The stunningly beautiful Plattekill Falls are located in the northern Catskills of Greene County, New York. The falls are located along the Plattekill Creek within the Platte Clove Preserve, which is owned by the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (CCCD), a regional conservation and advocacy group founded in 1969. The 280-acre area was donated to the CCCD in 1975 by the Griswold family. The CCCD maintains an artist retreat at the Preserve, which you pass at the beginning of the hike to the falls. Artists, painters, writers, composers and, yes, photographers can apply for short-term summer residencies at the retreat, quietly surrounded by the beauty that is Platte Clove. Fortunately, the lands of the CCCD are open to the public.
Plattekill Falls, located at the head Platte Kill Clove, tumbles over a 65-foot single drop in to a cliff-enclosed bowl of idyllic splendor. Although popular, but with a reputation that seems to grow each year, this location is a nice alternative to the much larger crowds typically found at Kaaterskill Falls. It is accessible via a short but steep 0.5-mile roundtrip hike. There are signs along the path identifying different trees and a sign that details the geological history of the Catskills and Platte Clove.
Platte Clove, also known as Platte Kill Clove, is a deep, dark, heavily wooded, historic, wildly rugged and wonderfully scenic mountain pass through the northern Catskills. Charles Lanman, a noted American writer and artist who spent much time in the clove, described his impressions in his 1845 Letters from a Landscape Painter: “Plauterkill Clove is an eddy of the great and tumultuous world, and in itself a world of unwritten poetry, whose primitive loveliness has not yet been disfigured by the influences of mammon, and God grant that it may continue so forever. It is endeared to my heart for being a favorite haunt for solitude, and for having been consecrated by a brotherhood of friends to the pure religion of nature; and they always enter there as into a holy sanctuary.” (See pages 48-51 from his Letters from a Landscape Painter for Lanman’s longer ode to the beauties of Plauterkill Clove.)
With Plattekill Mountain encroaching from the south and Kaaterskill High Peak looming to the north, a narrow and winding two-lane road precipitously crosses the eastern portion of the clove, rising over 1,400 feet from West Saugerties in only 2.1 miles. There are no guardrails despite the nearly vertical cliffs along much of the drive. The climb is so dangerously steep that it is closed in the winter from November 15th to April 15th as the town provides no maintenance.
Platte Clove is home to, depending on who’s counting, over 18 waterfalls, many of which are only reachable with extreme caution and effort and is not recommended. Old Mill Falls and the clove’s showpiece waterfall, the beautiful Plattekill Falls, are easily and safely accessible.
The historic stereoview seen here was taken by John Jacob Loeffler, who can be considered one of the great Catskills photographers of all time. He made hundreds of stereoviews of the Catskills throughout the 1870s and 1880s. His photographs were published as part of the series titled Catskill Mountain Scenery.
In addition to this being a wonderful scene, a second interesting aspect of this stereoview is the camera setup located off to the right. The four men standing at the bottom of the falls provide an interesting sense of scale for the 65-foot falls.
This John Jacob Loeffler stereoview of Plattekill Falls was likely taken circa the 1870s/1880s. The stereoview was titled “Plauterkill Fall, Plauterkill Clove.” It is number 349 from Loeffler’s 5th series within the Catskill Mountain Scenery set. My photograph was taken approximately 140 years later in the spring of 2019.