Thomaston Dam Offers Spectacular Views Of Valley, Hills

Walking in the valley of the Thomaston Dam is an otherworldly experience.

As I navigated the old abandoned roads across fields and through the forest, a huge, alien-like obelisk seemed to appear out of nowhere, rising toward the sky. I felt like a lonely astronaut exploring an earth-like planet deep in outer space. The obelisk seemed to be humming and hypnotically drawing me toward its open maw. A blue beam shot through the…

OK, so the structure is really the intake tower for the Thomaston Dam that controls the Naugatuck River to prevent flooding. But it's an imposing structure for visitors with vivid imaginations navigating the trails of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Leadmine Brook Area in Plymouth. The natural area is part of 849 acres of land that provides flood protection along the river in Thomaston, Plymouth, Litchfield and Harwinton.

The highlight of the trip is a walk along the 2,000-foot-long, 142-foot-high dam with its panoramic views of the valley. You can drive across the dam, but if you park at a picnic area and walk across, the 13.7 billion-gallon impoundment will give you an appreciation of the network of flood control dams built along the river by the Army Corps in the late 1950s after the devastating flood of 1955.

Along the southern side of the dam, visitors can see the tracks of the old Naugatuck Railroad, known as "The Naugy." The Railroad Museum of New England runs train excursions along the tracks on Sundays and Tuesdays. The Litchfield Hills can be seen in the distance. The view from the northern side is more pastoral with the Naugatuck flowing gently through fields and the neighboring hillsides.

Along the west side of the river are trails open to motorcycles, but the area is currently closed as a large number of trees felled during a June thunderstorm are being cleared. Along the east side of the river is a network of abandoned roads that travel along a summer-tranquil Naugatuck River and Leadmine Brook.

Several old roads diverge from the parking area at Leadmine Brook. The first will take visitors to a field where aircraft and helicopters could be flying overhead. But don't worry, Leadmine is home to Nutmeg R/C Flyers, a group that operates remote-controlled aircraft. The group has events on weekends where people can learn to operate the planes.

Another road snakes through the forest to an overlook on a huge chunk of white granite rock covered with pine needles. The overlook provides great views of the Naugatuck. Another road follows the banks of the clear, boulder-filled Leadmine Brook through a hemlock forest.

A woman walking her dog on the trail told me that she didn't know if there was ever a lead mine in the area, but pointed out that her sons used to fish in the stream and watched people pan for gold. While there may not be gold or lead in the hills, a visit to Thomaston Dam will give visitors a golden view of the hills and valleys of the Naugatuck River.

The dam is off Route 222 in Thomaston. The entrance to Leadmine Brook Area is just to the north of the dam along Route 222. Visit http://www.rmne.org for more information on the Railroad Museum of New England's train rides.

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