Recreational Use Regulations for NYC Watershed Lands

P5260781smMany New York City water supply reservoirs and lands are open to the public for low-impact recreational activities.

In order to responsibly provide recreational access to City property, DEP issues a comprehensive permit “The Access Permit” that allows for fishing, hunting and hiking on certain designated areas in the watershed. Other areas are referred to as “Public Access Areas” and are open to all without a permit. Access permit holders may also obtain a DEP boat tag for keeping a rowboat or sailboat at one of the reservoirs. You can now obtain a NYCDEP access permit online! Just fill out the online form here and print out your permit from NYCDEP’s Watershed Recreation webpage. It’s that simple.


Boating for the purposes of fishing is allowed on NYC reservoirs to those with the appropriate DEP permits. Anglers must store their fishing boats at designated storage areas. All boats must be approved and registered with DEP. People who want to register a new boat must first obtain a valid access permit and then call the Land Management Office near the reservoir of interest to make a steam cleaning and registration appointment (There is no cost for this service, which must be performed by DEP):

Ashokan Reservoir: (845) 657-2663
Schoharie Reservoir: (607) 588-6231
Rondout and Neversink Reservoirs: (845) 985-0386
Cannonsville and Pepacton Reservoirs: (607) 363-7009

Fishing is allowed on City-owned reservoirs, lakes and streams as designated by specific DEP signs and according to all applicable New York State regulations. Most City-owned reservoirs offer excellent fishing opportunities for both warm-water species such as smallmouth and largemouth bass, as well as cold-water species such as trout. City-owned reservoirs are open for fishing from shore and with fishing boats, and it is common for many reservoirs to produce 4-5 pound bass and lake trout exceeding 15 pounds! In addition to its reservoirs, DEP also offers City-owned watershed lands that border excellent trout fishing streams such as the Batavia Kill, West Branch Delaware River, Esopus Creek, and many smaller tributaries. Boating for the purposes of fishing is allowed on New York City reservoirs to registered individuals having the appropriate DEP Access Permit and Boat Tag.  Angler maps can be found here.

Recreational Boating

DEP allows recreational boating (canoes, kayaks) at the Cannonsville Reservoir, the Pepacton Reservoir, the Neversink Reservoir and the Schoharie Reservoir. What do you need to participate? A permitted vessel, a Personal Floatation Device(s) (PFD), a Free DEP Access Permit, a DEP Recreational Boat Tag (Temporary or Season Tag). What do you need to do? Have your vessel steam cleaned at a participating DEP-approved steam cleaning vendor. Steam cleaning vendors may charge a fee for the steam cleaning services. Some vendors now keep rental boats on site at the reservoirs. Renters need to visit the vendor to pay, get paddles and get PFDs. More details, including maps and locations of steam-cleaning locations can be found here.


DEP allows both big and small game hunting on designated city-owned watershed lands. Designated hunting areas are available for bow, shotgun, rifle, handgun, and muzzleloader hunting where permitted by New York State regulations. Hunters and trappers must possess a valid New York State hunting license and they must follow all applicable New York State hunting regulations, including weapons restrictions, species restrictions, and hunting during the proper seasons for the allowed game. Although DEP no longer issues separate hunting tags and DEP Access Permits are no longer required on “Public Access Areas,” DEP Access Permits are still required on those properties posted with signs that read “Entry by Permit”. To learn more about the program, click here.


photo(1)Although hiking is not allowed immediately around New York City reservoirs, hiking (including cross country skiing and snowshoeing) is allowed on many City-owned watershed lands that are marked with DEP signs stating “Entry by Permit” or “Public Access Areas.” All recreational users should pay very close attention to the types of signs that are present because properties marked with “No Trespassing” or “Posted” signs are not open for public use.

Some watershed lands have been improved to allow for better access and parking. In addition, many old logging roads exist that are well-suited for hiking, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing. Hikers are encouraged to visit designated hiking properties where they can often discover hidden treasures such as scenic waterfalls and breathtaking vistas. Dogs are generally allowed on City-owned lands but they must be well-behaved and controllable. Any animal waste should be promptly cleaned up and removed. To see maps of the open parcels click here and to learn more about the program, click here.


  1. Terrance Singleton
    Terrance Singleton 2014-10-17 at 10:19 am . Reply

    I filled out my application on line about 1 month ago for a water shed permit. I have not received it. Thank you

  2. Carole Baker
    Carole Baker 2016-07-21 at 10:23 pm . Reply

    Are single rowing sculls allowed on Ashokan reservior with proper cleaning and permit?

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2016-07-24 at 12:39 am . Reply

      Recreational boating is not allowed on the Ashokan Reservoir, with the exception of approved fishing boats. You may use rowing and sail boats on the Pepacton, Neversink, Schoharie and Cannonsville Reservoirs if steam cleaned and displaying the sticker issued with the cleaning and with a recreational access permit, which can be applied for and printed online. Bring the permit with you on your paddle. See the DEP regulations page on the CMC website for links.

  3. Matthew
    Matthew 2016-10-15 at 4:48 pm . Reply

    Are dogs allowed?

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2016-10-20 at 3:40 pm . Reply

      Dogs are generally allowed on City-owned lands, but they must be well-behaved and controllable. Use a leash when approaching other hikers.

  4. Dora C Chambers
    Dora C Chambers 2018-04-09 at 2:31 pm . Reply

    Can you use a paddle boat on the pepacton reservoir?

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2018-04-10 at 8:51 pm . Reply

      Yes, canoes, kayaks, fishing boats and sailboats (sailboats are banned as of the 2019 season) can be used on the Pepacton, Cannonsville, Neversink and Schoharie Reservoirs. No motors of any type are allowed. All boats must be registered and steam cleaned before being put in the water.
      Our webpage on DEP regulations provides more info, including links to steam cleaning facilities. Happy paddling!

      1. Jeffrey Ashton
        Jeffrey Ashton 2020-06-11 at 7:07 am . Reply

        Can you use a Mountain bike on DEP land? What about horses?

        1. wgcmc
          wgcmc 2020-06-11 at 7:36 am . Reply

          DEP does not allow the use of mountain bikes or horses on their lands.

  5. Matthew
    Matthew 2018-08-14 at 8:32 am . Reply

    Where can I find fishing regulations for the Ashokan reservoir.

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2018-08-14 at 4:15 pm . Reply

      Here’s the link to our page about NYCDEP regulations. You’ll find info and links there that you need. Happy angling!

  6. Josie Pesout
    Josie Pesout 2019-01-10 at 9:55 pm . Reply

    Are paddle boards allowed on reservoir?

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2019-01-21 at 2:53 pm . Reply

      I’m sorry to say they are not. Users are not allowed to intentionally enter the water for swimming or for any other purpose.

  7. Tom Bervoets
    Tom Bervoets 2019-01-24 at 11:55 pm . Reply

    I noticed sailboats are no longer permitted on Schoharie Reservoir. Is this expected to be a temporary measure or was there a particular reason why sailboats are no longer allowed.

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2019-01-27 at 3:34 pm . Reply

      The decision to stop allowing sailboats is permanent. Our understanding is that the DEP was concerned that sailboats could not be reliably cleaned.

  8. S.D
    S.D 2019-07-02 at 7:30 pm . Reply

    Hi, I was wondering if Drones were allowed on the trail? I wanted to take some arial photos of the lake.

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2019-07-18 at 2:01 pm . Reply

      Drones are not allowed on NYCDEP lands.
      Sorry for the late reply. Our WordPress notification system doesn’t seem to be working.

      1. Duncan
        Duncan 2019-07-19 at 1:56 am . Reply

        All the boats I see on the side on the reservoir are those are people boats or will one be assigned to me?

        1. wgcmc
          wgcmc 2019-07-19 at 8:35 am . Reply

          The fishing boats you see are privately owned. The recreational boats are partly private and partly for rent. Those are available for rent at area vendors. See the link in the DEP website for a list of those.

        2. James
          James 2020-05-09 at 1:01 am . Reply

          Is Kayak fishing permitted on NYC reservoirs? I have an Access permit for fishing, do I need to get a sticker for the Kayak? Thanks for any assistance.

          1. wgcmc
            wgcmc 2020-05-09 at 8:21 am .

            Kayaks are allowed for recreational boating on four Catskills reservoirs. They cannot be used except during the recreational boating season and must be steam cleaned anytime they are removed from the reservoir storage facilities. They can be used for fishing during the recreational boating season.
            Flat-bottomed Jon boats must be stored on the reservoir they are registered for and cannot be removed and then returned to that or to any other reservoir without going through both the inspection and steam cleaning process again. They can be used during the entire state fishing season.

  9. Brian
    Brian 2020-04-27 at 4:55 pm . Reply

    Are there any plans for the rules against paddleboards to change? I mean, they are so manageable and easy to transport, clean and efficient. Great exercise. There’s hardly any difference between them and kayaks, except they are easier to get in/out of the water. Can the rule against them be revisited? Thanks for your consideration.

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2020-05-09 at 8:29 am . Reply

      The DEP recently updated regulations for recreational boating. They did not allow paddleboards. It is unlikely that they will change the rule since swimming is not allowed.

      1. Bob
        Bob 2021-03-27 at 10:33 am . Reply

        The environmental impact of a paddle boarder occasionally falling in the water and then getting back on the board would seem to be far less than the collective damage done by fishermen: tossed lures, lines tangled in shoreline trees, and other dumped fishing gear in the water. This regulation definitely needs revisiting. An amateur canoeist is as likely to be in the water. Making paddle boarding synonymous with swimming just doesn’t make sense.

    DEVLIN FOSTER 2020-05-22 at 9:02 pm . Reply

    Is backcountry, leave no trace, overnight camping allowed?

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2020-05-23 at 10:57 am . Reply

      Sorry, but DEP does not allow camping.

  11. Alex
    Alex 2020-05-23 at 2:48 pm . Reply

    Where can we clean steam our kayaks ? We want to use them on Schoharie? And in general do we need to steam clean kayaks/cAnoe

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2020-05-23 at 3:17 pm . Reply

      DEP requires that all boats used in the reservoirs be steam cleaned to help prevent invasive species from entering the water. A list of vendors who perform the work can be found here.

  12. reid
    reid 2020-07-03 at 4:08 pm . Reply

    Is there any day parking/where can I park when I rent a kayak for the day near the boat launches at Neversink Reservoir?

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2020-07-08 at 10:08 am . Reply

      There is a launch site with a parking area on Aden Rd. at Chandler Cove and another at Kramer’s Cove, both on the western shore. When you have your boat steam cleaned, the vendor can give you directions. For a map of each reservoir where recreational boating is permitted and a list of vendors click here:

  13. Steven DeNichilo
    Steven DeNichilo 2020-07-29 at 10:52 am . Reply

    Can you do recreational kayaking on Roundout Resevior?

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2020-07-29 at 2:36 pm . Reply

      No, the Rondout and Ashokan Reservoirs are not open for recreational boating other than fishing. The other four reservoirs are. Boats must be steam cleaned by a licensed vendor before being launched.

  14. Daniel D Weaver
    Daniel D Weaver 2020-09-01 at 1:31 pm . Reply

    Why is boating not permitted on the Ashokan Reservoir?

    1. wgcmc
      wgcmc 2020-09-01 at 10:46 pm . Reply

      Both the Ashokan and the Rondout Reservoirs do not allow recreational boating. They are “terminal’ reservoirs, meaning the last ones before the water is sent into the tunnels for the trip to the city. DEP doesn’t want activity on them, but by agreement made when the system was created they have to allow fishing.

  15. Andrew Lu
    Andrew Lu 2022-06-13 at 1:09 pm . Reply

    Is kayaking (ours are 11.5, 12.5 and 13.5 feet) allowed North of the New Croton Reservoir? The area is labeled with “NYC DEP Recreational Access” and there are hundreds of rowboats around.

    1. Ann Roberti
      Ann Roberti 2022-06-13 at 3:32 pm . Reply

      Rowboats are covered under a different program than the Recreational Boating. I don’t believe kayaking is allowed there but we aren’t familiar with the non-Catskill reservoir system.

  16. Francis L Bibbo
    Francis L Bibbo 2022-11-14 at 9:27 pm . Reply

    Can a fiberglass rowboat be stored and used in the Pepacton? Is there a minimum lenth requirement? Is there a prohibition of certain hull styles: for instance, a tri-hull rowboat? Thank you.

    1. Ann Roberti
      Ann Roberti 2022-11-15 at 7:11 am . Reply

      There are two boating programs at the NYC reservoirs – fishing and recreational. Boats eligible for Fishing Boat Tags shall be metal row boats, except boats on record as having had valid Fishing Boat Tags that were issued before March 31, 2006 may be wooden or fiberglass row boats. Only rowboats that are (1) a minimum of 11’6” in length and 42” in width and (2) a maximum of 16’ in length are permitted on City Property. Other vessels, including but not limited to sailboats, motorized boats, inflatable boats, guide/river boats, and collapsible boats are prohibited as Fishing Boats. Boats eligible for Recreational Boat Tags include but are not limited to canoes, sculls, metal jonboats, rowboats and kayaks that measure no less than 9 feet in length. Inflatable boats, collapsible boats, swim and paddle boards, stand up kayaks, kayaks with pedal drive systems and or sails, sailboats and motorized boats are prohibited. You would be best off calling the DEP if your boat is not a standard kayak, canoe or rowboat to see if they would consider it acceptable.

Post Comment