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My Column: Lake Minnewaska Park Preserve

New Minnewaska visitor center Jim Wright MG_5917 (1)
My latest column for The Record and other USA Today papers in New Jersey is all about the new $6.1 million state-of-the-art visitors center at Lake Minnewaska Park Preserve near New Paltz, and the birds you might see nearby.

You can read it here:

By Jim Wright


    Earlier this month, Minnewaska State Park Preserve in nearby New York State opened its new state-of-the-art Visitor Center, and it is a must for nature lovers in general and bird-watchers in particular.

   The mountain preserve, located 90 minutes from North Jersey, is a popular destination these days. It offers breath-taking vistas and 30 miles of wide carriage roads -- an especially attractive feature in the Covid-19 era.

Birding - Cedar Waxwing on Red Cedar tree MP DJ 11-3-10 Dave Johnson
Photo by Dave Johnson

And although the fall migration is winding down, there are still plenty of birds to look for. For example, in the past week, birders have seen eastern bluebirds, ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets, red-breasted nuthatches, hermit thrushes, and a Tennessee warbler.

   Minnewaska’s Nicholas Martin, a birder and assistant environmental educator, says other notable birds you might also see or hear this time of year are ruffed grouse, cedar waxwing, red-shouldered hawk, yellow-bellied sapsucker and pileated woodpecker.

  Martin’s favorite birding trails are the Upper Awosting and Hamilton Point carriage roads. “You can find a nice diversity of wood warblers along these roads during breeding season,” he says. “I also enjoy sitting at Millbrook Mountain, as the view is spectacular and it’s a great place to catch circling raptors, a peregrine falcon zooming by or migrating raptors during the fall.”

Martin adds that at more than 24,000 acres, Minnewaska is vast “and birds are not concentrated in one area like many other birding hot spots in the region.”

The two most unusual birds he’s seen in Minnewaska were a northern goshawk and a long-tailed duck: “The latter was in late December 2018, when Lake Minnewaska is typically frozen over, but not that year.” 

The best place to start any visit to Minnewaska is the brand-new $6.1 million Visitor Center, built with help from the Open Space Institute on the site of an old resort hotel that burned down decades ago.

Located about five miles from the landmark Mohonk Mountain House as the crow flies, the 5,400-square-foot center offers plenty of interactive displays, trail maps and brochures. There are also restrooms and drinking water there.

Be sure to pick up a free bird checklist, admire the great view of nearby Lake Minnewaska, and thaw out by the huge stone fireplace after a morning of birding. 

One caveat: The preserve has been extremely popular with leaf-peepers and other folks looking for a great escape, so best to call ahead (845-255-0752) to find out about park conditions. If the preserve is crowded, file it away for next spring, when migration and warmer weather return.

 Minnewaska is located atop the 2,000-foot-high Shawangunk Ridge, which runs from the Catskills through the New Paltz area and into New Jersey, where it becomes the Kittatinny Mountains.

The park opens daily at 9 a.m. Admission is $10 per vehicle. 

More info: (You can also take a virtual you of the preserve on the website as well.)

The Bird-watcher column appears every other Thursday. Email Jim at