I wanted to go somewhere different on a warm day so I went up to the Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth.
While I’ve walked on plenty of boardwalks before, I can’t say I have ever been on a “swamp walk”.
A Google Earth satellite image of the narrow 825-foot-long boardwalk shows at least 17 of its distinct twists and turns which runs through the wetlands of Chatfield Hollow.
A wooden sign at the west end calls it the “Paul F. Wildermann Swamp Walk” while a sign on the east end refers to it as the “Paul F. Wildermann Boardwalk”.
According to a press release, the boardwalk was rededicated in 2006 in memory of Paul F. Wildermann, a longtime Department of Environmental Protection employee who designed and built the original boardwalk in 1988.
“Dedicated employees like Paul Wildermann are what state service is all about," said then DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy, in the press release, adding that "many years ago, he recognized a need for being able to enjoy nature while also protecting its beauty. He fulfilled that need by constructing the boardwalk at Chatfield Hollow. It is an honor to now rededicate it in his honor."
The boardwalk allows visitors to “walk through some of the most beautiful inland wetland habitat in the state without disturbing its natural beauty,” the press release stated, adding that the new boardwalk was rebuilt in sections over a 5 ½ year period at a cost of $30,000.
The release quotes Tom Morrissey, then Chief of the DEP’s Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, “the Boardwalk was not intended as a means to get from point A to point B, the objective was the walk itself. Birders say this is one of the premier spots to observe a large variety of birds in the area and in early spring you can see deer bedding down near the walk."
A HubPages blog calls the boardwalk handicap-accessible but I think it’s twists might make it challenging for wheelchairs.
The boardwalk is accessible from the parking lot closest to the picnic pavilion on the east side. The west side of the boardwalk intersects with a park road and is directly across from the entrance of the 2.5-mile Orange Deep Woods Trail.
According to HubPages, the Deep Woods Trail is categorized as difficult along with the 3-mile Blue East Woods Trail and the 1.5-mile Red Ridge Trail.
Trails categorized in the medium category include the 1-mile White Loop Trail (part of it is in neighboring Cockaponset State Forest), the 1-mile Green Chimney Trail, the 1-mile Blue West Crest Trail, and the 0.22-mile Green Caves Trail. The Green Chimney Trail and Blue West Crest Trail are solely in Cockaponset.
The Green Caves trail brings hikers up to the Indian caves but the blog warns of swampy grounds when navigating around the boulders.
Trails in the easy category include the 0.52-mile Purple Covered Bridge Trail, the 0.35-mile Yellow Nature Trail, and the Paul Wilderman Boardwalk.
Other areas of interest include the beach and swimming area in the middle of the park. While water quality is tested by the DEEP, the swimming area does not have lifeguards. There is a nature center at the other end of the lake but it was closed when I visited with no information on the door. There is a replica covered bridge, restored water wheel, and pond fishing in a trout park at the northern end of the park. There are eight different picnic areas throughout the park.
The gate to the park’s roads are only open from the third Saturday in April to the day after Columbus Day. However, there are two free parking lots outside the gate is open year-round.
To park inside the park during the season, there is a $6 CT resident fee on weekdays, $10 non-resident fee on weekdays, $9 resident fee on weekends/holidays, and a $15 non-resident fee on weekends/holidays.
Those picnicking and beaching might not want to drag their supplies through the park while hikers, photographers, and nature-lovers may enjoy the extra walk which will save them some money.
The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset while the Cockaponset Forest is open one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.