WADSWORTH FALLS STATE PARK
Spend a summer day cooling off in the mist of the waterfall or an autumn day hiking or biking the varied trails of the park.
The youngest rocks in Connecticut lie in the central part of the state. Wadsworth Falls State Park is made up of those young rocks, only about 200 million years old. About 250 million years ago all of Earth's land made up one huge continent called Pangea. It began to break up about that time, with large pieces of continental crust moving in various directions. What is now North America broke away from present-day Europe and Africa. As this occurred, tension fractures formed in the land, such as happen if you try to stretch cookie dough or modeling clay. Two such fractures formed in central Connecticut, allowing a long narrow valley to drop below the level of the surrounding land. Sediments from the surrounding highlands washed into the basin. Deep fractures formed in some places and lava flowed up to the surface from the upper mantle. Three such lava flows filled the valley and covered the surrounding uplands. In between the flows, sediments continued to flow into the still dropping valley. We now have a pile of sedimentary rock (made from the sediments), lava flow, sedimentary rock, lava flow, sedimentary rock, lava flow, sedimentary rock. Finally, the eastern side of the valley dropped faster than the western side, so now the rocks all dip toward the east. Over the intervening 200 million years, the higher uplands have eroded down so they are now much lower than they were and the basalts have all been eroded off of them. Basalts are now found only in the valley, where their lower elevation protected them from erosion.
Sedimentary rocks are made up from sediments, usually deposited by water in low areas such as streams, lakes and oceans. Over a long time these sediments can become so thick the pressure compresses the grains close together. Groundwater moving slowly through them gradually deposits dissolved minerals, such as calcium, silica or iron, between the grains, cementing them together. The lava flows cooled and solidified into basalt (also called traprock). Start your exploration of the park on the Scout Trail, which begins just past the swimming pond. Where the trail follows the stream edge, you will soon come to a shelf of flat rock. Sometimes water may cover this outcrop. The reddish brown rock is the Portland Arkose, the famous brownstone quarried for years in Portland and used for the brownstone buildings at Wesleyan and many other buildings around Connecticut, plus the brownstone buildings of New York City. It was shipped as far as San Francisco and is one of the rocks used in building the Parliament Building in Toronto, Canada. Here it is fine-grained and fairly smooth. If you run your fingers across it, you can feel the fine sand-sized grains that make it up. Arkose is a type of sandstone, made up mostly of quartz but also of feldspar. Most of the red color comes from the iron cement.
Watch for a stream coming down the hill on your left. The layers of arkose are thinner here. Some stick out, others are more indented. This is the result of differential weathering, meaning the harder layers have weathered less from the stream's flow than the softer layers. If you look closely at the layers, you will see that some are coarser than others, even containing pebbles. This is because the layers formed as streams carried sediments, depositing them probably in a lake. When stream flow was low and slow, only fine sediments could be moved by the water. But during floods, faster water could move materials as large as pebbles. So the various layers represent changes in the weather.
Clarence C. Wadsworth, noted scholar and linguist, had held the rank of Colonel in the New York National Guard before marrying and settling in Middletown. There he became involved in a forty-year effort to preserve the natural beauty of Wadsworth Falls for all people. By his will which established The Rockfall Corporation, a non-profit organization to administer his plans for the land, the 267 acres were given to the State in 1942.The Coginchaug River, flowing north along the western fringe of the park has been an important stream providing industrial waterpower. Only the sluiceway of a textile mill remains by Wadsworth Falls in the southwest corner of the park. Nearby, one of the first pistol factories in Connecticut was operated during the 1800's by Simeon North, developer of the interchangeable parts system for firearms used in the Civil War.Gunpowder was made at the factory established by Jehosophat Starr at Powder Mill Pond in 1794, until the business literally blew up in 1892. Today, the waters of this pond are used as a reserve to replenish the Bone Mill Pond below.The swimming pool, a saucer-shaped basin hollowed out of the level plain south of Route 157, is paved with a soil cement to prevent water from leaching out. Water pumped from a series of inter-connected wells located near the river is directed into the pool creating a circulating effect.There is a level walk from the parking area on Cherry Hill Road, off Route 157, to the brink of the falls. A trail system connects the falls with the main swimming/picnicking area and other scenic areas of the park. From a stone bridge used by the Colonel, the trail passes through densely wooded areas, the Little Falls and several meandering streams.Others may wish to explore or fish the cold waters of the Coginchaug River. Here, beneath great hemlocks and noble oaks, nature provides her own air-conditioning.
Connecticut has made state parks, forests, trails, historic sites and beaches more accessible to our residents so they can enjoy the many attractions and beauty they offer. Under the Passport to the Parks program, parking fees are now eliminated at Connecticut State Parks for those with Connecticut registered vehicles. You can view the CONNECTICUT PASSPORT TO THE PARKS
web page to learn more.
BBs / Inns
Located along the CT Shoreline midway between New York City and Boston, and only one hour from Hartford, with tons of local attractions both on the Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River.
19.4 miles from park*