The Catskills

Originally, the area’s name was spelled “Kaatskil” by 17th Century Dutch settlers. The name has it’s origin in several theories. One has a little to do with bobcats and more to do with Indian fortifications called, “Kats” by the Dutch.

During the 19th century, the region became a destination for wealthy urbanites seeking vacation retreats from New York City. The mountains of the Catskills and the lower Hudson Valley inspired the Hudson River School of painters and drew international attention. At the same time, the region was heavily farmed and logged, losing much of its once-impressive old-growth forest by the 1890’s

In the 20th century, efforts to preserve the region’s character resulted in the creation of the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve. The Catskills’ reputation as a vacation destination continued, and by mid-century much of the area was dotted with summer resorts and campgrounds. Many ethnic groups from New York City, including Germans, Czechs, Jews, established summer resorts in the region, in some cases along the nearby Shawangunk ridge near the town of New Paltz. The larger Jewish resorts (such as Kutsher’s, Brown’s, and Grossinger’s) together became known as the “Borscht Belt,” where many comics and musicians got their start in show business.

Farther north, throughout the 20th century, more traditional large-scale resorts, country-style inns and lodges enjoyed success as well. In addition, the Catskills have long been the summer home to thousands of kids and adults attending the area’s sleep-away camps, including Camp Ma-Ho-Ge, AnawanaChipinaw, Camp High Point, Ranger, Kennybrook, Swan Lake, Sequoia, Debruce, Timber Lake West, Brookwood, Ta-Go-La, Kennybrook, Roosevelt, Tremper Lutheran, Lakonda, Olympus, Camp Diana-Dalmaqua, Camp Omega, Camp Shane, The Frost Valley YMCA (YMCA Frost Valley) and many more.

In recent years, a few small-scale resorts have begun to return to the area, catering to wellness spa users, golfers, outdoor adventurers, enthusiasts in canoeing, kayaking, camping and winter snow-sports.