June 2, 2003
Alder Lake

One of the most scenic, relaxing, and fun places in the Catskill Mountains is hidden away on the far edge of the Town of Hardenburgh, Ulster County - Alder Lake. At the turn of the century Alder Lake was owned by the wealthy railroad owner Samuel Coykendall who built a dam to expand the size of the lake, and owned the property as a fishing preserve. He built a beautiful stone and wood mansion overlooking the lake, which still stands today. A group called the Alder Lake Preservation Society has formed to try and raise money to save and restore the mansion. In 1945 the lake and the property around it was sold to a sportsman’s club, and in 1960 it was acquired by the Boy Scouts. The State purchased the land in the mid-1970’s and it is now part of the Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest unit of the Catskill Forest Preserve.

The scenic beauty of Alder Lake and the old mansion draw many people to this place, as does the good brook trout and bullhead fishing. A relaxing 1.5-mile trail circles the lake, with footbridges crossing some of the small inlet streams. More ambitious hikers can follow the nearly 6-mile Mill Brook Ridge trail from the east end of the lake, beginning at an elevation of 2,200’, past a couple of beautiful beaver meadows and a lean-to, and up along Mill Brook Ridge to the summit of Balsam Lake Mountain, elevation 3,723’. There are seven state-designated campsites around Alder Lake, making it a great place to throw up a tent for the weekend. A grassy slope on the west end of the lake, near the mansion and the parking area, is the perfect place for a picnic, throwing a frisbee, or letting the dog chase sticks. The lake itself is 22’ deep and approximately 45 acres in surface area, which is big enough for a nice day of peaceful canoeing and fishing.

Canoeing, fishing, and picnicking at Alder Lake is exactly what we wanted to do with friends who were visiting from out-of-town on Memorial Day weekend. It was mostly rainy that weekend, but Sunday turned out to be beautiful and was our window of opportunity. We loaded up two canoes, a rowboat, fishing gear, a picnic basket, and the dogs and headed for the lake. It was a perfect day - mostly calm and mostly sunny. The dogs certainly had a good time swimming and retrieving sticks, and of course we also had fun, some paddling around lazily and some eagerly pursuing brook trout. The preferred method for catching brook trout in Alder Lake is to troll a streamer with a fly-rod. We took turns rowing and trolling, and we were successful at catching fish. One fish was caught on a dry fly, but the rest took the streamers trolled under water. We kept five beautiful brook trout, 8-10" long, for a fresh and delicious trout dinner - which was the perfect way to end a perfect day.

- Chris and Aaron



Catskill Mountain Club

PO Box 558, Pine Hill, NY 12465