When I take a road trip, I love to travel on small roads, avoiding the major highways. It helps that I am retired, and rarely on a tight schedule. One of the things I look forward to is discovering the small towns that the Interstate bypasses. I am often surprised by what I find. A recent trip through the Catskill Mountains of New York brought me just such a find.
In the northwest corner of Sullivan county, where the Delaware River serves as the border between New York and Pennsylvania, is the town of Callicoon. The town sits in a valley along the river. It was founded in 1842, when the Erie Railroad came through this part of the state.
This part of the Catskills was already a center of the timber industry. In 1849 a tannery was built, taking advantage of the local hemlock trees, whose bark played a key role in preparing leather for boots and industrial belts. The railroad allowed for an influx of farmers, offering them a reliable way to ship their goods to population centers both north and south of the county.
Today, Callicoon serves as a base for visitors who want to explore the Delaware River Valley. Driving into the center of town is like driving back in time. Most of the buildings date back to 1888, when there was a major fire, requiring the rebuilding of the commercial center. Except for all of the modern cars, it felt as if I walked onto the set of a movie.
The buildings have been wonderfully maintained, and the town businesses were in full bloom, even during the this summer of COVID-affected travel. The jewel in the center of town is the Western Hotel. Built in 1852, it is a national landmark that serves as both a hotel, restaurant and tap room. All of its rooms have been modernized and renovated, and it continues its 170-year tradition.
From Callicoon, head fourteen miles south along NY-97, which follows the Delaware River, to the hamlet of Narrowsburg. It is named for narrow abutments along the river. As with many towns along the Delaware, it started as a place for shipping of lumber, with large groups of trees tied together and floated down river.
Today, Narrowsburg is home to the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, and has several galleries and boutiques. On my visit, I had lunch from The Laundrette. They specialize in salads and pizzas, all made with very fresh ingredients. The arugula and prosciutto pizza was delicious.
The western edge of Sullivan County, along the Delaware River, is a beautiful place to visit. Whether you enjoy hiking, rafting or just visiting unique small towns, there is plenty to do and enjoy.
Nuts and Bolts:
Callicoon is 114 miles northwest of New York City. Take the NYS Thruway to route 17W (exit 16). Take route NY-17 to exit 104. Follow signs onto route NY-17B for approximately 21 miles to Callicoon.