Kaaterskill Falls is located about 2.6 miles from Palenville, in Green County, New York, near Manorville. It is a chain of two individual waterfalls at a height of 79 m, making it one of the highest waterfalls in New York.
The dramatic visual and sound effects of the waterfalls draw tourists from all over the country. The surrounding environs of the forest and the network of trails are just as beautiful, creating an unforgettable experience for visitors.
Kaaterskill Falls is part of the Forest Preserve under the watchful eyes of the New York State Department of Environment Conservation.
Kaaterskill Falls is situated along a ravine known as Kaaterskill Clove that expanded when stream erosion was carved into the Catskill Mural Front. This stream erosion followed the retreat of the Pleistocene glacier.
Kaaterskill Falls is surrounded by rocks that consist of sandstones, conglomerates, and shales. These rocks are said to have been left behind by a great mountain range in New England and transported on rivers in New York around 384 million years ago during the Devonian Period.
You may also find fossils here, which mostly include pieces of freshwater clams and early tree fossils.
The lakes and trail system around Kaaterskill Falls are full of flora and fauna, including a wide variety of bass, pike, pickerel, bass, trout, and more.
However, we don’t recommend fishing the waterfall itself – you’ll probably only find tadpoles and not much else. Instead, you can explore the nearby lakes for fishing spots. The nearest lakes to Kaaterskill Falls are North-South Lake and Colgate Lake.
Both lakes are fantastic fishing spots. Popular fish in the area include pumpkinseed, black crappie, largemouth bass, brown bullhead, and pickerel. Motorized boats are not allowed, but you can take canoes and rowboats to explore the lake. Nearby services let you rent canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, rowboats, and fishing equipment. Like most lakes throughout New York State, the best months to look for fish are in the late summer and early fall months.
The ecosystem of Kaaterskill Falls and the surrounding Catskill Peaks Forest provides support to over 3,000 species of birds including Hermit Thrushes, White-throated Sparrows, Dark Eyed Juncos, and Swainson’s Thrushes, among others. Some areas around the waterfall have been designated as a state Bird Conservation Area.
The trails around Kaaterskill Falls are the perfect place to spot stunning birds native to the state. It doesn’t matter where you go, there’s a strong chance you will spot some of the birds mentioned above.
Bird sightings usually increase in the early morning, so make sure to set your alarm early. It is also recommended to have a guide with you to identify some of the birds. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars to observe the shape, size, and field marks of the birds to identify them.
Nearby Wild Animals
Kaaterskill Falls is a nature-enthusiast’s paradise because the weather supports a multitude of flora and fauna you will not find elsewhere. There is a big possibility of you encountering a snake or two during your hiking excursion into the nearby trail system.
The two most poisonous snakes to watch out for are the timber rattlesnake and copperhead. They are usually colored tan, yellow, and back with a triangular head shape. If you see the rattlesnake, walk away slowly and alert others nearby.
The white-tailed deer is also seen nearby, usually before dawn, munching on the wet grass and seeds. The deer are not hostile unless you approach them. You might spot baby deer or fauns if you visit in the months of May or June.
You will also spot coyotes if you bring binoculars with you. There are many coyotes that live in the surrounding regions of Kaaterskill Falls. They mostly stick to the valleys and mountains, but have been known to visit the falls.
And of course, you will also see black bears. These massive creatures can reach upwards of 750 pounds and should not be approached. They usually stick to the forests but might make a detour to the falls when you least expect it, so be careful!
Finally, you will also spot cougars and bobcats that roam throughout the trial system. They are mostly tracking their prey of deer, rodents, and birds. Most big cats don’t waste either time with small birds, but they may find their way to the waterfall if they get desperate enough.
Most people visit Kaaterskill Falls to ogle at them from a distance. But once you’ve had your fill of the waterfalls, you can explore the extensive trail system connecting Kaaterskill Falls to nearby natural destinations.
Hiking is highly recommended because the trail system will reward you with stunning views of the rivers and valleys. The trail system is also a popular destination for cycling enthusiasts. There are many marked trail ways around the waterfalls if you prefer to get around on a two wheeler.
Finally, you can always retreat to a cozy hotel or cabin to relax and unwind for your adventurous day at Kaaterskill Falls.
Getting to Kaaterskill Falls may be a little easier said than done. You could take the more dangerous, but rewarding, side road near the park entrance to North Lake State Park. This road leads to a parking area for an overlook for the falls.
You’ll have to walk around a quarter mile downhill to the top of the falls. Watch out for the unsecure ledges near the top of the falls. They are very dangerous and don’t provide the best views of the falls. Many people have reportedly been killed by slipping or being caught by water flowing over the treacherous slippery rocks.
A better option is to reach Route 23A, just 1.3 miles east of Haines Falls. Walk downhill along the highway (watch out for the traffic), until you reach the trailhead that leads to the base of the falls. This trail follows the creek for about half a mile and can be completed in about half an hour. It may be more work, but following this trail is worth the exhilarating sights and sounds.
So there you have it, a cursory guide to the energetic Kaaterskill Falls, its geology, history, as well as local flora and fauna. It is recommended to hire a guide or go with a group to make the journey safer.