The state owned Bashakill Wildlife Management Area offers public access to a unique natural area that supports a diversity of wildlife and a range of recreational activities. The Bashakill encompasses some 3,107 acres of wetland and forested uplands. Its extensive biodiversity is highlighted in state and county open space plans. One of the largest freshwater marshes in the state, it is a designated Bird Conservation Area and is described by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) as a "birdwatcher's dream." More than 200 species of birds use the wetland during the course of the year, drawing birders for the highlights of spring and fall migrations. Both bald eagles and ospreys nest here.
Visitors may also see other species of wildlife inhabiting the area, including white-tailed deer, muskrat, beaver, otter and black bear, along with various frogs and turtles. There is easy access to the site with hiking trails paralleling either side of the wetland and a number of boat launching sites. Although within close reach of Route 17, visitors mention feeling as though they are in a secluded natural world when they are on site. Enjoying expansive vistas is part of experiencing the Bashakill, especially since the wetland lies in a long valley between the Shawangunk Mountains and the southern Catskills.
Recreational opportunities abound and include hiking, bird watching, canoeing/kayaking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, fishing and trapping. Fifteen miles of flat, hiking trails follow the historic D&H Canal towpath on the western side of the Bashakill, while on the eastern edge, the trail follows the O&W railroad bed. Snowshoers and cross-country skiers use these same trails in the winter months. Another allowable recreational use of the trails is horseback riding.
Bird watching draws many people to the Bashakill, both during the breeding season for the observation of wetland species that nest at the Bashakill and especially during the fall and spring migrations, to observe the birds that use the wetland as a layover and feeding location. The trails that outline the perimeter of this area allow easy access for birders.
Kayaking or canoeing through the wetland are also popular activities at the wetland. Although larger boats are allowed, they must have electric motors.
Licensed hunters also enjoy the Bashakill, following the appropriate hunting seasons. Waterfowl hunting and trapping are also allowed but require special permits from the NYS DEC. Fishing takes place year round. During some winters, ice fishermen are able to take advantage of a thick layer of ice to continue fishing during the colder months.
As evident from these descriptions, the Bashakill is a place for both active recreation and quiet relaxation. Since only electric motors are allowed on boats, paddling remains a quiet, serene past time. Prohibiting ATV's and snowmobiles also creates a peaceful ambience within this natural environment.
See www.thebashakill.org for a map of the area.
The Bashakill Wildlife Management Area is fully accessible by visitors during the spring, summer and fall months. The numerous parking areas and boat launches are easily approached from the roads surrounding the Bashakill. However, gaining entry is limited during the winter months if there has been snow accumulation. The roads that border much of the protected area are maintained by the local Township and can sometimes be used for viewing and access even with snow on the ground.
For boat access, there are two trailered boat launches and three hand launch sites.
In addition, the Bashakill Fishing Platform allows for casting right at the water control structure for the wetland where it flows into the stream. The site has a designated accessible parking space which is only a short distance from the pier. For access with boats, there are two trailer boat launch sites and three hand launch sites.
Pet Friendly Notes
The DEC allows visitors to bring dogs with them to the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area but they must be under the control of the owner. Because of the presence of wildlife, it is especially important that dogs be leashed if there is any chance that they will chase or attack animals.