CATSKILLS QUOTES A picture is worth a thousand words, that much is true, and any photographer would certainly agree. However, as any student of the Catskills region will also tell you, nearly two centuries of literary history have lent itself to many a poetic description. Below are some of my favorites.



The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold, or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed . . ."

– Article 14, Section 1, New York State Constitution


"Indeed, the entire Catskill region is susceptible to the dangers of expectation. There have been no strokes of geologic lightning to rend it into stupefying gulfs. All is blended, suave. It is meant for those who will look twice."

The Catskills, T. Morris Longstreth


"If one does not go to be awed, he will remain to be charmed. The enjoyment of the Catskills depends on the same point of view. If one visits them as one may visit the Canadian Rockies, in the expectation of having all of one's big emotions drawn out and played upon, there will be hideous disappointment. There is nothing big about the Catskills. They are as comfortable as home. They were created, not for observation-cars, but for bungalow porches. Yet they are not so little."

The Catskills, T. Morris Longstreth


"Whoever has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Kaatskill mountains. They are a dismembered branch of the great Appalachian family, and are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country. Every change of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day, produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains . . .


When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evenening sky; but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory."

Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving, 1819


". . . I wonder whether I have made you realize the unique values of the Park without overpainting. For the globe-trotter who boasts of his planetizing ability and cares for sights only as they are big, there is precious little in the Catskills. For the man who must have beetling crags, and whose enjoyment is ruined if there is another man in the same county, there is but little more. But for him who is not blind to one type of beauty simply because he can remember others, the Catskill Mountains and their surrounding hills are rich with a variety of wealth quite unimaginable.


Before I visited them I imagined that they were a set of mediocre hills infested by a sandwich-eating summer populace. I found impressive ranges, noble cliffs, forests with game, streams with fish, and I came away with recollections of many cheerful firesides. In no other American vacation-land can one find a more interesting alternation of forest tramping and village living, a richer background of subdued mountain and inviting valley, a sympathetic native population with finer historic antecedents and more solid qualities.


If the Eternal isn't visible to you there, it will never be in remoter lands. Happiness may not be the supreme good, but it is a joyful desideratum. It is found only where there is harmony between the without and the within. For experiments in harmonizing, I know of no more convenient spot than this Land of Little Rivers."

The Catskills, T. Morris Longstreth



"The river was in sight for seventy miles, looking like a curled shaving under my feet, though it was eight long miles to its banks. I saw the hills in the Hampshire grants, the highlands of the river, and all that God had done, or man could do, far as eye could reach – you know that the Indians named me for my sigh, lad; and from the flat on the top of that mountain, I have often found the place where Albany stands.


If being the best part of a mile in the air, and having men's farms and houses at your feet, with rivers looking like ribbons, and mountains bigger than the 'Vision', seeming to be haystacks of green grass under you, gives any satisfaction to a man, I can recommend the spot."

The Pioneers, Jame Fenimore Cooper



". . . the place I mean is next to the river, where one of the ridges juts out a little from the rest, and where the rocks fall, for the best part of a thousand feet, so much up and down, that a man standing on their edges is fool enough to think he can jump from top to bottom."


"What see you when you get there?" asked Edwards.


"Creation," said Natty, dropping the end of his rod into the water, and sweeping one hand around him in a circle: "all creation, lad."

The Pioneers, Jame Fenimore Cooper


"My eyes had never before held such beauty in a mountain stream. The water was almost as transparent as the air, was, indeed, like liquid air; and as it lay in these wells and pits enveloped in shadow, or lit up by a chance ray of the vertical sun, it was a perpetual feast to the eye, so cool, so deep, so pure; every reach and pool like a vast spring. You lat down and drank or dipped the water up in your cup, and found it just the right degree of refreshing coldness. One is never prepared for the clearness of the water in these streams. It is always a surprise. See them every year for a dozen years, and yet, when you first come upon one, you will utter an exclamation. I saw nothing like it in the Adirondacks, nor in Canada. Absolutely without strain or hint of impurity, it seems to magnify like a lens, so that the bed of the stream and the fish in it appear deceptively near. It is rare to find even a trout stream that is not a little "off color", as they say of diamonds, but the waters in the section of which I am writing have the genuine ray; it is the undimmed and untarnished diamond.


If I were a trout, I should ascend every stream till I found the Rondout. It is the ideal brook."

– John Burroughs, noted writer and naturalist


The sun is sinking low in the sky above Ashokan.

The pines and the willows know soon we will part.

There's a whisper in the wind of promises unspoken,

And a love that will always remain in my heart.


– "Ashokan Farewell", Jay Ungar



"In certain conditions of the atmosphere the air between you and lower world seems to become a visible fluid, an ocean of pale, crystalline blue, at the bottom of which the landscape lies. Peering down into its depths, you at last experience a numbness of the senses, a delicious wandering of imagination, such as follow the fifth pipe of opium. Or, in the words of Walt Whitman, you 'loaf, and invite your soul'."

The Catskill Mountains and the Region Around, Charles Rockwell


"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 endeard to my heart for being a favourite 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."

Letters from a Landscape Painter, Charles Lanman



"Why, there's a fall in the hills where the water of two little ponds, that lie near each other, breaks out of their bounds and runs over the rocks into the valley. The stream is, maybe, such a one as would turn a mill, if so useless a thing was wasted in the wilderness. But the hand that made that 'Leap' never made a mill. There the water comes crooking and winding among the rocks; first so slow that a trout could swim in it, and then starting and running like a crater that wanted to make a far spring, till it gets to where the mountain divides, like a cleft hoof of a deer, leaving a deep hollow for the brook to tumble into.


The first pitch is night two hundered feet, and the water looks like flakes of a driven snow afore it touches the bottom; and there the stream gathers itself together again for a new start, and maybe flutters over fifty feet of flat rock before it falls another hundered, when it jumps about from shelf to shelf, first turning this-way and then turning that-away, striving to get out of the hollow, till it finally comes to the plain . . .


To my judgment, lad, it's the best piece of work that I've met with in the woods; and none know how often the hand of God is seen in the wilderness, but them that rover it for a man's life."

The Pioneers, James Fenimore Cooper



"If the Mountain House is the eye of the Catskills, the Overlook the brow, Windham the lungs, and Slide Mountain the heart, then Phoenicia is the nerve center. It lies at the cross-roads of Nature, and as sung in its valleys as a moth in the muff. For merchantry it should be a strategic place to live. Every motorist who comes up the Esopus Valley from Kingston, or down the Esopus from the west, every traveler whose traffic delights the eye or dusts the nose of sellers of wares, must bisect Phoenicia. Yet, in a place where money is being made the people did not impress me as mere money-changers. Phoenicia has kept decent. She has not run to greenbacks at the expense of every other sentiment. She has been given a beautiful nest by Nature, and she has kept it sweet-smelling. Her stores are clean, her outsides painted, her bit of the earth keeps its charm."

The Catskills, T. Morris Longstreth



". . . there are deeper gorges, greater streams and higher mountains but in no other place is the combination so blended into a harmony so perfect as to form such tempting bits for the camera or the brush."

– "The Switzerland of America", Edward F. Bigelow


"Our boat glided beautifully over the tranquil waters, and swept aside the yellow water-lillies. In a straight between the mainland and a low islet, where the water was very still, the woods were reflected beautifully. I never saw such depth and brilliancy in the reflections. The dead trees on the margin added by their silvery tints to the harmony of color, and their images in the waters, which had a gentle undulation, appeared like immense glittering serpents playing in the deep. At every stroke of the oar some fresh object of beauty would break upon us."

– Thomas Cole