The Falls River Preserve is kind of a strange name for the 40 acres of open space jutting out into Mill Pond.
You see, there hasn't been a Falls River here since the waterway was dammed up in 1701 powering a gristmill. Falls River enters the pond to the west and then leaves the pond over a dam in the east. Despite the name, the pond is a picturesque place for a nature preserve that takes visitors across ridges of 800 million-year-old metamorphic schist to a place known as the "monster pit."
And visitors can get to the Essex Land Conservation Trust's preserve not only by land, but also by canoe or kayak from the Falls River Park and landing located at the western end of the pond. There is a large parking area at the park that looks a lot like someone's manicured lawn.
At the preserve itself, visitors can select relatively easy paths around the peninsula jutting into the pond or go over the more demanding trails along the ledges. The red-blazed trail takes visitors around the banks of Mill Pond over some relatively flat terrain. There is a landing for the canoes and kayaks along this trail.
The red trail runs past huge, fascinating rocks to an interesting formation known as the "monster pit" a large depression in the earth. The trail guide doesn't explain why it is so named, so visitors are left to their imaginations of perhaps a monster digging a pit. Visitors will also be treated to views of Jean's Island across the pond from the pit.
The white trail and yellow trail take visitors up some pretty strenuous climbs over the metamorphic schist formations. The formations are worth a close look since they've been around 800 million years, which can put one's own life on this earth into perspective. The moss and ferns covering the rocks create a sort of mystical journey through the woods for visitors. Be on the lookout for huge boulders balancing on the rock ledges.
The land trust uses a quote from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings that sums up the journey through Falls River Preserve or really any slice of open space in the state. "I do not understand how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to."
Take Route 9 to exit 4. Follow Route 154 to Main Street and into the Ivoryton section of Essex. After passing Stanley Park and its views across Mill Pond to the preserve, take a right on Bracket Lane. Follow Falls River Drive to its end and park in the designated areas.Visit www.essexlandtrust.org/04_guide.html to download a map of the preserve. For more Way To Go columns go to www.courant.com/waytogo.Copyright © 2015, CT Now