Austin Glen

A friend reminded me recently about a story I had run across in the NY Times archives entitled “A Catskill Coral Reef.” Written and published in 1881, it told about Austin Glen and what could be found there. Geologically learned readers (I do not consider myself among them) recognize the name as an important feature of local geology, part of the Taconic Unconformity. Most of the locals think of it as a great swimming hole, well worth the treacherous climb down from the nearest road.

Fifty years before that story was written, Thomas Cole, the great Nineteenth Century painter and founder of the Hudson River School, was just settling into his studio only a couple of miles to the east. With the main road up to the mountaintop passing right along the glen I can only imagine Mr. Cole spending a summer’s day in the glen, sketching and swimming in the Catskill Creek.

Back to the Times article, it begins:

“The larger portion of Summer travelers who visit the Catskills are whirled across the intervening country between the river and mountains, thus losing what is certainly one of the most startling and interesting phases in the Catskill region, namely, a coral reef, along which the tourist can walk, a veritable beach upon whose sands the waves of a great sea beat untold ages ago. With a party of early sojourners at the mountains, I wandered along a section of this great reef…”

“…A few hundred yards further on the creek deepens, and several large boulders lie on the shore that yielded to the persuasive hammer trilobites and several fine specimens of a delicate marine plant. Here we dined; the cloth being spread on a Silurian boulder, a modern lunch served and highly enjoyed…”

“…The first specimen noticed in the slate-colored rocks would be taken by the casual observer as button-molds pressed into the rock. Thousands of them were seen in every position, some standing out in relief, the rock around them having worn away, and making the walking none the best.They were crinoid stems, remains of one of the most beautiful and graceful animals of the primeval seas,,,”

One hundred thirty years later (last week, to be precise), I climbed down into the glen to see what I could find. All the images in this post are the results of that visit. I see many more return trips in the future.

Thank you as always for visiting. More images at

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5 thoughts on “Austin Glen

  1. Austin Glen was one of the first spots I went to when I started getting interested in geology and paleontology, in my late 20s (~1984). Great place – haven’t been far from the Rte. 23 bridge in years. In the 1990s, an older geologist worked at trying to get Austin Glen preserved, one way or another – didn’t work out.

    The rocks aren’t really a coral reef – there is a layer that might be exposed upstream of the bridge, toward Leeds, that would have a good number of fossil corals (at the bottom of the Onondaga Limestone). But not quite a reef. There are a few of those, at the same level, in northern Greene, Albany and Otsego counties, and near Buffalo. About 390 million years old, when NY was in the tropics.

    Austin Glen, what a fine place.

    Chuck Ver Straeten, geologist

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