In our rush to get to Riverside Park in time to catch the sun rise over the Connecticut River, we left one car about 100 feet from the entrance to another river-side park. Great River Park lies on the east side of the CT River and it also stands bare between a major levy and the rushing water. The two parks have much in common and yet they are quite different.
The first difference, is the fact that while Riverside Park is in the professional big brother City of Hartford, the little industrial brother East Hartford’s park is actually better tuned for workers-on-the-go. Riverside Park can be walked to from downtown Hartford, but when driving by, it gives you a clear “how do I get there?” feeling. Great River Park is accessible from several office parks, a couple of hotels and is a short walk across one of two bridges from Hartford. It’s also an easy off-on from the highway. In fact, I do that off-on little dance 2-3 days a week.
Great River Park doesn’t have any sports fields, no dragon boats, no team-building wall-crawl, and it doesn’t have nearly as much parking as its big city sister. But, it has amenities and features that Riverside Park would be envious of, if parks could feel envy.
Being both on the east side of the river and south of the Bulkeley Bridge, Great River Park stares across the mighty Connecticut River at downtown Hartford. The park offers almost 2 miles of lighted walkway along the river, exercise stations, bathrooms, sculpture, some playground equipment, picnic areas, and a boat launch and, according to the website, a 350-seat amphitheater. I have to admit, I’ve never seen the amphitheater in use, but I’ve walked the trails and I’ve taken hundreds of photos from the different little “river watching” venues along the length of the park. I’ve seen runners, joggers and walkers, all start their day on the various paths. I’ve seen fisherfolks launching all manner of craft into the river and I’ve seen a bunch of people like me, who simply like to start their day next to a river.
I wrote about this before; I’m trying not to repeat myself, but I’ll state the title again – there is something about a river that is good for the soul.
Great River Park begins at the Bulkeley Bridge, a beautiful stone arch bridge that carries Interstate-84 over the river. The park ends, I think, at the Charter Oak Bridge a couple of miles to the south. Hartford’s other significant water crossing, the Founder’s Bridge crosses in the middle of Great River Park and is easily accessible, if you like climbing stairs. All three bridges have sidewalks, but the website only lists the Founder’s and the Charter Oak bridges as providing pedestrian access to Hartford. In reality, only the Founder’s Bridge is a viable choice.
The Charter Oak Bridge crosses well toward the south of Hartford’s downtown district; it’s 2.6 miles from the parking lot at Great River Park to the heart of Hartford via that bridge. The Bulkeley Bridge sidewalk, on the other hand, literally dumps pedestrians onto the on-ramp to I-84 on the Hartford side of the bridge. There’s a narrow sidewalk that connects to the northeast corner of the downtown district, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
In contrast to the serene reflections and graceful light and shadows found in Riverside Park, Great River Park was a mess. A fast moving river, the noise of traffic and somewhat dirty floodwater greeted us as we tried to get close enough for some interesting photos. My daughter had good timing with her invitation to photograph the river from its flooded parks. The day before, the parking lot at Great River Park was closed, but not yet flooded. Two days later, on my way to work, the parking lot was dry and full of debris.
I hope you enjoy the images in the gallery. Below that is a short video gives you a good idea how fast the water was moving.