Lake Minnewaska, New York, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Mid-Atlantic - New York - Catskills -

Also known as:  Coxing Pond

An unusual world nestles atop the Shawangunk Mountain ridge in New York’s Catskills region, and Lake Minnewaska is a vital part of that rare world. The small, 36-acre lake lies between steep cliff walls near the top of the ridge, its waters held in the basin by bedrock and a small manmade dam across the outlet. The lake existed before humans appeared to tame the Catskills; the dam was added later to provide electrical power for two resorts. The dam raised water levels several feet but otherwise made few changes to the pristine landscape.

Originally called Coxing Pond, Lake Minnewaska is one of a series of small, high-altitude ponds called the ‘sky line lakes’. The lakes all share the same origin: small depressions gouged from the bedrock by glacial action. All are quite acidic due to the characteristics of the bedrock underlying the region. They support few fish, if any. Palmaghatt Kill(Creek) flows from Lake Awosting, over Awosting Falls and into Lake Minnewaska, then on to the south. This striking landscape has delighted visitors since the first resorts were built here in the 1870s. Today, as a New York State Park Preserve, the lake and its beautiful surroundings provide nature experiences to a rising number of visitors.

The lakes in the new Minnewaska State Park Preserve are no-motors lakes, so only quiet paddling and rowing break the silent surface. A small swimming beach is provided during certain hours for park visitors. A larger area for swimming is afforded members of a local ‘open water swimming’ club who test swimmers’ water skills and provide a roped-off area for members only. Canoes, kayaks and small boats can be hand-launched at the area on the north end of the lake known as Diver’s Cove. All private boats must carry a Palisades Interstate Parks Commission boating permit and undergo a safety inspection. Because there are so few fish in the lake, fishing is not an option. In the past, fish were regularly stocked by the resorts to add angling to their activities. However, the fish did not spawn well, and their numbers dwindled until there were none.

Scuba diving is popular at Lake Minnewaska. The clear water allows divers to see the bottom at 70+ feet, and several rare features make diving here very attractive. The steep cliff walls continue down to the lakebed in many areas, and two species of salamanders are found at deeper depths than is normal. Because there are no predators, the salamanders don’t attempt to hide their nests, which can be easily seen. A bed of rare sphagnum trinitense moss is found growing at the great depth of 36 feet. The moss ordinarily grows very close to the surface, and this is the only bed found in New York, although a few have been found in other countries. One scientist refers to the area as ‘an underwater bog’, probably made possible by the extreme clarity and light penetration through Lake Minnewaska’s pristine waters. Divers must have a diver’s certification and pay an annual fee. Area dive shops in Poughkeepsie and New Paltz offer information and arrange group dives.

The entire Preserve encompasses 23,000 acres and includes a few other lakes, mostly smaller than Lake Minnewaska. The Preserve is linked to nearby 7,000-acre Mohonk Preserve by an old carriage path built during the days of local resorts. The ‘carriage road’ travels through the foundations of Trapp Village, now designated Trapps Mountain Hamlet Historic District. Only one of the original settlement’s homes survives, although about six privately-owned homes are located here along Coxing Kill.

The ‘carriage way’ roads were originally bullt by the resort owners to provide comfortable carriage rides during which their guests could enjoy scenic vistas and points of interest. Originally made from crushed slate mined locally within the park, about half of the original roads have been restored for use by hikers and mountain bikers. Some are open to equestrians, although the trails are not yet heavily used for horseback riding. In winter, some of the carriageways are maintained for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Many foot paths are being established to specific points, including locations for serious rock climbers within the Peters Kill Climbing Area. When the project is completed, there will be about 70 miles of trails and carriageways within the Preserve open to visitors to the park.

Within the two preserves and smaller Sams Point Preserve on the western edge managed by The Nature Conservancy, bird watching and nature observation are the main course on the Preserve menu. Deer, bear and a variety of smaller woodland mammals live within the forested preserve. Some areas are listed as the Minnewaska Bird Conservation Area and part of the Northern Shawangunk Mountains Important Bird Area. An endangered peregrine falcon pair nests along the cliff face, and a great number of other species breed in the area. Other points of interest include spectacular Awosting Falls upstream from Lake Minnewaska which is at its best in the spring. The entire preserve displays the characteristic autumn colors for which the area is well-known, making it a great place for the annual color tour. The area still holds several private properties, and care must be taken not to encroach on the space of others living here. Some of the remaining buildings within the resort complexes are being preserved as historical structures and will be used for park business facilities.

The two major resorts at Lake Minnnewaska, Cliff House and Wildmere, were both built originally by the Smiley brothers Alfred and Albert who began their family enterprise around 1877. By 1890, the two resorts held a combined total of over 600 guest rooms and employed a huge number of local residents as staff. The location only 90 miles north of New York City made the location both logistically attractive and highly ‘fashionable’. One of the more interesting notes to the Lake Minnewaska resorts is that the Quaker Smiley brothers did not permit alcohol or dancing during their early years. The family also purchased the area surrounding nearby Lake Awosting-also within the Preserve-and started a children’s summer camp. Eventually the family sold to another party which began a nearby ski resort and ran into serious financial difficulties. The property was eventually sold to The Nature Conservancy and the State of New York. The resorts fell to ruin or burned down. The original Smiley family still retains some rights to certain buildings and residences along Lake Minnewaska.

There is no camping or lodging at Lake Minnewaska. The preserve is a day-use facility only. Eventual plans call for a campground outside of the preserve boundaries, and several local campgrounds and RV parks can be found in the area. A few bed & breakfasts and traditional inns are located nearby, and a new lodge facility has been recently built outside the preserve boundaries. Ski resorts are located nearby. Most services will be found in New Paltz, Poughkeepsie or Newburgh-all within 20 miles of Minnewaska State Park Preserve. All types of lodgings are available in between, including large hotel chains, small hotels and guest cottages. Real estate is available nearby, although not within the Preserve itself. At less than two hours from New York City, Lake Minnewaska is still a convenient escape from city life and a much-needed respite amid the best that nature has to offer.

* There are no official statistics for Lake Minnewaska. Our statistics have been drawn from a number of sources and may not be entirely correct.

Things to do at Lake Minnewaska NY

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Scuba Diving
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Lake Minnewaska NY Photo Gallery

Lake Minnewaska NY Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 36 acres

Shoreline Length: 2 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,651 feet

Maximum Depth: 72 feet

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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