Nature's Path & Way To Go
10:37 AM EDT, June 12, 2013
In Connecticut, the robin is the state bird, "Yankee Doodle" is the state song, the mountain laurel is the state flower and, of course, the sperm whale is the state mammal.
And if there was ever a state bridge, I would go with the stone arch. Dating back to the times of the Roman Empire — and equally as strong and long-lasting – these arches can be found in nearly every town in the state, made of brownstone, granite or the numerous fieldstones sprinkled throughout Connecticut soil. The bridges are found along railroads, highways and the carriageways of the grand Wadsworth estate in Middletown.
Today, much of the western portion of that estate is known as Wadsworth Falls State Park. When people think of Wadsworth, the main image that comes to mind is the waterfall. Or the swimming hole. Or perhaps the miniature covered bridge near the park's main entrance.
But if you stick only to the main trail, you will miss a spectacular example of a stone arch bridge.
Along a path known as the "Bridge Trail" sits one of the biggest stone arch structures I've seen in my travels in the natural world. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, the bridge is made of huge pieces of brownstone colored green by time and assorted lichens and mosses.
Whether entering the park from Laurel Grove Road or the main entrance off Route 157 in Middlefield, the walk to the bridge is beautiful. Visitors are lulled into believing it's just a jaunt through a hemlock, beech and birch forest – until they see Laurel Brook burbling through the ravine and come to the four-foot-high, moss-covered walls that border the bridge as you walk over it.
And you'll want to do more than just walk over it. Side trails take you along the sides of the giant retaining walls leading down to the brook and the span. Huge beech trees grow right along the walls, and the view upstream showcases a little waterfall and a deep ravine bordered by hemlocks.
The purple-blazed bridge trail eventually links to the main, orange-blazed path, which takes visitors past a massive laurel bush and across a smaller brownstone bridge that has equally impressive workmanship. The shaded bridge walls are brownstone and covered by lichen and moss in deep shades of green.
If you haven't gotten enough of nature on the park's trails, the neighboring Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill Estate — the former spring and fall home of Col. Clarence S. Wadsworth, an early forester and conservationist — is surrounded by 103 acres of forest and fields. This is the home of "White Oak Lane" trail, which was the entrance to the mansion and was once known as the "Olmsted Carriageway."
Lined by beautiful brownstone walls and oaks and crossing a picturesque stream, the trail showcases the carriageway that, according to an interpretive sign, once "wound in leisurely fashion through pastures, orchards and newly-planted forests."
There is a small parking area along Laurel Grove Road between Wadsworth State Park and the Wadsworth Mansion. The main parking lot is located on Route 157. Visit http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/stateparks/maps/wadsworth.pdf for a map.
Peter Marteka may be reached at 860-647-5365, at pmarteka@ courant.com or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.
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