Coming soon to an NYC reservoir near you: Guided tours

Kayakers on the Pepacton Reservoir. Photo by Dennis Schvejda; shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr group pool.

For decades, New York City's enormous reservoirs have been off-limits to all but a few dedicated anglers in rowboats. But when cautious city water officials decided to let kayaks and canoes onto the Cannonsville in 2008, the program proved that clean water and boaters could coexist happily. Since then, slowly but surely, the reservoirs have been opening up.

The latest in a series of recent moves to open the city's west-of-Hudson reservoirs to recreation is a new program to allow guided tours, announced by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection last week.

The program allows outdoor guides who are already certified by the state to apply to the city for permission to lead tours on city land and reservoirs. The New York State guide certification program, run by the Department of Environmental Conservation, requires guides to be certified in first aid, CPR and water rescue, and to take a state exam. Guides will not have to pay an additional fee to the NYC DEP to operate on city land.

According to a list of guides on the DEC's website, there are about 150 certified outdoor guides in the five counties of New York City's west-of-Hudson watershed: Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster. 

The DEP also recently decided to allow commercial boat rental companies to store their boats at racks on the reservoirs -- a welcome development for boat companies, whose boats will not have to be steam-cleaned before every use if they stay at the reservoir full-time.

Four of the city's six west-of-Hudson reservoirs are open to recreational non-motorized boating: The Cannonsville, Neversink, Pepacton and Schoharie. On the Cannonsville, anglers are also allowed to use electric trolling motors, in a pilot program that may be expanded to other reservoirs if it proves successful.

Outdoor guides who want to apply to the DEP for permission to lead tours on city land and reservoirs can call the agency at (800) 575-LAND.