A wooden waterwheel spins beside a pond. A red covered bridge spans a rippling brook. Moss and lichens decorate imposing rock formations. A serpentine boardwalk wends its way through a green wetland, and birds flit from the railings to the tall trees above while sunlight glints on the water below. A sandy beach stretches beside a deep blue pond edged with pine trees. Trails marked by colored blazes head off into woods concealing enticing remnants of the past.
That might sound like a catalogue of clichés, but it’s also an accurate description of in Killingworth. This idyllic setting seamlessly blends the wild and the man-made, resulting in a perfect location to spend the day hiking, picnicking, exploring, or just watching and listening to the sights and sounds of nature.
Picnic tables and grills are scattered throughout the park, letting you choose whether to eat or relax by the water, under the trees, or in view of one of the park’s rustic structures. There is also a covered picnic shelter for larger groups. In addition to several parking lots, there are many smaller parking areas off of the paved road running through the park, so that some of the most scenic spots in Chatfield Hollow are accessible to those unwilling or unable to walk very far.
For the more active, choices abound. The trails, of varying difficulty, loop through forests and up and down gneiss cliffs. A swamp is traversed by the elevated Paul Wildermann Boardwalk, which protects the environment while seeming almost to be a natural part of it, and allows visitors a close view of vegetation and wildlife.
The tranquil Schreeder Pond was created in 1934 when the Civilian Conservation Corps built a dam across the Chatfield Hollow Brook. The trout-filled pond is one of several fishing locations in the park, and also has a 300-foot beach for sunbathing or swimming.
A cabin nearby marks the site of the CCC’s Camp Roosevelt; in the summer season it serves as a nature center. A smaller pond, at the north end of the paved road, provides another place to fish or to simply enjoy the turning of the picturesque waterwheel, a restored reminder of the gristmill the Chatfield brothers are thought to have operated here in the 17th century.
Similarly, the reproduction covered footbridge presents both a lovely photo-op and a hint of what this land was like centuries before its state park designation in 1949. Even older than that are the caves, former Indian safe havens and tribal meetings places, hidden in the rocks along the Chimney Trail.
Some trails are for foot travel only, while others allow mountain biking, horseback riding, and other non-motorized use. At about 355 acres, the space is large enough that it offers plenty of options but not so large as to be overwhelming. (If overwhelming is what you want, though, head to the adjacentCockaponset State Forest in neighboring Haddam and Chester, and its additional miles of trails.) Whatever parts of the park you choose to explore, Chatfield Hollow - here’s another cliché - has something for everyone.
If you go:
Chatfield Hollow State Park
381 Route 80. The Park is open from 8am to sunset. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, weekday parking is $6 for residents and $10 for non-residents; weekend and holiday parking is $9 for residents and $15 for non-residents.
For more information call 860-663-2030 or visit the website.