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Catskill Mountains

From Academic Kids

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Catskills.jpg
Catskill Escarpment and Blackhead Range as seen from Overlook Mountain

The Catskill Mountains despite their popular name are not true geological mountains, but 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 popularly considered an extension of the Appalachian Mountains into New York State. These "mountains" are northwest of New York City and west of the Hudson River and lie within the bounds of six counties ( Otsego, Delaware, Sullivan, Schoharie, Greene, and Ulster).

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, 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 altitude of 4,180 feet (1,274 m).

Within the range is the Catskill Park and corresponding Catskill 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.

This is 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 Catskills that catered to their needs. The "Borscht Belt" was a collection of Jewish resorts (Brown's, Grossinger's, etc) in this region, where many comics got a start in show business. This ethnic tradition has mostly disappeared, although some special groups maintain private resorts. Many of these resorts now attempt to remain open all year and cater to winter activities such as skiing.

The Catskills figure in Washington Irving's story, Rip van Winkle.

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Kaaterskill_Falls.jpg
Kaaterskill Falls on Spruce Creek near Palenville, New York. Highest falls in New York. Two separate falls total 260 feet

Name

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, since it was used by the local farming population (a continuation, actually, of the British practice of trying to replace most Dutch toponyms in present-day New York with English alternatives after taking possession of the colony in the late 17th century). They preferred to call them the Blue Mountains, to harmonize with Vermont's Green Mountains and New Hampshire's White Mountains. Only after Irving's stories did Catskills win out over Blue 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 is a mystery.

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.

But 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.
  • 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 latter as the name of a creek and mountain, the former in the regional magazine Kaatskill Life.

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.

See also:

External links


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State of New York

Capital:

Albany

Regions:

Adirondack Mountains | Capital District | Catskill Mountains | Central | Finger Lakes | The Holland Purchase | Hudson Valley | Long Island | Mohawk Valley | Shawangunks | Southern Tier | Upstate | Western

Major metros:

Albany | Binghamton | Buffalo | New York | Rochester | Syracuse | Utica

Smaller cities:

Amsterdam | Auburn | Batavia | Canandaigua | Corning | Cortland | Dunkirk | Elmira | Geneva | Glen Cove | Glens Falls | Gloversville | Goshen | Hornell | Hudson | Ilion | Ithaca | Jamestown | Kingston | Lockport | Malone | Massena | Middletown | New Paltz | Newark | Ogdensburg | Olean | Oneida | Oneonta | Oswego | Plattsburgh | Port Jervis | Poughkeepsie | Riverhead | Rome | Saratoga Springs | Warwick | Watertown

Counties:

Albany | Allegany | Bronx | Broome | Cattaraugus | Cayuga | Chautauqua | Chemung | Chenango | Clinton | Columbia | Cortland | Delaware | Dutchess | Erie | Essex | Franklin | Fulton | Genesee | Greene | Hamilton | Herkimer | Jefferson | Kings (Brooklyn) | Lewis | Livingston | Madison | Monroe | Montgomery | Nassau | New York (Manhattan) | Niagara | Oneida | Onondaga | Ontario | Orange | Orleans | Oswego | Otsego | Putnam | Queens | Rensselaer | Richmond (Staten Island) | Rockland | Saint Lawrence | Saratoga | Schenectady | Schoharie | Schuyler | Seneca | Steuben | Suffolk | Sullivan | Tioga | Tompkins | Ulster | Warren | Washington | Wayne | Westchester | Wyoming | Yates

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