Plattekill Creek, New York, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V (for normal flows)|
|Max Gradient||360 fpm|
The Plattekill drains a pristine corner of the Catskill Mountains. It is worth exploring even if
you have no intention of ever paddling this gem of a creek. The first time I ever saw the
Plattekill was on a fall day after a hurricane had dropped several inches of rain in the area.
Finding the Kaaterskill too high, we decided to explore this tiny drainage and I was blown away
by the beauty of the area. Rising out of the lower Hudson valley, the Catskills lurch
precariously upward in an improbable feat of nature. Falling off the eastern side of these
mountains near West Saugerties is the Plattekill, which makes an impressive and sudden descent to
the valley floor. The topography of this drainage is quite remarkable. There are numerous tiny
creeks that feed into a giant bowl or cove, so to speak, and each falls precipitously several
hundred feet before joining together to become the Plattekill proper. After a major rain event,
you will be hard pressed to find so many large waterfalls in a relatively small area.
It is very probable that there are some runnable drops upstream of the major gradient (ie; 800fpm or more), but the run is best approached by hiking up from the base of the access road which winds its way to the top of the mountain, rather than parking at the top and hiking down. This has been attempted and is decidedly not recommended. Rope work is required and the gradient is too steep until you get closer to the valley floor. (Note: see below for an update, with access issues.)
Hiking upstream for about one mile, you will encounter several rapids of a pool-drop variety ranging in difficulty from Class III-V. They are almost all waterfalls. The gradient for this mile is 360 feet, but the first half mile is less steep than the second half. As the trail begins to disappear, the gradient will increase even more. You have now entered exploratory terrain. Good luck. If there is anything runnable from this point upstream, it will certainly be steep and require quite a bit of creativity. There is also a mile or so of whitewater below the hike-in drops. It is roadside for the most part and not as steep as up above, but has a couple of waterfalls and is good class IV boating.
I will work on getting some pictures up, as well as some more detailed shuttle descriptions and information on gradient. In the meantime, if you're looking to do some exploration, this is a great place to start, with boat or without. Enjoy.
Note: the following description, containing an access warning, is copied from a comment:
I grew up about 20 mins up the road from this amazing canyon and used it as a swimming hole for
the 15 years I lived there. I remember jumping off of 10-20 foot waterfalls into clean deep
pools. Last year I went back to NY for a short trip and thought I would go for a hike now that I
boated. Damn I wish I had a boat. 360 fpm and almost all of that gradient is well-defined falls
with clean, deep landings.
Anyway, the first D as far as anyone can tell was in '08. As of 2010 the Platteclove Rd. putin, recommended by the author, is now completely off-limits. A few squatters from Saugerties ruined the parking access for the very few people who know about this place. This is Deliverance territory (for real, yes, in NY), and I have heard that the landowners of the old parking area have lately popped a few shots off at hikers and swimmers.
The best way to access this now is by parking at the bridge IMMEDIATELY upstream of the junction of West Saugerties Road and Platte Clove Road. This adds a half mile to the run. To set shuttle, continue upstream on Platteclove Rd., past all the "no parking, no trespassing" signs. Don't even think of stopping here.
The road becomes narrow and steep for a few miles and there is no parking until the top of the hill. Walk back down this steep road until you are safely around the 800fpm section and bushwhack your way to the creek. Once by the water I recommend scouting all the way down to the first bridge you come to. Don't get seen here.
Go back to the boats, run some drops, don't get out at the bridge you scouted either. A quick 1/2 mile of much less gradient returns you to the second bridge and a legally parked rig. I hiked this whole section in spring 2010 in black clothes and knowing the area. I saw very few wood problems but they can happen fast and some of the drops are gorged. This makes the hike about three times as far and you essentially have to hike the whole thing now, but it's the best way.
Thanks a bunch, Charlie.
Lat/longitude coords are approximate, based on online maps and the above description.