Recreational Use Regulations for NYC Watershed Lands

Many New York City Water Supply reservoirs and lands are open to the public for low-impact recreational activities.

In order to responsibly provide recreation access to City property, DEP issues a comprehensive permit "The Access Permit" that allows for fishing and hiking on certain designated areas in the watershed. Other areas are referred to as "Public Access Areas, and are open to all without a permit. Access Permit holders may also obtain a DEP Boat Tag for keeping a rowboat at one of the reservoirs for fishing.

You can now obtain a NYCDEP Access Permit online! Just fill out the online form, and print out your permit from NYCDEP's Watershed Recreation webpage . It is now that simple! You can also download some maps of some of the parcels open for recreation, along with their use designation.

Fishing and Boating
Boating for the purposes of fishing is allowed on NYC reservoirs to those with the appropriate DEP permits. Anglers must store their fishing boats at designated storage areas. All boats must be approved and registered with DEP. People who want to register a new boat must first obtain a valid Access Permit and then call the Land Management Office near the reservoir of interest to make a steam cleaning and registration appointment (There is no cost for this service, which must be performed by DEP):

  • Ashokan Reservoir: (845) 657-2663
  • Schoharie Reservoir: (607) 588-6231
  • Rondout and Neversink Reservoirs: (845) 985-0386
  • Cannonsville and Pepacton Reservoirs: (607) 363-7009
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 smallmouth and largemouth bass, as well as cold-water species such as trout. City-owned reservoirs are open for fishing from shore and with fishing boats, and it is common for many reservoirs to produce 4-5 pound bass and lake trout exceeding 15 pounds! In addition to its reservoirs, DEP also offers City-owned watershed lands that border excellent trout fishing streams such as the Batavia Kill, West Branch Delaware River, Esopus Creek, and many smaller tributaries.

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.

NEW in 2012!
DEP currently allows expanded recreational boating (canoes, kayaks, sailboats, etc.) at the Cannonsville Reservoir, the Pepacton Reservoir, the Neversink Reservoir, and the Schoharie Reservoir. What do you need to participate? A Permitted vessel, a Personal Flotation Device(s) (PFD), a Free DEP Access Permit, a DEP Recreational Boat Tag (Temporary or Season Tag). What do you need to do? Have your vessel steam cleaned at a participating DEP-approved steam cleaning vendor. Steam cleaning vendors may charge a fee for the steam cleaning services. More details, including maps and locations of steam-cleaning locations can be found here.

Hunting on Water Supply Lands
DEP allows both big and small game hunting on designated City-owned water supply lands. Designated hunting areas are available for bow, shotgun, rifle, handgun, and muzzleloader hunting where permitted by New York State regulations. Hunters and trappers must possess a valid New York State hunting license and they must follow all applicable New York State hunting regulations, including weapons restrictions, species restrictions, and hunting during the proper seasons for the allowed game. Although DEP no longer issues separate Hunting Tags and DEP Access Permits are no longer required on "Public Access Areas," DEP Access Permits are still required on those properties posted with signs that read "Entry by Permit". To learn more about the program, click here.

Hiking on Water Supply Lands
Although hiking is not allowed immediately around New York City reservoirs, hiking (including cross country skiing and snowshoeing) is allowed on many City-owned watershed lands that are marked with DEP signs stating "Entry by Permit" or "Public Access Areas." All recreational users should pay very close attention to the types of signs that are present because properties marked with "No Trespassing" or "Posted" signs are not open for public use.

DEP does not construct or maintain hiking trails on City-owned lands. However, some watershed lands have been improved to allow for better access and parking. In addition, many old logging roads exist that are well-suited for hiking, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing. Hikers are encouraged to visit designated hiking properties where they can often discover hidden treasures such as scenic waterfalls and breathtaking vistas. Dogs are generally allowed on City-owned lands but they must be well-behaved and controllable. Any animal waste should be promptly cleaned up and removed. To see maps of the open parcels, and to learn more about the program, click here.

9th Annual Catskill "Lark in the Park" - September 29 - October 8, 2012

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