The trails of Branford's Stony Creek Quarry Preserve, also known as Quarry Westwoods, can be a bit confusing when you're trying to follow them. Throw in the "abandoned quarry" notation on a map, and visitors can spend much of the day searching in vain for the storied veins of pink granite that travel across the Northeast, the nation and the world.
PHOTOS: Stony Creek Quarry Preserve
This granite, created 600 million years ago when lava came under intense pressure and temperatures over 1,300 degrees, has been used in dozens of historical sites, such as the base of the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Boston's South Station and the Battle Monument at West Point — the latter known as the largest single polished granite monolith in the western hemisphere.
On this visit, I was in search of one of the original quarries — the Beattie Quarry, where the granite for "Lady Liberty" was taken. This was the abandoned quarry on the map, and my imagination conjured up a vision of an old flooded hole deep in the woods surrounded by huge cliffs of pink granite. Old, rusted machinery surrounded the cliffs, along with piles of rock tailings in my imagination.
Not quite. The old quarry, located between the white- and yellow-blazed trails, is interesting, but nothing like I imagined. There are waste piles of granite tailings everywhere. Visitors can climb to the top of ledges and see areas where the pink granite has been shaved off. Huge rocks with long chisel marks in them can be seen everywhere. But there are no water-filled chasms.
The active portion of the quarry has the water-filled chasm, which can be viewed from high on a bluff along the yellow-blazed trail. With much of state's quarrying part of its storied past, it's neat to watch one in operation from a distance.
So I never did find my lost quarry. Just piles of granite, old cables and wires and a new appreciation for the workers who toiled and died in these quarries to bring the nation and the world some beautiful pink granite.
To get there, take I-95 to exit 56. Travel south on Leetes Island Road and turn left on Route 146. Take a left on Stony Creek Quarry Road and look for the parking area on the right. The green trail starts across the road from the parking area and will link up with the white or yellow-blazed paths to the abandoned quarry. A trail map is available at http://www.scrcog.org/trails.htm and clicking on "Quarry Westwoods."
Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365, at email@example.com or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.