The 3,107-acre Bashakill Wildlife Management Area, a state designated Bird Conservation Area, is the largest freshwater wetland in southeastern New York State. It provides habitat for over 30 species of fish, 200 species of birds and a large variety of reptiles, mammals and plants.
The view of the wetlands and the Shawangunk Ridge escarpment from the trails are fabulous at any time of the year. In mid August, when we were here, the profusion of wildflowers in bloom (purples, reds yellows) were breathtaking. It is banked by views of the Allegheny Plateau to the west and the steep Shawangunk Ridge to the east. The ridge rises almost 700 feet above the plateau.
This scenic, unspoiled and serene setting provides an unmatched resource for bird and wildlife watching, canoeing, hiking and mountain biking.
Bashakill Wildlife Management Area Trails
The old railbed of the New York, Ontario & Western Railway parallels the Bashakill on its eastern side. The towpath of the Delaware & Hudson Canal travels along it's western side. Both trails are open to biking.
The old railbed has not been graded. Standing water, mud, exposed roots or railroad ties, grass and other surface conditions make this route an adventure for both hikers and mountain bikers. Riding after heavy rains or during wet periods is not a good idea. This is definitely not your well-maintained, graded rail trail, however it's a great wildlife watch / bike ride or . . .
.. more like a walk-a-bike.
Better riding conditions can be found on the D&H Canal Towpath or the well-maintained D&H Canal Linear Park Trail.
If you are in the area, make the Bashakill Wildlife Management area a stop on your travels. Over 15 miles of walking trails and several observation towers provide excellent pathways for up close wetland wildlife observations.
Here are some of our explorations of the Bashakill by mountain bike.
Loop Ride Option
Beginning at the parking area, head south on the old railbed, and exit onto Otisville Road. Turn right onto County Road 63, turn right on US 209 and make another right onto an unmarked road. From here look for a wide double-track trail on the left that will take you onto the old Delaware & Hudson Towpath. Follow the towpath north back to Haven Road, turn right and that will take you back to the parking area.
Ride Option - New Haven Road
The railroad bed surface south of Haven Road is dirt, gravel and grass. There are plenty of roots here, rough sections, some downed tree branches, old railroad ties still in place and several small wooden plank bridges.
The sections with lots of roots / railroad ties makes for a very bumpy ride. We suggest getting off your bike and walking this stretch. This will also give you the opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of the wildlife habitats and to actually get a chance to see some of the "hidden" wildlife. They aren't exactly waving white flags to attract your attention. Isn't that why you came here to ride?
Haven Road also provides open views both north and south, and migrating birds often fly right overhead. We spotted a group of deer at the transition zone between forest and wetland. They stopped to watch us as we passed by, slowly, on foot. We also saw one of our favorite marsh birds, a great blue heron as well as many other interesting birds. A beaver swam by and gave us a Hi-5 sign. We easily would have missed seeing all of this had we been riding instead of walking this short stretch.
North of Haven Road, the railroad bed is also dirt, gravel, grass but much easier to ride. It is level and graded, offering fairly easy riding for several miles north towards Route 17. There are lovely views of the wetlands and surrounding mountains from points along the trail here also.
D&H Canal Towpath
The D&H Canal Towpath south of Haven Road is rideable with a surface of dirt, gravel and grass. We don't recommend biking the towpath north of Haven Road.
Bashakill Area Trail Connections
D&H Canal Linear Park Trail
There are also additional miles of riding and opportunities for wildlife watching on the well-maintained, marked D&H Canal Linear Park Trail. From the trail access point at Hornbeck’s Basin Park at Wurtsboro, the trail heads north along the old canal for 6 miles and ends at the Bova Rd access and Rt 209. Bova Road is also home to the Canal Lock 50 Interpretive Center with exhibits, a book store, and restrooms.
Trail Highlights & Nearby Points of Interest
Wildlife Watch & Photography
Birds that migrate through the Bashakill or make it their year-round home include the bald eagle, osprey, wild turkey, red-winged blackbird, American bittern, pied-billed grebe, woodpecker, hummingbird, great blue heron, red-shouldered hawk, northern harrier, sharp-shinned hawk, cooper's hawk, northern goshawk, pheasant and Canada goose.
Mammals that frequent the wetlands and upland woods include white-tailed deer, opossum, porcupine, rabbit, raccoon, river otter, beaver and skunk. Reptiles include the box turtle, bullfrogs, salamanders, snapping turtles and toads.
The Sea Lamprey, which migrates up the Delaware River from the Atlantic Ocean, and the prehistoric “Bowfin” fish are rare species of the Bashakill wetlands.
Bald Eagles love Bashakill in the winter. Eagles prefer undisturbed areas near large lakes and reservoirs, marshes and swamps, or stretches along rivers where they can find open water and their primary food, fish. Look for eagles perching and flying to and from the ice and treeline surrounding the water.
Bald Eagles were in decline in the New York State. To bring these North American birds back, the New York State Bald Eagle Restoration Project was established in 1976 to foster a breeding population. Birds were raised by hacking (hand rearing to independence). Over a 13 year period, 198 nestling bald eagles were collected (most from Alaska), transported and released in New York.
Take the New York Thruway (I-87) north and exit at NY 17/US 6 west. Proceed on Rt. 17 to exit 113 (Ellenville). After the exit ramp turn left and travel south on Rt. 209. When you see the Moose Lodge (around 2.2 miles) turn left onto Haven Road. You can park down this road or continue to the intersection with South Road. Turn right and proceed to the first of four boat launch parking areas.
NEW YORK STATE DEC REGION 3
Phone: (845) 256-3000