Site #6 North-South Lake

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

James Fenimore Cooper made one of the earliest references to North-South Lake (once two separate basins) in his popular 1823 novel, The Pioneers.  There his colonial scout Hawkeye referred to "a fall in the [Catskill] hills, where the water of two little ponds that lie near each other breaks out of their bounds."  Just two years later, Thomas Cole, "father of the Hudson River School," stopped at this site on the bank of the southern of the two "ponds" and painted one of the three pictures that launched him to fame in New York City in October 1825.  Indeed, Cole's Lake with Dead Trees soon found its way into the collection of Philip Hone, who became the city's mayor the following year.  The English-born Cole was the first landscape painter to express, with subjects like South Lake, the wilderness character of American scenery.  In his painting he accentuates that character with the foreground of pale, skeletal trees, which he may have exaggerated but did not invent.  Thanks to the dam of a nearby mill in Cole's time, the water levels on South Lake had changed, drowning trees along its banks.  Cole exploited the man-made circumstance to evocatively frame his composition of water, forest, and the distant hump of Round Top Mountain, on the far side of Kaaterskill Clove.  Both Cole's pupil, Frederic Church, and his follower Jasper Cropsey, later depicted the view to Round Top across North Lake.

Plan Your Trip

Visit their Website

Admission Fee 
$8 per car; $22 camping fee

Paid w/Admission 


Somewhat Accessible 
Meets few ADA standards and has significant barriers. Most visitors with disabilities will need assistance

May - Oct (see website for details) 

Distance: 0.2 miles 
Elevation gain: < 100 ft 
Hike time: 20 min


Map & Directions

Driving Directions: We recommend Google Map . Site coordinates: 42.200039 Lat., -74.041588 Long.

Location Notes: North-South Lake is in the North-South Lake State Campground, reached via Rte. 23A and County Rte. 18 (North-South Lake Road) in Haines Falls, New York.  Drive two miles on Rte. 18 to the campground, where day-use admission is required and campground and trail maps may be obtained.  After entering the campground, bear left toward the North Lake Beach.  At the stop sign turn right, drive down the hill and park in the small parking area near the Recreation Center.  Follow the short level path directly across from the Recreation Center.  About 250 feet down the path, look across South Lake for the head of Round Top rising above South Mountain.  This approximates Cole's location in 1825 when he made his sketches for Lake with Dead Trees.

Photography / Painting Credits

Thomas Cole. Lake with Dead Trees (Catskill). Oil on canvas, 1825, 27 x 33 ¾ in. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH. Gift of Charles F. Olney, 1904.1183.

Anonymous. North-South Lake Today. Photograph. © Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Jasper Francis Cropsey. Catskill Creek [South Lake]. Oil on canvas, 1850, 18 3/8 x 27 ¼. Smithsonian American Art Museum, museum purchase, 1966.50.

Anonymous. Parmenter's Pond. Stereograph, undated. Courtesy of the Mountain Top Historical Society, Haines Falls, NY.

Thomas Cole. Lake with Dead Trees (Catskill). Oil on canvas, 1825, 27 x 33 ¾ in. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH. Gift of Charles F. Olney, 1904.1183.