepening and widening the mountains’ valleys and cloves.


The name "Catskills" did not come into wide popular use for the mountains until the mid-19th century — in fact, that name was disparaged by purists as too plebeian, too reminiscent of the area's Dutch colonial past, especially since it was used by the local farming population. It may also have been a continuation of the British practice, after taking possession of the colony in the late 17th century, of trying to replace most Dutch Knickerbocker toponyms in present-day New York with their English alternatives. 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.

While the meaning of the name ("cat creek" in Dutch) and the namer (early Dutch explorers) are settled matters, exactly how and why the area is named is a mystery. Mountain Lions or "Catamounts" were known to have been in the area when the Dutch arrived in the 1600scite web |url= |title=The Elusive Mountain Lion - E-Files - Our History|accessdate=2007-09-17 |work=Sierra Club] .

The most common, and easiest, is that bobcats were seen near Catskill creek and the present-day village of Catskill, and the name followed from there. However there is no record of bobcats ever having been seen in significant numbers on the banks of the Hudson, and the name Catskill does not appear on paper until 1655, more than four decades later.

Other theories include:

* A corruption of "kasteel", the Dutch sailors' term for the Indian stockades they saw on the riverbank. According to one Belgian authority, "kat" occurs in many place names throughout Flanders and has nothing to do with cats and everything to do with fortifications.Fact|date=February 2007
* It was to honor Dutch poet Jacob Cats, who was also known for his real estate prowess, profiting from speculation in lands reclaimed from the sea.
* A ship named "The Cat" had gone up the Hudson shortly before the name was first used. In nautical slang of the era, "cat" could also mean a piece of equipment, or a particular type of small vessel.
* It has also been suggested that it refers to lacrosse, which Dutch visitors had seen the Iroquois natives play. "Kat" can also refer to a tennis racket, which a lacrosse stick resembles, and the first place the Dutch saw this, further down the river in the present-day Town of Saugerties, they gave the name "Kaatsbaan", for "tennis court," which is still on maps today.

The confusion over the exact origins of the name led over the years to variant spellings such as "Kaatskill" and "Kaaterskill", both of which are also still used, the former in the regional magazine "Kaatskill Life", the latter as the name of a town, creek, clove, mountain and waterfall.

The supposed Indian name for the range, "Onteora" or "land in the sky," was actually created by a white man in the mid-19th century to drum up business for a resort. It, too, persists today as the name of a school district and as the name of Boy Scout summer camp.

In culture

The Catskills are famous in American cultural history for being the site of the so-called Borscht Belt, a Jewish resort area where many young Jewish stand-up comics got their start. Many Borscht Belt performers, such as Mickey Katz, referred to them as the "Katzkills".

The Catskill mountains and their inhabitants play an important role in the stories "My Side of the Mountain" and its sequels by Jean Craighead George and in H. P. Lovecraft's "The Lurking Fear" & "Beyond the Wall of Sleep".

The town of Palenville located in the Catskills figures in Washington Irving's story as the home of "Rip Van Winkle".

The Catskills are mentioned in The Band's song "Time to Kill." The Band was also photographed there for their first album, "Music from Big Pink" [ The Band in the Catskills] .

The Catskills are also mentioned in Beck's song "High Five (Rock the Catskills)" on his 1996 album "Odelay".

Mercury Rev's song "Opus 40" on their 1998 album "Deserter's Songs" contains the line "Catskill mansions buried dreams/ I'm alive she cried but I don't know what it means". The band and their studios are based in the Catskills, and the area is often referred to in interview.

The Catskills are mentioned as well in Pela's song "Rooftops (Moth Song Outro)" on their 2007 album "Anytown Graffiti".

Much of the present-day (as of publication) action of Art Spiegelman's award-winning graphic novel "Maus" is set in the Catskills.

Kid Rock Mentions The Catskills In His Song 'Low Life'

Films set, or filmed in, the Catskills

*"The Gig (film) (1985) Director: Frank D. Gilroy, character study, amateur musicians get a gig. Fun.
*"Wendigo" (2001) Filmed in West Shokan and Phoenicia area.
*" [ Four Seasons Documentary] " (2006 - in production) Follows the lives of holocaust survivors in a Borsht Belt colony
*The hit 1987 film "Dirty Dancing" was set in a Catskills resort in the summer of 1963 (though filmed at Mountain Lake in Virginia and at Lake Lure in North Carolina.)
*"WaterFall In The Catskills" (1897, the Edison Studio)
*"Rip Van Winkle" (1921) Silent film version of the classic story
*"Sweet Lorraine" (1987) story of an aging Catskill resort in its last days. Stars Maureen Stapleton.
*"Manny & Lo" (1996)
*"A Walk on the Moon" (1999) Set in Sullivan County, but filmed in Quebec.
*"You Can Count on Me" (2000) Award-winning independent film set in rural New England, but filmed in and around Margaretville and Phoenicia.
*"Kaaterskill Falls" (2001) Award winning independent film about a young urban couple befriending a local hitchhiker. Mountain country version of Roman Polanski's "Knife in the Water". (Actually filmed in the Catskills.)
*"The Catskill Chainsaw Redemption" (2004) A Horror movie
*"Stagedoor" (2006) Documentary on life at a teen camp
*"Goyband" (2007 - post production) "Dirty Dancing" meets "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with a touch of "Fiddler on the Roof".Fact|date=May 2008
*"Tootsie" (1982) - Features scenes in the "Hurley Mountain Inn" located in Ulster County.
*99 Geiger Road " [] " 2007 - Documentary about a bungalow colony of Holocaust survivors
* Parts of the movie Transamerica (2005) starring Felicity Huffman were filmed in Callicoon, NY though in the movie it's referred to as Callicoon, KY
* Part of the movie "War of the Worlds" was filmed in Athens at the foot of the Catskills (the burning train and Ferry scene)

See also

*Borscht Belt
*Catskill High Peaks
*Catskill Park
*History of the Catskill Mountains
* USS "Catskill" (1862)
* USS "Catskill" (LSV-1)


External links

* [ A regional guide to the Catskill Mountains]
* [ Hiking Guide to Catskill High Peaks] Catskill 3500 Club
* [ Online Guide to the Western Catskills]
* [ Official Tourism Site of the Catskill Region]
* [ Website for the Catskill Mountain Club hiking]
* [ Online Guide to the Catskill Mountains]
* [ The Catskill Archive - History of the Catskill Mountains]
* [ The Catskill Mountain Foundation]
* [ The Catskill Center]
* [ The Catskill Watershed Corporation]
* [ Catskill Region Photo Gallery]
* [ Catskill Mountainkeeper] Protecting the Six Counties of the Catskills

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  • Catskill Mountains — (Catskills), ein zu dem Appalachischen System gehöriges nordamerikan. Gebirge zwischen dem Quelllauf des Delaware und dem mittlern Hudson, das durch die Haupt und Seitentäler des Schoharie , Esopus und Catskill Creek gegliedert ist und im Slide… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Catskill Mountains — [kats′kil΄] [Du, cat s stream; reason for name unknown] mountain range of the Appalachian system, in SE N.Y.: resort area: highest peak, c. 4,200 ft (1,280 m): also Catskills …   English World dictionary

  • Catskill Mountains — p1f1 Catskill Mountains Höchster Gipfel Slide Mountain (1.277 m) Lage US Bundesstaat New York Teil der Appalachen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Catskill Mountains — /kats kil/ a range of low mountains in E New York: resort area. Highest peak, Slide Mountain, 4204 ft. (1281 m). Also called Catskills. * * * Mountain group of the Appalachian mountain system, southeastern New York, U.S. It is bounded by the… …   Universalium

  • Catskill Mountains — Montagnes Catskill Montagnes Catskill Chaînes du nord est des Appalaches Géographie Altitude 1 274 m …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Catskill Mountains — Cat|skill Moun|tains also the Catskills the Catskill Mountains a group of mountains in the southeast of New York state in the US, part of the Appalachian mountain range …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Catskill Mountains — Sp Kãtskilio kalna Ap Catskill Mountains L Apalačų kk. dalis, JAV (Niujorko v ja) …   Pasaulio vietovardžiai. Internetinė duomenų bazė

  • Catskill Mountains ou Catskill — Montagnes Catskill Montagnes Catskill Chaînes du nord est des Appalaches Géographie Altitude 1 274 m …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Catskill Mountains — noun a range of the Appalachians to the west of the Hudson in southeastern New York; includes many popular resort areas • Syn: ↑Catskills • Instance Hypernyms: ↑range, ↑mountain range, ↑range of mountains, ↑chain, ↑mountain chain, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Catskill Mountains — geographical name mountains SE New York in the Appalachian system W of Hudson River see Slide Mountain …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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