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Watershed Recreation

Recreational Boating  

Many of New York City’s reservoirs and watershed lands are open to the public for fishing, hiking, boating and other types of outdoor recreation. The interactive map above can help outdoor enthusiasts find City-owned properties and understand the types of recreation that are permitted in each area. Currently, recreation access is available on nearly 34,000 acres of reservoirs and more than 130,000 acres of watershed lands, offering unique opportunities to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Catskills and Hudson Valley.

More than half of these lands are open to recreation without a permit, but recreation on the reservoirs and some lands will require a free DEP Access Permit that can be obtained easily by clicking here.

Attention Hunters and Hikers and Outdoor Enthusiasts

Portions of the following DEP recreational units will be temporarily closed to public access as necessary for completion of forest management projects. The remaining lands outside the project areas in these recreational units will remain open to the recreational uses posted on the property signage with a DEP Access Permit and New York State Sporting License where needed. Under no circumstances should you enter these areas or come within 300 feet of active work.

Signs delineating these project areas and clarifying restrictions have been posted.

  1. Ashokan North Recreational Unit: Ashokan Reservoir, Town of Olive, Ulster County. Approximately 45 acres including gates W-5 and W-6 and the Butternut Creek area will be subject to closure for completion of hazard tree and forest management work. Closures will be posted accordingly and are expected to continue through Summer 2017. The rest of the unit will remain open.
  2. Bushkill Recreational Unit: Ashokan Reservoir, Town of Olive, Ulster County. Approximately 208 acres including gates W-14, W-15, W-16 and W-17, the Bushkill and Traver Hollow Creek areas will be subject to closure for completion of forest management to mitigate damage from the invasive exotic pest, emerald ash borer. Closures will be posted accordingly and all users must remain a safe distance from any active work area. The rest of the unit will remain open and work is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.
  3. East Neversink Recreational Unit: Town of Neversink, Sullivan County. Approximately 300 acres to the west of Wilson Shields Road will be closed due to an active timber harvest. The sale areas are marked with orange and blue paint. The closed hunting area surrounds only the harvest area and hunting is still allowed along the Shields Road north and south of the closed area.

Recreation Rules & Access Permits
DEP allows for enhanced recreational uses of City-owned water supply lands in accordance with specific Recreational Rules and Regulations. DEP issues a comprehensive Access Permit that allows for hiking and fishing on certain designated lands in the watershed.
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Boating for the purposes of fishing is allowed on New York City reservoirs to registered individuals having the appropriate DEP Access Permit and Boat Tag. Beginning on Friday, May 25th 2012 recreational boats including, kayaks, canoes, rowboats, sculls or sail boats will be allowed on Cannonsville, Neversink, Pepacton and Schoharie Reservoirs. You do not have to be actively fishing to participate in this program. The goal of the program is to expand regional recreational opportunities for watershed residents and visitors and promote environmentally sound economic development.
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2017 Boat Auction Notice (PDF)

DEP does not construct or maintain hiking trails on City-owned watershed lands, but hiking (including cross country skiing and snowshoeing) is allowed on many City-owned properties that are marked and designated for these purposes.
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Hunting & Trapping
DEP allows both big and small game hunting as well as trapping on designated City-owned water supply lands as permitted by and in accordance with New York State regulations.
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Fishing is allowed on City-owned reservoirs, lakes and streams as designated by specific DEP signs and according to all applicable New York State regulations. Most City-owned reservoirs offer excellent fishing opportunities for both warm-water species such as bass and cold-water species such as trout.
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Outdoor Guide Services

In 2013 for the first time ever, DEP began issuing free permits for New York State Certified Outdoor Guides, (guides) to operate on New York City water supply lands and reservoirs that are open for public recreation. All guides must first be certified by New York State to apply for, and obtain the free permit from DEP. Each guide may be certified for different outdoor activities to include hiking, fishing, hunting, and boating or a combination of these activities. When selecting a guide service, consider the activity you wish to take part in and your region or reservoir of interest. The guides in the list below are certified to operate on upstate New York City water supply lands and waters but they can also operate throughout the entire state. For more information regarding New York State Certified Outdoor Guide Services, check out the New York State Outdoor Guide Service Association’s Website at:

If you are a New York State Certified Guide and wish to learn more about applying for the free DEP Guide Service Permit please call: 1-800-575-LAND (5263) or e-mail DEP at

DEP Permitted Guide Services List (PDF)

Agriculture & Forestry
DEP allows agricultural uses of City-owned watershed lands when these uses are compatible with water quality protection. DEP also promotes long-term management of City-owned watershed forests through regular forest improvement and restoration projects.
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Land Use Permits
DEP issues Land Use Permits to applicants who request the temporary use of City-owned water supply lands for specific proposed activities such as the maintenance of utility lines or special projects such as recreational trails or ball fields. DEP also allows certain uses of City-owned land for short-term, low impact activities such as fund-raising events or scientific studies.
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