Site #5 Kaaterskill Falls

Introduction by Kevin J. Avery, Senior Research Scholar, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

"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 first pitch is nigh two hundred feet, and the water looks like flakes of driven snow, afore it touches the bottom; and there the stream gathers again for a new start, and maybe flutters over fifty feet of flat-rock, before it falls another hundred."  So was the lofty (about 260 total feet in height), two-tiered Kaaterskill Falls described by Hawkeye, the colonial scout of James Fenimore Cooper's 1823 novel, The Pioneers.  Kaaterskill Falls was the scenic prize of any walk in the vicinity of the great hotels that crowned the mountaintop near Palenville and Haines Falls from 1824 to 1963.  Such a tourist magnet did the falls become that the proprietor of a mill near its crest, and after him a hotelier, charged a fee to open a dam gate constructed to regulate the flow in timed "performances."  (To watch, hotel guests and day visitors descended a wooden staircase—removed long ago—beside the cascade.)  Numerous artists represented the falls throughout the period, especially the first of them, Thomas Cole, whose earliest paintings (1825-26), showing the cataract from in front, behind (inside the cavern), and the top eventually helped earn him the nickname, "Father of the Hudson River School."

Map & Directions

Driving Directions: We recommend Google Map . Site coordinates: 42.192982 Lat., -74.062698 Long.

Location Notes: Kaaterskill Falls today is accessible off Rte. 23A approaching Haines Falls.  A sign for the falls is posted on the roadside.  When the sign is spotted, visitors should continue driving to the roadside lot on the left a few hundred feet above the site.  From the parking lot, walk on the roadside (watch for traffic!) back to the sign (at Bastion Falls), and take the yellow-blazed path into the woods less than a half-mile to the foot of the cascade.  Climbing the ledges beside Kaaterskill Falls is extremely dangerous, and has resulted in numerous injuries and deaths.  Admire the falls from the base.

Plan Your Trip

Visit their Website


Free Lot 


Not Accessible 
Meets no ADA standards and has major barriers. Most people with disabilities, even with assistance, will be unable to access

Open all seasons 
No restriction

Distance: 1.4 mile loop 
Elevation gain: 300 ft 


 Photography / Painting Credits

Thomas Cole. Falls of the Kaaterskill. Oil on canvas, 1826, 43 x 36 in. Private Collection, formerly the Westervelt-Warner Museum of American Art in Tuscaloosa, AL.

Francis Driscoll. Kaaterskill Falls Today. Photograph. Photograph © Francis Driscoll.

Thomas Cole. Kaaterskill Falls. Oil on canvas, 1826, 9 ¾ x 7 ¾ in. Graham Williford Foundation for American Art.

Thomas Cole. From the Top of Kaaterskill Falls. Oil on canvas, 1826. Detroit Institute of Arts. Founders Society Purchase, Dexter M. Ferry, Jr. Fund, 46.134.

Daniel Case. View from the Top of Kaaterskill Falls. Photograph, 22 Jul 2007. Courtesy of Daniel Case and the Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas Cole. Kaaterskill Falls. Oil on canvas, 1826, 25 ¼ X 35 5/16 in. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT. Bequest of Daniel Wadsworth, 1848.15.

Sanford Robinson Gifford. Kauterskill Falls. Oil on canvas, 1871, 14 ¾ x 12 ½. Detroit Institute of Arts, MI. Gift of Katherine French Rockwell, 56.185.

Frederic Edwin Church. Kaaterskill Falls in Winter. Pencil and chalk on paper, 1846, 14 3/8 x 12 5/8 in. Olana State Historic Site, Hudson, NY. New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, OL.1977.317.

Thomas Cole. Double Waterfall--Kaaterskill Falls. Graphite pencil, charcoal, black and white crayon on off-white wove paper, 1826. Detroit Institute of Arts. Founders Society Purchase, William H. Murphy Fund, 39.503.

Thomas Cole. Catskill Falls (Kaaterskill Falls). Pencil on paper, c.1825-26. Detroit Institute of Arts. Founders Society Purchase, William H. Murphy Fund, 39.206.A.

William Henry Bartlett. The Catterskill Falls. Colored engraving, c. 1840s. Collection of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Winslow Homer. Under the Falls, Catskill Mountains. Wood engraving, 14 Sep 1872, 9 ¼ x 13 7/8 in. Brooklyn Museum, Page from Harper's Weekly, September 14, 1872, vo. XVI, p. 721. Gift of Harvey Isbitts, 1998.105.172.