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Parks & Attractions

Many little-known parks and open spaces border the Lower Housatonic River.

The river has been divided into several “neighborhoods” for easier searching. They are listed from north to south, starting with Lake Zoar and ending at Long Island Sound. To the best of my knowledge the parks are free and open to the public, unless noted otherwise. When viewing the associated street map for a particular listing, the featured item is located in the center of the Yahoo map. Refer to my Boat Ramps & Canoe Landings page for additional boat access information.

Neighborhoods of the Lower Housatonic:

Lake Zoar
Stevenson Dam to Derby Dam
Derby Dam to I-95
I-95 to Long Island Sound

Lake Zoar is a large reservoir formed by the construction of the Stevenson Dam. Route 34 (Roosevelt Drive) crosses the river at the top of the dam. To get a bird’s eye view of the lake, hike the Paugussett Trail for about a mile north of Webb Mountain Park in Monroe.

Northeast Utilities Shepaug Dam Recreation Area – Southbury A park open from 8:00 AM to sunset from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There are trails and NU opperates an eagle watching station at the dam from late fall through winter. For more information visit NU Environmental SiteAccess: River Road in Southbury.

Lake Zoar Boat Ramp – Southbury This busy boat ramp has parking for 60 cars with trailers. Port-a-lets are provided during boating season. Contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection for furthur information. Access: I-84 to Lakeside Road, left at VFW Hall onto Scout Road, ramp is at end of road.

Kettletown State Park – Oxford/Southbury This park has a campground, beach, picnic areas, and trails, including the Pomperaug Trail (see below). Campers may launch canoes from the shore but there is no boat ramp. Contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection at (203) 264-5678 for campground information or (203) 264-5169 for fees and park information. Access: I-84 (exit 14) south on George’s Hill Road. {street map}

Jackson Cove Park – Oxford This park includes a boat ramp onto Lake Zoar, picnicing, a loop hiking trail and access to Pomperaug Trail (see below). Contact the Oxford Parks and Recreation Department for information. Access: Jackson Cove Road. {street map}

Pomperaug Trail – Oxford This is an invigorating 4.5 mile “Blue Dot” trail cut into the side of the valley overlooking the river. The trail was extended to Fiddlehead Road in 1996 by a cooperative effort of the Oxford land Trust, Housatonic Valley Association, and Connecticut Forest and Parks Association. The trail is located on both City and private property (the Lane family kindly granted permission to extend the trail across their land). Access: Jackson Cove Park and cul-de-sac at the end of Fiddlehead Road. {street map}

Paugussett State Forest – Newtown Over 1930 acres of state forest on the western shore of Lake Zoar opposite Kettletown State Park and Jackson Cove. The Forest contains the Lake Zoar trail; a 6.5 mile “Blue Dot” loop trail in Paugussett State Forest overlooking the lake. Contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection for further information about the park and the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association for information on the trail. Access: Route 34 to Great Quarter Road (trail-head for the Lake Zoar Trail). {street map}

Zoar Beach Boat Ramp – Monroe This ramp is a good access point to the lake. The gorge downstream of the dam is very scenic although it is hazardous for a pedestrian or bicyclist to cross the dam because there is no sidewalk or bike lane. A railroad path from downtown Shelton ends at the parking area to this boat ramp. Contact the Monroe Parks and Recreation Department for fees and information at (203) 452-5416. Access: Route 34 in Monroe just before the Stevenson Dam (the western bank of the river), parking is on both the north side of the road and on the south side opposite the snack hut {street map}

Lake Housatonic: Stevenson Dam to Derby Dam

Stevenson Dam – Monroe\Oxford Northeast Utilities provides fishing access to river from both banks on the downstream side of the dam. On the western bank there is a small parking area at the end of a long drive that serves the main powerhouse, with a wooden staircase to the river. On the eastern bank there is a small parking area along Rt. 34 at the foot of the hill. Northeast Utilities has public access and recreational facilities at their other dam sites throughout the watershed as part of federal dam licensing requirements.

Webb Mountain Park – Monroe A 136 acre park on the Shelton/Monroe town line overlooking the river. This is a quiet park that contains a portion of the Paugussett Trail and other trails, picinc areas, and camping sites (permit required). Visit the Shelton Trails page for a map of the park and information on the Paugussett Trail. Contact the Monroe Parks and Recreation Department for information. Access: Take Rt. 110 to East Village Road, to Webb Circle, to Old Fish House Road. There is a gravel road at the end of Old Fish House Road that goes into the park.

Indian Well State Park – Shelton

This is the major public access point and boat ramp onto Lake Housatonic. If you don’t have air-conditioning during a heat wave this is also a great place to bring the kids. The 153 acre park contains a beach, restrooms, picnic areas, refreshment stand, boat ramp, hiking trails, and grass play areas. There is parking for 200 cars with trailers. Bicycling is fun within the park and north along Indian Well and Birchbank Roads. The Paugussett Trail begins here and runs up past Webb Mountain Park in Monroe. The long riverfront of the park offers an interesting contrast to the thickly nested cottages along the eastern shore. Contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (860) 424-3200 for information; $5 daily fee. Access: Route 110 (aka Howe Avenue from the south and Leavenworth Road from the north) to Indian Well Road {street map}

Osbornedale State Park – Derby Osbornedale is one of the most charming and uncrowded parks in the state. The 350 acre park was formerly a prize-winning dairy farm that was donated to the People of Connecticut by Frances Osborne Kellogg in 1956. It contains the Kellogg Environmental Center; a small staffed nature center opperated by the DEP, and the Osborne Homestead Museum; a museum describing the history of the park and it’s benefactors. There are hiking trails, open fields, restrooms, 2 ponds, picnic areas, and other features. The Kellogg Environmental Center offers many programs on nature, photography, etc. for childen and adults, contact them at (203) 734-2513 for information. For information on nature centers visit the Nature Centers & Tourism page. Access: Take Rt. 34 north to Cedric Avenue, take a right onto Hawthorne Avenue, then left onto Chatfield Street (this is the main access at Pickett’s Pond. To get to the Kellogg Environmental Center and Osborne Homestead Museum take a left from Cedric Avenue from Hawthorne Avenue. Street map & directions.

Riverview Park – Shelton This is a long, narrow park (17.7 acre) that runs along the top of the western shore between Rt. 110 and the railroad tracks. There is a hiking trail which hikers can use to walk down to a public access point just below the dam, with excellent views. The park also contains Little League ballfields, basketball courts, and a long paved drive that make it a nice spot for strolling or bicycling. The Shelton Parks and Recreation Department added new playground equipment in 1996 which has been a big hit with the little kids. Access: Howe Ave. (Rt. 110); on the right at the northern edge of downtown.

The Derby Dam to I-95

Derby (Ousatonic) Dam – Shelton Fishing access at the toe of the hydroelectric dam is possible via the wooden stairs at the gravel road that parallels the old canal. The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection leases the fishing access from McCallum Enterprises, owners and operators of the dam. The dam was constructed in 1867 to power the mills in Shelton and Derby, and portions of it still exist along Canal Street. An interesting artifact is the old stone canal lock used to raise and lower boats around the dam. Contact McCallum Enterprises at (203) 386-1745 for information on touring the dam and historic canal works. A short lunchtime walk would take you along Canal Street, past the lock, out to the dam and back. On the opposite side of the canal at Brook Street is a seldom used freight railroad with a gravel access road that goes past Indian Well State Park. This is not an official public access area but there has been some talk of developing a bikeway to Stevenson Dam if the railroad line is abandoned. The road offers a canoe portage around the dam (there is a no boating safety zone 300 feet upstream and 1500 downstream of the dam). Looking back from the fishing access it’s possible to envision the old brick mill buildings in Shelton being renovated into an attractive mixed-use riverfront at some point in the future. Access: Howe Ave. (Rt. 110), to Brook Street, to the north end of Canal Street. Parking is available on nearby streets.

Derby (Ousatonic) Dam – Derby Fishing access on the eastern shore at the toe the dam via a gravel ramp. This area is very popular when the Shad and Striped Bass are running. Waterfowl also congregate near the toe of the dam making it interesting for birdwatchers, or just to eat lunch. McCallum Enterprises operates the hydroelectic turbines at the dam and leases the fishing access to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. Contact McCallum Enterprises at (203) 386-1745 for information about touring the old canal works. Access: Roosevelt Drive (Rt 34) just south of the Yale Boathouse, opposite “B” Street. Cross the canal on the bridge with the metal grate deck and park next to the electric substation.

Bridge Street – Derby/Shelton This is the only river crossing for pedestrians or bicyclists between the Stevenson Dam in Monroe and Washington Bridge in Devon (there is a sidewalk on the Hull Bridge (Rt. 8) but you are walking right next to the highway). The bridge links the downtowns of Derby and Shelton, both of which have great potential for increased tourism from attractive riverfronts. Shelton is working on several projects to redevelop downtown including a permanent farmer’s market (many local farmers bring their fresh produce to Canal & Wharf Streets on Sat. mornings during the summer) and a promanade along the riverbank. Derby is looking at a possible bikepath along the railroad tracks and flood control dykes. Access: Main Street (Rt. 34) in Derby or Howe Avenue (Rt. 110) in Shelton.

O’Sullivan’s Island – Derby An unimproved floodplain forest (51 acres) at the confluence of the Housatonic and Naugatuck Rivers. It is suprising attractive even though it is cut off from downtown Derby by Rt. 8, the railroad tracks, and flood control walls. OSullivan’s Island is a little-known area that is used by fishermen and offers a spot to slip a canoe or cartop boat in the river. Eagle Scouts removed two dumpsters of trash from the island in October 1996. There is talk of the Town redeveloping the island as either a retail center or as a park in conjunction with the Housatonic Greenway. The island would be a tremendous asset to Derby if it was cleaned up, and given the location in the floodplain of the two rivers perhaps a park is the most appropiate use. Access: Main Street (Rt. 34) to Factory Street, past the feed and grain store, under the railroad tracks, past the sewage treatment plant, over the flood control dyke, under Rt. 8, and past the Fire Training Center.

Hull Bridge (Rt. 8) – Shelton An un-improved place to launch a canoe or go fishing, there is no ramp. It is the furthest upstream coastal location on the Housatonic River to launch a small boat because the Derby (Ousatonic) Dam blocks the river at the north end of downtown. Shelton voters approved a $6 million dollar bonding package on June 3, 1997 to fund development of an Economic and Commerce Park known as “Huntington Landing” on the remains of the old sponge rubber factory (locally known as “The Slab”) just north of here. Hopefully a boat ramp can be created in this area to add a real landing to the project and liven up downtown. Access: River Road to Wharf Street, under the Route 8 bridge.

Sunnyside Park – Shelton The park offers a boat ramp and small picnic areas along a quiet flatwater stretch of the river. Parking is limited at the foot of the hill so it may be necessary to park up by the ballfields if you do not have a ramp sticker. There is a small picnic area and beach (no lifeguards) next to the ramp. The Sunnyside School PTA created a really nice tot playground that just opened this June behind the school and next to the ballfields. Contact the Shelton Parks and Recreation Department at (203) 925-8422 for information and ramp fees. Access: Take River Road (Rt. 110) to the access drive on the South side of Sunnyside Elementary School. Take the access drive past the ballfields to the boat ramp.

Southbank Open Space – Shelton This pocket park (1.67 acres) has been popular with fishermen since it was developed by the Shelton Conservation Commission and volunteers in 1996 as part of the Housatonic Greenway. The park contains a small parking area for a dozen cars, benches, and a former garage that was refurbished as a pavilion. Southbank offers a scenic view of the river, Wooster Island, and the undeveloped Orange shore. This is a good launching spot for a canoe, a quiet place to eat a lunch, or get in a few casts after work. Access: 610 River Road (Rt. 110) opposite Moulthrop Lane; about 1 mile north of Murphy Lane and 1/2 mile south of Constitution Boulevard. Look carefully for the the turn off because there is no park sign up yet.

Far Mill River – Shelton/Stratford A significant tributary to the Housatonic River that enters the west side of the Housatonic between the Sikorsky Aircraft plant and the landfill. The Far Mill is extremely scenic in areas and is a favorite of fishermen. Both Stratford and Shelton have several parks and open spaces along this river (the Shelton Trails page will have trail descriptions in the future). Shelton voters approved the purchase of 471 acres of various BHC properties for open space on June 3, 1997. Several of the properties are on or near the Far Mill River and will offer better access for fishermen in the coming years. Access: Various points along Manhansett Trail, Pootatuck Place, Beard’s Sawmill Road, Mill Street, and other locations.

Boothe Memorial Park – Stratford A 30 acre park with historic buildings, a museum, picnic areas, and even an old toll booth from the Merritt Parkway (passage currently free). The landscaping and overlooks of the River (during the Fall and Winter) make this park a favorite for wedding photographs. The grounds are very picturesque although the picnic areas need better maintenance. Access: North Main Street (Rt. 110) to Main Street-Putney.

Peck’s Mill Pond – Stratford A 14 acre nature park with a historic mill pond overlooking the River. Access: North Main Street (Rt. 110), left onto Main Street-Putney, park on left just after the pond.

Caswell Street – Milford A popular fishing spot surrounded by industrial land uses. A sandy spit wraps around the outside of the Caswell Cove (formerly Carten’s gravel pit) and runs along the river for several hundred feet. There is a small parking lot and ample room for fishing or to launch a canoe. The Cove is near Pope’s Island which is part of the Wheeler Wildlife Area. This public access point was created by the Milford Planning & Zoning Commission as part of the site plan review of the adjoining projects. Access: Schoolhouse Road/Bic Drive (Exit 35 off I-95), cross Naugatuck Avenue to Caswell Street, pass over the railroad tracks and go left between the entrances for Caswell Cove Condominium and the Sewage Treatment Plant.

I-95 to Long Island Sound

Naugatuck Avenue (I-95) Boat Ramp – Milford This is the major ramp closest to Long Island Sound that has free public access. There is parking for 80 cars with trailers. Portalets are provided during the boating season. The ramp is shielded from the current by the railroad bridge. Fishing from the stone groins on either side of the ramp is popular with some people. Contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection for further information. Access: Bridgeport Avenue (Rt. 1) to Naugatuck Avenue, left under I-95 bridge.

Washington Bridge – Lordship/Devon This drawbridge on Bridgeport Avenue (Rt. 1) connects Stratford with Milford. It is the only river crossing near the Sound for pedestrians and bicyclists. The next best crossing for pedestrians is upstream at Bridge Street in Shelton/Derby.

Bond’s Dock – Stratford A small boat ramp, fishing pier, and postage-stamp park tucked in between Brown’s Boatyard and the Housatonic Boat Club. Parking and manuevering room are limited. The small parking lot that is a good place to enjoy lunch or read a book. The eclectic mix of working boats at Brown’s Boatyard are a reminder that the river continues to provide a livelyhood for fishermen. Contact the Stratford Parks and Recreation Department for information and fees (203) 385-4085. Access: Ferry Boulevard to Lockwood Avenue at Uberti’s Seafood.

Shakespeare Theatre – Stratford Picnic areas overlooking Housatonic Boat Club and Nells Island. Almost every school kid in this part of Connecticut took a field trip to the theatre at one time or another. The theatre has been closed for several years but the 14 acre grounds are open to the public and offer a nice spot for walking or lunches. Elm Street is a beautiful boulevard with stately sycamores and sidewalks that make for enjoyable bicycling or strolling. The Shakespeare Theatre is owned by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and is currently being renovated by a private company (203) 381-9518. Access: Ferry Boulevard to Elm Street.

Birdseye Boat Ramp – StratfordKids at the new Birdseye fishing pier
Boat ramp for access to Nells Island and Long Island Sound. Stratford has completed a major renovation and expansion of the ramp with better ramps, fingers, expanded parking, landscaping, a fishing pier and handicapped accessable ramps. Ample parking and a snack hut (if hut is closed you can always take a left on Elm St., go about a mile, and get a chillidog at The Cricket, opposite the Allied Signal plant). Contact the Stratford Parks and Recreation Department for information and ramp fees (203) 385-4085. Access: Ferry Boulevard to Elm Street, take a left on Birdseye Street past the sewage treatment plant.

Court Street Boat Ramp – Milford The ramp is primarily an access to the bottom of Nells Island for waterfowl hunters. It is only useable at high and mid-tides so plan your trip carefully unless you enjoy getting stuck at low tide. There is nothing quite like the joy of dragging a boat through hip deep ooze for several hundred yards at dusk with a storm barreling in. This is a quiet, little-used corner of the marsh that can offer some good sunsets. Access: Naugatuck Avenue to Milford Point Road, turn right at tennis courts onto Court Street. There is chain across the drive at times, but you can always walk in. Contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection for information at (860) 485-0226.

Nells Island (Wheeler Wildlife Area) – Milford An 840 acre salt marsh that is primarily used for waterfowl hunting and as a wildlife refuge. The expanse of the marsh provides a respite from the intensely developed shorefronts in Milford and Stratford. The marsh is an important resting area for migratory birds during the Fall and Spring and is a favorite of birdwatchers and photographers. Oystermen also cultivate seed oysters within the channels for later transplanting into deeper beds in the Sound. Nells Island is one of the most famous waterfowl areas on the East Coast and has been the subject of many hunting and nature publications. Contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection for information at (860) 485-0226. Access: The river via either Court Street, Birdseye, or Naugatuck Avenue boat ramps.

CT Audubon Coastal Center at Milford Point – Milford The Center at the mouth of the river overlooks the Sound and Nells Island. The 8 acre site used to be an old hotel. The State and CT Audubon worked together to remove the hotel and construct a modern coastal center in 1995. Inside is an exhibit area and classrooms featuring an interesting 3-D puzzle of the Housatonic watershed and a tidal marsh tank for the kids. The building has observation decks and a small tower that provide excellent views of the river and which makes theCT Audubon Coastal Center at Milford Point one of the best handicapped-accessable places to view the river. There is also a boardwalk over the dunes to give access to the Point. Please avoid disturbing the areas fenced off for the shore birds during the nesting season. The Coastal Center is owned by the State and is managed by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and CT Audubon. There is a small fee for using the Coastal Center, but access to the landscaped grounds are free. Call for further information (203)-878-7440. Access: Naugatuck Avenue to Milford Point Road, the Center is at the end of the road. Please drive slowly past the densely packed beach cottages, park at the Center on the right and avoid going down the driveway to the last few houses on the Point.

Short Beach – Stratford A well-designed park with many features including a beach, swimming, playground, restrooms, snack bar, ballfields, tennis and paddleball courts. The Town even created a miniature golf course in 1996. The park is ideal for kite flying, rollerblading, and is the starting point for a bikeway along Main Street. The Town is working on a bikeway along the water behind the Allied Signal plant as part of the Housatonic Greenway. Fee required for non-residents, contact the Stratford Parks and Recreation Department for information at (203) 385-4085. Access: Main Street (Rt. 113) past Avco and Sikorsky Airport, park entrance on left after airport.

Stratford has some good local access points to the waterfront from various neighborhoods around Lordship.

.Stratford Point Lighthouse – Stratford A historic lighthouse at the mouth of the river. There is a very attractive web site that details the history of the lighthouse for those who are interested: Stratford Point Lighthouse. There is also a second lighthouse site that has good photos and more history. Access: Take Main Street to Stratford Road, left on Prospect Drive and park at the end of the road. Check in with the lighthouse keeper before going onto the grounds.

Great Meadows Salt Marsh – Stratford A 400+ acre salt marsh on the west side of Sikorsky Airport. The federal government has spent 8.5 million dollars over the last few years to purchase the marsh and preserve it from development. Great Meadows together with the Wheeler Wildlife Area preserves an major stopover area at the mouth of the Housatonic Valley for migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway. The Soundkeeper Fund has been instrumental in preserving Great Meadows with plans to open the marsh to the public by constructing trails and observation decks. Owned by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (a part of the McKinney National Wildlife Refuge). Contact the Soundkeeper for further information at 1-800-933-SOUND. Access: Lordship Boulevard (Rt. 113) and Long Island Sound

Other pages of the ~ Lower Housatonic River Guide ~ include: | River Home Page | Boat Ramps & Canoe Landings | River Resources Water & Weather | Outdoor Sports | Parks & Attractions | | Nature Centers & Tourism |

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