The Housatonic River is one of the great assets of New England. The river shaped the growth of Connecticut during the industrial revolution by providing waterpower for mill towns like Shelton & Derby that sprang up along it's banks. Unfortunately, this industrial heritage created pollution problems that limited it's recreational value. In Derby, the infamous Naugatuck River released millions of pounds of toxic chemicals and a wide assortment of vivid colors into the Housatonic each year. I can remember as a kid looking out the car windows when passing the Hull Dye Works in Derby to see what color the water was that day. The Federal Clean Water Act was successful in eliminating most of the industrial pollution. Thankfully, as pollution has been reduced and water quality improves, the river is enjoying a renaissance as a major recreational resource in densely populated Connecticut.
One of the groups currently promoting improvements in water quality and recreation is the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA). They have published a great pamphlet titled "A guide to the Housatonic River Estuary, its wildlife, history, activities, water quality" that describes the estuary. The guide was prepared in conjuction with the Connecticut Department of Enviromental Protection using the proceeds from those special "Preserve the Sound" automobile license plates so the pamhlets are free. I highly recommend that you stop at your local library and pick one up or call HVA at (860) 672-6678. The HVA is helping many local groups in various projects along the river as part of the Housatonic RiverBelt Greenway; a program to improve public use and appreciation of the river.
Whether you enjoy fishing, hunting, watersking, birdwatching, kayaking, bicycling, hiking, picnicing or swimming the river has something to offer everyone. You may find it's fun to explore some places that you already know about but haven't been there lately. Having grown up in the area I was really surprised with how nice most areas are today. To the best of my knowledge all the areas cited are open to the public. Most of the town-owned boat ramps require a sticker and have one fee for residents and another for out-of-towners, so contact the local parks and recreation department for details. Some of the state parks also charge a fee.
A Note on Safety: Look up the weather and tides before going out, and plan accordingly. The Housatonic River is generally sheltered but it can get choppy, particularly near the Sound. Hypothermia can injure or kill a person if they go in the water late in season. Also be careful of other boats. A couple was killed on Lake Housatonic last year when they lost power for their lights and their boat was rammed in the dark. The river is a lot of fun if everyone is considerate and exercises good judgement.
If anyone has a special interest about the river; nature, local parks, history, fishing, whatever, and would like to write a web page, please let me know. This web site is an on-going project designed to help people enjoy and learn more about the Housatonic River, so I'd like to see what others think. Let me know what you found helpful, what needs work, or if something good was overlooked. This page was created with Netscape Navigator Gold 3.0, and you are welcome to download and copy this information. The views and opinions expressed do not represent group or person, except myself. Have fun on the river.
Adventure on the Paugussett Trail by Teresa Gallagher recounts an enjoyable day that my wife and I spent together hiking up the Paugussett Trail and then canoeing down Lake Housatonic. It beats working on the house, try it sometime.
The Housatonic River Valley, Connecticut's River Wonder by Frank McKane, Jr. is a short but well-written introduction to different ways to explore the Housatonic Valley. Mr. McKane's columns on outdoor sports can be found in the thursday editions of the Connecticut Post.Send comments to Terrance Gallagher, 43 Judson St. Shelton, Ct. 06484. Please specify "River Page" as the subject. Last updated 12/12/97.