Hiking to the Catskills Aqueduct in the Mohonk Preserve

Over the past few summers, I’ve tried to find the Catskills Aqueduct where it flows through the Shawangunks (Gunks), near New Paltz. This aqueduct, which still supplies about 40% of New York City’s water supply, was completed in 1917 after 9 years of construction for $177 million dollars. It is 163 miles long and runs from the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County, heading southeast, under the Hudson River to New York. This, like the Gunks Carriageways, is another marvel of early 20th century construction in the Gunks area.

Catskills Aqueduct, Cut and Cover Style Construction, Top View

Catskills Aqueduct, Cut and Cover Style Construction, Top View

Although the location of the aqueduct is clearly marked on my Gunks maps, I’ve alway had problems finding any evidence of its existence. Upon further research, I now know that large sections of the aqueduct were constructed using a cut and cover style of construction, where the bottom half of a pipeline is buried below ground level and upper part is covered by mounded earth. This technique makes for rapid construction across areas of solid rock where burial of the pipeline would required extensive blasting. The photo above shows what the top of a cut and cover pipeline looks like. This is a view of the cover part of the Catskill Aqueduct near Duck Pond, in the Mohonk Preserve.

Catskill Aqueduct, Bridge over Mountain Stream

Catskill Aqueduct, Bridge over Mountain Stream

Here’s a side view the aqueduct, where it crosses a mountain stream that must become a huge torrent of snow melt in the spring time, based on the presence of several flood control damns upstream from this point. If you look at top of the photo, you can see the earthen cover capping the pipeline in the cut and cover style of construction.

Getting there: Refer to the Shawangunks map set published by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. From Duck Pond, hike down the Old Historic Duck Pond Path to the bridge and tunnel shown above. Please honor the sections of the Catskill’s Aqueduct and surrounding area that are marked with No Trespassing signs.

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