ARKVILLE – The Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Tower (BLM) in Arkville will be reopened its top cab for visitors to stand tall above the treetops on Saturday, Aug. 1. Volunteers from the Catskill Center in Arkville will be present at the tower on weekends and holidays now through Columbus Day.
To protect other visitors and the volunteers staffing the tower, hikers are required to wear a face mask when climbing on the tower, to use hand sanitizer before and after climbing the tower, and only members of the same party should climb together. Earlier in the season the tower had remained closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fire tower volunteers will be available to provide information and hand sanitizer.
The current steel tower is 47-1/2 feet tall and was built on the mountain in 1919 for forest fire surveillance (the first original tower at BLM was built in 1887). Located on the summit of Balsam Lake Mountain, which stands at 3,729’ in elevation, the fire tower looks out over the central Catskills and offers a wonderful vista in all directions.
There are two main trailheads that can bring hikers to the top of Balsam Lake Mountain. One is located on Mill Brook Road from the north. It is a 5.9-mile out and back hike with an elevation gain of approximately 1,147 feet. A second trailhead is located on Beaverkill Road from the south and is the shortest distance to the top at 3.5-miles roundtrip and with an elevation gain of about 1,188 feet.
For both hikes it is suggested that hikers have the 10 essentials with them, such as a trail map and 2-3 liters of water, to prepare for a few hours out in the backcountry (full list here: (http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/hikesmarttenessentials.pdf) For COVID-19 safety, the Catskill Center asks that visitors to the mountain please bring a mask and hand sanitizer with them.
“The hikes that lead to the top of Balsam Lake Mountain can be either day hikes or overnight backpack hikes, and a drive around that area of the Catskills (Arkville) offers scenic mountain views, covered bridges, and a network of other trails. The state campgrounds nearby can be great to visit for the day, too,” said the Catskills Center’s Visitor Experience Coordinator Olivia Bernard.
The five backcountry Catskill Park Fire Towers are owned and maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) with support from the Catskill Center. A sixth Catskill Park Fire Tower is now located on the grounds of the Catskills Visitor Center (catskillsvisitorcenter.org), having opened in the Fall of 2019. You can learn more about the Fire Towers of the Catskill Park on the Catskill Center’s website at catskillcenter.org/fire-tower-project.
The volunteer program at the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower is a part of Catskill Center’s Catskill Fire Tower Project. A program that began in the 1990s to restore and maintain the five original historic Catskill Fire Towers, the Catskill Fire Tower Project keeps towers staffed on weekends and holidays from May through October.