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Watershed Recreation

Although the majority of land in the watershed is privately owned by local residents, New York City is also a watershed landowner with responsibilities for managing nearly 34,000 acres of reservoirs and approximately 150,000 acres of water supply lands. Although DEP’s primary management goal is watershed protection, a significant portion of City-owned lands is open to the public for a variety of recreational uses and other opportunities.

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.

  1. Acorn Hill Recreational Unit, Town of Olive, Ulster County. Approximately 95 acres of land including most of the eastern half of the property located between the main dam and Yale Quarry will be closed for public access until further notice. This project is salvaging hemlock and oak trees dying from the hemlock wooly adelgid, defoliating insects, and extreme weather, as well as opening the canopy to encourage natural seedling development for the next generation of forest.
  2. South Hill Recreational Unit, Town of Wawarsing, Ulster County. The easternmost parcel (approximately 36 acres) between State Route 55 and Messenger Road is closed. The current forest management project will salvage eastern hemlock trees subject to imminent loss from hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive exotic pest that has been found on site. Trees in the sale area are marked in blue.
  3. East Neversink Recreational Unit, Town of Neversink, Sullivan County. Approximately 60 acres surrounding the Ashalter Fields west of the unpaved portion of Wilson Shields Road will be closed due to an active timber harvest. The sale area is marked with orange 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.

    Signs delineating these project areas have been posted.

New Shotgun Restrictions
Attention Hunters: Effective immediately, Louden Point and Big Peninsula Recreation Units located in Westchester County at the Kensico Reservoir will no longer be open for Hunting with shotgun. These areas are now Archery hunting only.
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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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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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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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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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