Kaaterskill Falls: Legend, history and natural beauty

Backyard naturalist
Kaaterskill Falls: Legend, history and natural beauty
 link is here: http://timesunion.com/ASPStories/Story.asp?StoryID=685773
By Carol Coogan, Special to the Times Union
First published: Monday, May 5, 2008

 

Tucked within the shale cliffs of the eastern escarpment of the Catskill Mountains, the "land of the falling waters," stands Kaaterskill Falls. Reaching skyward 260 feet, it is the tallest double-tiered waterfall in New York, and one of the tallest in the eastern United States.

Rich with legend, history and natural beauty, Kaaterskill Falls has long been sought as a recreational destination for the rich and famous, and a source of inspiration for artists and writers. Washington Irving mentioned it in "Rip Van Winkle." A famous poem by William Cullen Bryant was its subject. Thomas Cole's post-1825 luminous painting of the falls made it to the cover of the New York Evening Post, igniting the Hudson River School movement and early environmental activism.

Trace outlines and slight imprints of past resorts and byways remain softly settled into this landscape, including the foundation, stairs and upstream dam of Laurel House, a hotel once located above Kaaterskill Falls. Since careless and inexperienced hikers climbing beyond officially closed areas to the top of the falls have fallen and suffered injury and death, such awe-inspiring beauty is best appreciated safely.

Carol Coogan is an artist, writer and backyard naturalist. Her e-mail address is redravencc@gmail.com.

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