The Peekamoose Valley is a beautiful destination complete with river scenery, fishing spots, swimming holes, waterfalls and a popular state campground. The scenic drive along Route 42 begins at the hamlet of West Shokan, runs along the Bush Kill and through Watson Hollow, becomes Peekamoose Road (formerly known as Gulf Road), passes Peekamoose Lake, follows the Rondout Creek, allows access to Buttermilk Falls, passes the Blue Hole, and then quickly runs by Bull Run and the hamlet of Sundown, before ending at the Rondout Reservoir.
Famous author and photographer Richard Lionel De Lisser wrote of the Peekamoose Gorge and the Rondout Creek in his 1896 book titled Picturesque Ulster.
“The Gorge, or Canon as it is sometimes called, is the crowning jewel of the Peekamoose and is beyond description; a royal cradle fit for the queen of waters, the royal Rondout. The Rondout Creek, springing from life from the mountain streams that flow from the steep slopes of the Peekamoose Mountain, passes through a most beautiful and picturesque region, not altogether quietly, for far up at the source and for several miles below its clear fountain springs, it forms a succession of rocky basins, sometimes with only a little ripple of a plunge to a lower level, and again a fall of many feet over rocks to the clear sparkling reservoir below . . .
Further down the stream the Rondout enters Peekamoose Gorge, and flows through it for nearly a mile. On each side rise the perpendicular or overhanging rocks to the height of over a hundred feet, the top clad with stately trees, the shadow of whose far-reaching branches add to the gloom and mystery of the depths below. Through this canon rushes the Rondout Creek, leaping over high bowlders and rocks that in the course of time have fallen from the ledge above; in places forming miniature lakes, through which the stream moves gently; in others darting over the worn moss-covered ledges forming rapids or falls of many feet, and dashing itself into foam as it plunges into a long, deep pool that sends up clouds of mist.
In winter the accumulation of ice formed by the mist and the moisture dropping from the rocks piles up to a great height and in most grotesque forms against the sides of the canon. It is late in the spring before this ice disappears, for the Gorge is a cool place even on the hottest summer day.
After the creek passes form the Gorge it becomes a more quiet stream, moving gently though still pools, and over the moss-covered stones in its bed, with no sound louder than its murmurings of complaint to the bowlders which now and then obstruct its pathway to the majestic Hudson.” (De Lisser, Richard Lionel. Picturesque Ulster. The Styles & Bruyn Publishing Company, 1896. Pp. 148-149.)
The Sundown Wild Forest and Vernooy Kill State Forest Unit Management Plan contains some geological details about the Peekamoose Valley.
“The Peekamoose Valley was most certainly within the ancient river delta, as is evidenced by the high elevation of the surrounding mountains (Peekamoose Mountain at 3,843 feet, Table Mountain at 3,847 feet, and Van Wyck Mountain at 3,206 feet) and preponderance of conglomerate rock. The valley itself was formed during the last ice age. J. L. Rich, in his book "Glacial Geology of the Catskills" writes, "A powerful stream working for a long time must have been required to cut a rock gorge so large and deep as Peekamoose gorge[sic]."
Rich theorizes that the Esopus Creek was once dammed by a glacier to form a large lake. This lake grew as ice lay banked up against Ashokan High Point, above the level of Wagon Wheel Gap, until the waters found a place to drain through Watson Hollow and Peekamoose. This resulted in the formation of a powerful stream which cut deeply into the erosion resistant conglomerate rock of the mountains.
Today, small tributary streams cascade over the sides of the Peekamoose Gorge forming numerous waterfalls as they join the Rondout Creek. Some of the larger tributaries, such as Stone Cabin Brook (1.1 miles), have cut narrow gorges of their own. Today's Rondout Creek descends about 300 feet over about 4 miles before making its way to Sundown.” (Sundown Wild Forest and Vernooy Kill State Forest Unit Management Plan. October, 2019. pp. 35-36.)
As the above quote hints, one of the great scenic features of the Peekamoose Road is the number of waterfalls that can be seen here, although some are on private property and others are heavily dependent on the season or on recent rains. Given their occasionally fleeting nature, the waterfalls here can be particularly rewarding to photograph if you happen to be there at a time when the waters are flowing.
The photographs seen here depict one of the more transient waterfalls of the Peekamoose Valley as it comes off the side of 2,350-foot Bangle Hill, before entering the Rondout Creek.