Navigating Stillwater Reservoir


This site serves as documentation of my project to create digital navigation data for use on Stillwater Reservoir.  The reservoir is located in the Adirondack Mountains in the Town of Webb, Herkimer County, New York. Stillwater's elevation level fluctuates almost 15 feet in a typical year (1665-1680 ft), and has a large number of rock shoals and stumps that cause havoc for boaters.  In light of how imprecise previous maps were, a convergence of technologies making it possible, and suffering several destroyed boat props myself, I was motivated to start this project.  The only guidance up to this point has been paper maps, or estimated routes using visible landmarks and guidelines.  Both are difficult to effectively use on the water.  I've used my skills in map making to create a highly accurate electronic boater's map of the reservoir.

The project began with the program Google Earth, and its provided historical satellite imagery from November 9, 2011 and October 11, 2008.  In this imagery, the water elevation was approximately 1668 and 1670 feet respectively, nearly 7-10 ft below the typical summer month water elevations.  Since then, I've moved out of Google Earth to more capable software tools, and I've located other sources of imagery with lower water levels.  I've also located aerial photography and video taken during the draw down of the reservoir in 2001.  I've documented the imagery utilized in this project on the Available Imagery page.  The majority of the imagery is available in the downloads section below.

A major project has also been undertaken to collect sonar depth data for the entire reservoir and create contour depth maps.  Data was collected in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and is ongoing.  Most of the reservoir has already been covered, and completion is expected.

The results of these efforts are six categories of data layers:

1. Routes Layer - Contains precise, "educated guess" safe routes for motor boats.  It also includes safe zones for water sports.

2. Hazards Layer - Contains polygon data encompassing shoals that were visible in the low elevation map data, but were at least partially covered in high water conditions.

3. Campsites Layer - Contains the approximate locations of all forty-six designated campsites on the reservoir.  For detailed campsite information, go to the Campsite Information page.

4. Image Overlays Layer - Provides three categories of orthorectified images (accurately laid over the underlying satellite imagery)

I. Drawn maps found online or located through research, provided by state or county governments or private enterprises
II. Topographical maps found online
III. Examples of satellite imagery used to create this project

5. Depth Maps - Contains contour depth maps created from data collected 2015-17, and is partially complete. Also contains data on submerged, extinct geographic features.

6. Boat Tracks - A collection of bread crumb trails from boat tracks on the reservoir, including my personal trips, depth collection tracks used to create the depth map, the DEC Forest Rangers' routes, and user tracks submitted by the public.

See the "How To Use the Data Layers" guide below for more information on interpreting the colors of the different data layers at different reservoir elevations.

I've also compiled step-by-step guides for loading the map data onto mobile devices.  Whether it's an Android or Apple, phone or tablet; a mobile device and the data on this site can be utilized to navigate and avoid most dangers on the reservoir.  This site is merely documentation of my work for my own personal use on Stillwater.  If you choose to use any of the data on this site, please read the disclaimer below first.

I can always use additional satellite or aerial imagery of the reservoir.  If anyone has any imagery available that can't be found on this site, please let me know.  It may help hone the boat routes and make them safer.  Images taken at ground level are typically not useful to me, but thanks anyway.  Also, if anyone is willing to collect sonar depth finder data for use in honing the depth maps, please contact me for some tips in maximizing the quality of data before collecting.

I welcome all feedback.  If you have any questions, comments, or information to add, please use the email at left.  Most of the layers can be quickly viewed in Google Maps without having to install any software.  However, this option does not show the image overlays, depth maps, 3D Hazards, or historical satellite imagery available in Google Earth.


Navigation Data Layer

(Map Data Last Updated: August 23, 2017)

Download (KML)

- Contains all the data layers!
- Loads in Google Earth program on Windows/Mac/Linux (not the mobile app) 
- This is a network link to the three layers below plus Image Overlays, 3D Hazards, Depth Maps, and Boat Tracks
- See the Google Earth guide below for more information.

Direct links to individual layers for downloading to a mobile device.  
See the "Android Phone/Tablet" or "Apple iPhone/iPad" guides below for more information.

Routes: Download (KML)

Hazards: Download (KML)

Campsites: Download (KML)

Offline Map Tiles

These files provide underlying ortho-imagery (satellite maps) on a mobile device while on the reservoir and away from cellular data or WIFI.  See either the Android or Apple guides below for information on how to use these files.  (click on Download below, then on the next screens, click the blue download buttons).  All the downloads below are the mbtiles file type.  Also see the "Available Imagery" page for associated water levels and sources of each set of map data.

Recommended For Use On The Reservoir

MapQuest Open Aerial (2011) - Levels 12-18 (53 MB) - Download

Google Satellite (2015-6 Combo) - Levels 10-19 (445 MB) - Download


Contour Depth Map

Stillwater Reservoir Navigation Custom Depth Map (2017) - Levels 14-19 (35 MB) - Download

NAVICO Insight Genesis Go Free Social Map - (2016) - Levels 12-18 (39 MB) - Download

Shared with permission from NAVICO.
Please visit the "Go Free Social Map" site to explore other bodies of water, and the capabilities of NAVICO products.


Topo Maps

New USGS - (c. 2000's to present) - Levels 6-15 (23 MB) - Download

Old USGS - (c. 1910's to 2000's) - Levels 10-16 (58 MB) - Download

Historical USGS - (c. 1890's to 1910's) - Levels 8-14 (83MB) - Download


Other Imagery Used In This Project

USGS Aerial Imagery (1942) - Levels 11-17 (135 MB) - Download

USGS Aerial Imagery (1952) - Levels 11-16 (14 MB) - Download

APA/Aero Graphics (1978) - Levels 13-17 (198 MB) - Download

NYS Orthos DHSES (1994) - Levels 10-15 (26 MB) - Download

NASA Blue Marble Imagery (2000) - Levels 11-15 (5 MB) - Download

Aerial Composite Image (2001) - Levels 14-18 (450 MB) - Download

USGS Landsat 7 Imagery (2001) - Levels 12-15 (2 MB) - Download

NYS GIS Imagery (2003) - Levels 1-18 (138 MB) - Download

USDA Imagery (2006) - Levels 12-17 (58 MB) - Download

USDA Imagery (2008) - Levels 3-18 (177 MB) - Download

NYS GIS Imagery (2009) - Levels 11-17 (156 MB) - Download

USGS Imagery (2010) - Levels 11-17 (163 MB) - Download

Google Satellite (2013) - Levels 7-19 (380 MB) - Download

NAIP Imagery (2013) - Levels 11-17 (153 MB) - Download

NYS GIS Imagery (2013) - Levels 11-17 (150 MB) - Download

NAIP Imagery (2015) - Levels 9-18 (374 MB) - Download

Google Satellite (2015) - Levels 14-19 (505 MB) - Download

Google Satellite (2016) - Levels 15-19 (220 MB) - Download


Some offline map files were created using MOBAC.  This is a great program, check it out in order to create personalized offline map sets.

Other map files were created using Global Mapper.  It's a great program, more powerful than MOBAC, but is also more expensive.

You can quickly view these files on your Windows Desktop using the MBTilesViewer program.  Simply unzip and start the program, then drag and drop the downloaded mbtiles file into the program window.  You can navigate with the left mouse button and zoom with the mouse wheel, just like in most map programs.  For some of the files, you may have to manually zoom into the reservoir for the tiles to appear.

You can also use the free program QGIS to view these files, see the guide below.


How to Use the Data Layers

Mobile Devices



Latest Updates

  • September 19, 2017 - Depth Map Update 2017 Approximately 75 miles of track data collected in 2017 has been added into the custom depth map project, and both the Google Earth and MBTILE layers have been updated.  I also updated the "Depth Collection Tracks" layer under the "Boat Tracks" section in the Google Earth layers.  As a result of the newly collected data, I have slightly decreased the size of the green safe zone south of Rapshaw Island heading towards the Raven Point campsite.  A change Reefmaster made in their KML output leaves the "minor contours" on all the time no matter what the zoom level is.  I personally don't care for it, but you can turn the major and minor contours, and the isobath colors on ...
    Posted Sep 19, 2017, 12:54 PM by Stillwater Boat
  • September 1, 2017 - Time Lapse Video Added the time lapse webcam video for the second part of 2017.  Click on the image below to view the video.
    Posted Aug 31, 2017, 9:07 PM by Stillwater Boat
  • August 23, 2017 - Updated Routes & Hazards, Added Boat Tracks Following a trip to Stillwater, and analysis of some of the routes with a depth finder, I've adjusted some of the yellow routes to red.  A lot of the red routes now have notes associated with them defining recommended minimum water heights and additional guidance.  I've also adjusted one set of hazard polygons to reflect a deep section (an original pond) of the reservoir that was previously designated as a hazard area.  I also added a new section to the Google Earth link that contains a collection of bread crumb trails from boat trips on the reservoir.  This new layer includes the following:My own personal trips while following my own map data.All the data collection tracks ...
    Posted Aug 24, 2017, 8:05 AM by Stillwater Boat
  • July 4, 2017 - Adirondack Park Agency 1978 Aerial Photography I located more aerial photography, this time from the Adirondack Park Agency (APA).  The imagery was taken November 1st and 2nd, 1978 and the water height was 1665.43 feet.  Although this is a higher water level than the 1952 aerial imagery, the 1978 imagery is higher resolution, showing slightly more detail in places.  Once again, I had to manually ortho-rectify the imagery, so it should not be used for navigation on the water since I fine tune the imagery for the area I'm working on.  I changed a few routes and hazards as a result of this imagery.  I also added a bunch of new routes, and performed a bunch of minor refinements to fix things that ...
    Posted Jul 6, 2017, 12:10 PM by Stillwater Boat
  • June 10, 2017 - Linked Memorial Day Drone Video A great video was posted to Youtube from a Memorial Day '17 camping trip.  Good to see they're using my routes in the boat ;-)  Click on the image below to watch the video.  It's also linked on the "Videos at Stillwater" page.
    Posted Jun 11, 2017, 7:14 AM by Stillwater Boat
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 46. View more »

Disclaimer -- Please Read!


I make no guarantee that the data on this site provides accurate or safe passage.  I've created this data for my own personal use, and it is for general reference only, not for true navigation.  Using the data found on this site for true navigation means you assume all liability for property damage and personal injury.  Stillwater reservoir is a dangerous place to take a boat.  The files found on this site are not a foolproof solution and do not replace use of common sense, local knowledge, and proper boating safety.  This entire project was created from satellite and aerial imagery, and collected depth data.  It has not been thoroughly tested over the entire reservoir using additional equipment, and data may be incomplete in certain areas.

It should also be understood by anyone using the data on this site, that their GPS devices are not free from error.  A GPS receiver's position solution may contain residual errors that can make them unreliable at times.  The sources of error vary with time, geographic location, and receiver quality, and are outside the control of both the user of the device, and the creator of this site.  Even if the map data provided on this site is perfect (which I am sure it is not), an incorrect position provided by the user's receiver may still create a hazardous situation.

In addition, multiple human factors contribute to errors in navigation as well.  These factors include, but are not limited to: Incorrect layer color interpretation, poorly selected zoom levels, improper layer selections, slow update rate of the map display, slow update rates of your device's computed position, paying attention to the app while safely driving the boat, poorly executed turns, failure to properly follow a path, decreased situational awareness, poor reaction times, and distracted driving.  Add to the list the many other factors that contribute to the overall dangers of boating on open water, such as foreign objects in the water, wind & waves, hazardous weather, mechanical issues, other boaters, etc.

There are also many dangerous stumps in Stillwater Reservoir.  The stumps move varying distances every year with the winter ice, and they get dropped in new places in the spring thaw.  Also, following high water there is a lot of floating drift wood just under the water's surface.  This project makes no attempt to document all the locations of stumps.

This website, its downloadable contents and the outside hyper-linked websites are not meant to be a comprehensive guide and shall in no way guarantee safe passage through, around, over and under the Stillwater Reservoir. All users of this website are responsible for utilizing any and all reasonable measures when traversing through, around, over and under the Stillwater Reservoir. The makers of this website shall in no way be responsible for any accidents, incidents or occurrences (naturally occurring, man-made or otherwise) that may arise during the use of this website, its downloadable contents and the associated hyper-linked websites while traversing through, around, over and under the Stillwater Reservoir. Users of this website shall assume any and all risks that are either directly involved or incidental to traversing through, around, over and under the Stillwater Reservoir.  The information presented on this website is based on the observations and work product of the creator of this website and not that of an expert mariner, professional topographer, professional geographer, geographical information systems professional, freshwater marine specialist or any other applicable expert. No guarantee is being made that any and all dangers inherent or possible to the Stillwater Reservoir have been cataloged or mentioned in the materials contained on this website, its downloadable contents and the associated hyper-linked websites. Users of this website shall assume any and all risks that are either directly involved or incidental to utilizing the websites hyper-linked to this specific website.  The creator of this website shall not make any guarantees as to the contents and accuracy of the hyper-linked websites mentioned above or to any current and future websites that may hyperlink to this specific website. Furthermore, when traversing through, around, over and under the Stillwater Reservoir all users of this website are expected to abide by the laws, codes, rules and regulations of the Town of Webb in the State of New York, County of Herkimer in the State of New York, State of New York and the United States of America that are both applicable to freshwater marine navigation and otherwise.

Copying, or use of the data layers for anything other than personal use, is prohibited without my express written permission.