Dam at the Second Connecticut Lake

Dam at the Second Connecticut Lake
The Connecticut River flows out of the dam that forms the second Connecticut Lake, in northern New Hampshire. Though there is another, smaller dam on the river a few miles up the river, near the Deer Mountain campground, this is the first major dam on the river, as it emerges from its marshy headwaters at the Fourth Connecticut Lake, just a few hundred feet south of the Canadian border. From here it flows though a series of dams and reservoirs, hydro projects in northern New Hampshire, then at the 45th parallel, it becomes the border between Vermont and New Hampshire, until it enters western Massachusetts, at Satan’s Kingdom, a few miles downstream of Vermont Yankee’s nuclear power plant. The Connecticut River is the Mississippi of New England, draining portions of five states and more than 11,000 square miles, twice the land area of Connecticut itself.

Saybrook Outer Bar Channel

Saybrook Outer Bar Channel
The Saybrook Outer Bar Channel is the end of the Connecticut River. It is maintained at sufficient depth to permit vessels into and out of the river from Long Island Sound. Otherwise the sediment from the river drops where it meets the ocean, and makes an extensive shallow bar. This obstacle to navigation is what kept the mouth of the Connecticut from developing a major port city, like at New Haven, New London, and Bridgeport. 70% of the fresh water coming into Long Island Sound comes out of the river here, along with the sediment and effluent form a watershed that extends to Canada.

Connecticut River Museum

Connecticut River Museum
The town of Essex is one of the only towns in the state that is really integrated with the Connecticut River. Main Street ends at a boat ramp, next to the Connecticut River Museum. The museum is in a former steamboat warehouse building on the waterfront, and contains many remarkable displays and artifacts related to the river, including a continuous painting of the river, running through the stairwell, with a hundred or so aerial photos of points of interest along the river.

Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry

Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry
The Rocky Hill-Glastonbury ferry, near Hartford, is said to be the oldest continuously operating ferry service in the USA, starting in 1655. It is one of two active ferry crossings remaining on the Connecticut River (the other is the Chester-Hadlyme ferry downstream). Both are operated by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, which periodically threatens to shut them down, only to relent in the face of protests from local residents. The ferry is seasonal, operating from April through November.

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry
This is one of two active ferry crossings remaining on the Connecticut River. The Chester-Hadlyme ferry began here as a private ferry, in 1769, and is now operated by the Connecticut Department of Transportation. It closes for the winter, forcing people to cross on bridges at East Haddam, three miles north, or Old Lyme, ten miles south. It has a capacity of around 9 cars, and sees around 100 cars per day, and takes five minutes. The other ferry operating on the river is the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury ferry, near Hartford, which is said to be the oldest continuously operating ferry service in the USA, starting in 1655. Both were going to be shut down by the state in 2011, but locals lobbied to keep them open, so far.

Gillette’s Castle

Gillette’s Castle
Gillette’s Castle is one of the more unusual private residences in the nation. It was built between 1914 and 1919 by William Gillette, an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes on the stage. He was involved in all aspects of its design and it has a unique, hand-carved, rough-hewn texture throughout, evoking a fairytale hybrid of arts and crafts, middle age castle, gothic church, and stage set. He lived there until 1937, and it was taken over by the state in 1943, which turned it into a park. In 2002 it reopened after a four year $11 million renovation.

Portland Brownstone Quarries

Portland Brownstone Quarries
The massive quarries at Middletown, located in the middle of the State, were a major source of brownstone for buildings all over the eastern USA, as early as the 18th Century. Quarried stone was transported easily by boat from the riverside quarries. The pits filled with water in the great Connecticut River flood of 1936, ending most of the quarrying. Now owned by the city, the quarries have been leased to a company that has created a recreational water park at the site. Large fuel tanks line the strip of shore between the quarries and the river.

Colt Armory

Colt Armory
The Colt firearms company built its main manufacturing plant on the river at Hartford in 1855. Known as the Colt Armory, the multi-building complex was one of the principal industrial villages of New England, manufacturing famous firearms over the span of American History, from capturing the West, to the Civil War, to the Gulf War, as well as providing guns for police, security, and the public. The company moved its operations to other places over the years, including to a plant in West Hartford, which it still operates, and moved entirely out of this complex in 1994. State and local developers are hoping to preserve and redevelop the historic site, including the original central building with its distinctive blue and gold onion dome. Connecticut historically has been a center for the manufacture of guns, and though some have left (Winchester, Marlin, PTR), some are still based or manufacturing in the state (Colt, Ruger, Mossburg, Stag Arms).

Mark Twain Home

Mark Twain Home
Like Albany, New York, Hartford, also an upriver state capitol, was settled in the 17th Century, at the most inland point for commercial navigation at the time. Like many other cities too, modern Hartford ignored its river in the 20th century. After the Second World War, as its economy moved from machine tool industries to insurance companies, it built dumps and interstates along its waterfront. In the 1870s though Hartford was among the nation’s most affluent cities, and still a river town. This was asserted by the fact that America’s most famous riverman, Mark Twain, built his 25 room dream home here in 1874, where, over the following 17 years, he wrote his most famous novels about the Mississippi River. His next door neighbor was the famous abolitionist and writer, Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose house is preserved along with his as a historic site.

Hartford Landfill

Hartford Landfill
The City of Hartford started burning trash here on the riverbank in 1940, and the site evolved into the main disposal sites for the city. The incinerator operated here into the 1970s, and the landfill grew, becoming a highly visible mound next to the interstate north of downtown. It received its last load of waste in 2008, and efforts have been underway since then to isolate it from the environment, including covering it with plastic and a soil cap. There is also a smaller adjacent landfill for ash from the Mid-Connecticut Trash to Energy Facility, a newer and larger incinerator located on the river south of town.
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