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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. Our interactive map 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 DEP Access Permit.

Attention Hunters and Hikers and Outdoor Enthusiasts

Portions of the following recreational units will be temporarily closed to public access for completion of forest management projects. The lands outside the project areas in these recreational units will remain open to recreational use. Under no circumstances should you enter these closed areas or come within 300 feet of active work.

Signs that delineate these project areas and clarify restrictions have been posted.

  1. 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.
  2. Mile Shore Recreational Unit: Ashokan Reservoir, Town of Hurley, Ulster County. Approximately 76 acres located on the east end of the unit, including gates E22A and E-23 in the vicinity of Torino’s Cove, will be subject to closure for completion of forest management work. Intermittent closures will be posted accordingly and are expected to continue through 2018. The rest of the Mile Shore unit will remain open.
  3. West Neversink Recreational Unit: Town of Neversink, Sullivan County. Approximately 170 acres of the Neversink West Peninsula will be closed due to an active timber harvest. The sale area is marked in orange paint and is posted closed as approached from the Neversink West access road. The closed hunting area surrounds only the harvest area and hunting is still allowed in the adjacent areas of Neversink West.

Recreation Rules & Access Permits
Enhanced recreational use of City-owned water supply lands is allowed 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 that have the appropriate DEP access permit and boat tag. Recreational boats including, kayaks, canoes, rowboats, sculls or sail boats are also allowed on Cannonsville, Neversink, Pepacton and Schoharie Reservoirs. You do not have to be actively fishing to participate in this program.
Boating for Anglers
Recreational Boating Program
2017 Boat Auction Notice (PDF)

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
Big and small game hunting as well as trapping is allowed on designated City-owned water supply lands as permitted by 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

DEP issues free permits for New York State Certified Outdoor Guides, to operate on New York City water supply lands and reservoirs that are open for public recreation. For more information regarding New York State Certified Outdoor Guide Services, check out the New York State Outdoor Guide Service Association website.

If you are a New York State Certified Guide and wish to learn more about applying for the guide service permit, please call 1-800-575-LAND (5263) or e-mail us at

DEP Permitted Guide Services List (PDF)

Agriculture & Forestry
Agricultural uses of City-owned watershed lands is allowed 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
Land Use Permits are issued 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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