Catskill Mountains, a group of the Appalachian chain, on the W. side of the Hudson river, lying mostly in Greene co., N. Y. Their E. base is 7 or 8 m. distant from the village of Catskill. These mountains range parallel with the river only for about 12 m., spurs from their N. and S. terminations turning respectively N. W. and W., and giving to the group a very different form from that of the parallel ranges of the Appalachians, as seen in Pennsylvania. It differs from these also in assuming more of the Alpine character of peaks considerably elevated above the general summits. It resembles them in the precipitous slopes toward the east, and the gentler declivities, which are lost in the high lands on the W. side. Its geological structure is almost a repetition of that of the main Alleghany ridge throughout Pennsylvania, the same formations succeeding in the same order from the E. base to the summit, and giving to it, even in a more marked degree than is there witnessed, the terraced outline due to the alternation of groups of strata, some of which are easily worn away, and others powerfully resist denuding forces. Along its E. base the strata of the old red sandstone formation are seen dipping in toward the central axis.
These are succeeded by the gray slaty sandstones of hard texture, which make up the most precipitous slopes, except those of the highest summits, which are capped by the conglomerate of white quartz pebbles. This is the floor of the coal formation. Upon the Alleghany mountain it forms the highest knobs, which present their vertical fronts to the east and slope away to the west. The dip in this direction being there steeper than the declivity of the mountain, the coal beds find a place above the conglomerate; hut upon the high peaks of the Catskills this rock lies too horizontally for higher strata to appear, and a descent to lower levels in a W. direction only brings to view again the same formations met with on the E. side. Thus, for want of 100 ft. perhaps of greater elevation, the Catskills miss the lowest coal beds. Even in the midst of the strata of the conglomerate its carboniferous character is seen by the black shales here and there pinched among its massive blocks, and by seams of anthracite of a few inches in thickness contorted into strange forms. These, lie-fore their real relations were understood, led to futile explorations to discover workable beds of coal in the hard sandstones of these summits.
But it is now well understood that the Catskills can never claim regard for the value of their mineral productions. Their chief interest lies in the variety and beauty of their scenery. In a field of very limited area, easy of access and soon explored, they present a multitude of picturesque objects, which have long made them a favorite resort of artists and of those who find pleasure in the wild haunts of the mountains. From the village of Cats-kill a stage road of 12 m. leads to the "Mountain House," a conspicuous hotel, perched upon one of the terraces of Pine Orchard mountain, at an elevation of 2,500 ft. above the river. Here the traveller finds a cool and quiet retreat, and a convenient starting point for his explorations. A hotel has recently been erected on the summit of "Overlook" mountain, a few miles south of the Mountain house, at a height, it is asserted, of 3,800 ft. It is accessible from Rondout. From these hotels are obtained extensive views of the fine country around, of the Hudson river, visible with all the towns upon its banks from the Highlands to Albany, and of the mountains of Ver-mont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The most striking features of the Catskills are the cascades of the mountain streams, and the deep gorges or "cloves" through which these find their way to the lower lands.
The highest summits are Round Top, High Peak, and Overlook, the elevation of which, according to barometrical measurements, is about 3,800 ft. The clove of the Catterskill, or Kaaterskill, which commences a mile W. of two small lakes, lies between these and Round Top, the latter being on the S. and the lakes on the N. side. High Peak is 6 m. distant from the head of the clove, and is reached by a foot path. The clove is a ravine of 5 m. in length. At its head the rivulet from the lakes meets another branch from the north, and their united waters flow with increasing swiftness to a point where the mountain divides like the cleft foot of a deer, leaving a deep hollow for the brook to tumble into. The descent of the first cascade is 180 ft., that of the second 80, and below these there is another fall of 40 ft. In the winter the upper fall becomes encased in a hollow column of blue ice, which reflects in the rays of the sun the brilliant colors of the prism. Below the falls the sides of the gorge rise in a succession of walls of rock to the height of 300 ft. or more. Other falls are met with by following the stream down toward the Hudson, till 2 m. above the village of Catskill the waters are discharged into the stream of this name. The Stony clove is 6 m.
W. from the head of the Catterskill, in a portion of the group called the Shandaken mountains; it is only 1 1/2 m. long. The clove of the Plattekill is 5 m. S., beyond the Round Top and High Peak; its scenery possesses the same wild character as the Catterskill. Numerous side streams descend the steep mountain on its S. side from an altitude of 2,000 ft., leaping from ledge to ledge till they mingle their waters with the Plattekill. Where the stream first falls into the clove it is said to descend in successive falls | 1,000 ft. in a few hundred yards; and, as stated by others, 2,500 in 2 m. The streams which flow down the E. slopes of the mountains soon find their way into the Hudson. On the W. side the drainage is into the Schohariekill, which runs northward and falls into the Mohawk 50 m. above its junction with the Hudson. The forest growth near the foot of the mountains is black and white oak, interspersed with hickory, chestnut, butternut, and several species of pine. Cedars and swamp ash are found in the swamps. The hard-wood growth of maple, beech, and birch is met with upon the better soils up the mountain sides, while hemlock, spruce, and the balsam fir occupy the more barren and rocky places.
The valleys beyond the E. ridge contain forests of hemlock, with beech, birch, and wild cherry trees intermixed.