There’s a River in My Future

It looks cold, but it was already 57°f (14°c).

The title shouldn’t surprise anyone. Back in 2013, I wrote my first post about how rivers are special to me. I spied a couple of familiar names in the short list of likes, but I also spied three subsequent posts where I linked to it. Today makes four. And, while the three rivers in Pittsburgh will certainly find me driving over them, standing on the shore and sleeping in their midst – we typically stay at a Fairfield Inn on Neville Island in the Ohio River – they are not the river(s) I’m talking about. The river in my future is the Connecticut River.

Um, Dan, we knew that. You’ve posted eight-zillion pictures of the Connecticut River.

When I retired, a dear friend gave me a book called “Connecticut River from the Air” by historian Jerry Roberts and pilot/aerial photographer Tom Walsh. It’s an amazing book of images that tell an ancient story that one simply can’t imagine from the ground. Before I even started reading the book, I saw an advertisement for a presentation by Jerry Roberts at the nearby Windsor Historical Society. He was going to talking about a section of the river from Middletown, CT to Springfield, MA. I didn’t connect the dots at first, because the event title blocked the cover photo of the book, and the book’s own title and the author’s name. Still, I bought a ticket.

My wife asked if the event, which included a book signing, and the book were related. I double-checked and realized they were, and I started reading the book. A week later, I saw a mention of the Holiday Train Show at the Connecticut River Museum. When I visited the museum, I noticed some enlargements of the photographs in the book. I asked the lady who greeted me, and she explained that they were the same photos. Between talking to this woman, talking to the author and listening to the presentation, I learned:

Jerry Roberts was once the Assistant Director of one of my favorite museums, The Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum in New York City.

He was also the Director of the New England Air Museum, which is about two miles from where I live.

He was also the Director of the Connecticut River Museum!

Between the book, the presentation and the museum visit, I have learned so many things about New England’s largest river. For instance:

There used to be nightly steamship service from Hartford, CT to New York City – Oh my goodness, that would have been even better than taking the train!

There are three “planned industrial cities” on the Connecticut River. These are cities that dug canals and diverted the river to flow through the canals, on the banks of which were (mostly) textile mills. The closest one of these is about 45 miles away, and my best friend John and I are going to visit.

The Windsor Locks Canal was built, not so much to provide a shipping route around the rapids, but in response to competition from a different canal, the Farmington Canal that was built to steal the shipping business from Hartford and Middletown, CT.

The Connecticut River valley is so fertile because for 3,000 years, Lake Hitchcock flooded this area, so the current river valley is actually a very old lake bed.

Evidence of many of these facts still exist, and can be seen by visiting historic sights or taking short hikes along trails that were built on the old railroad beds with were built on the path of the old canals – because that’s where the shipping business was!

I don’t have a detailed itinerary – yet – but these are things that will be explored in the not-too-distant future.

Consider yourself warned.


91 comments

  1. Fascinating post, Dan. I had no idea that the Connecticut River has such a long history. It plays a minor role in my personal history. I went to a prep boarding school in Massachusetts for three years at the school now called Northfield Mount Hermon. It was initially founded as two schools; Northfield was a girls school and Mount Hermon a boys school and the Connecticut River (and several miles of land) separated the two of them. The founders must have assumed that young teenagers required formidable barriers to keep things proper.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s interesting, Mike. The river acting as a barrier plays a big role in its history., as to where they decided to run ferries and build bridges. As we drive over and around it today, you see very few reminders of the powerful economic force the river was for hundreds of years.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. That’s a lot of connections. Your book sounds really interesting as well as the history involved. Enjoy it all. Rivers are right up there with trees for me, Dan. Oh, the stories they could tell. I love the shot of Mimi and the sunlight, it looks very warm there for this time of year. We are heading into the 80’s this week. Have a great one.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Cheryl. Both cats like that shelf when the sun is shining. They often move around the house, following the sun from one warm spot to another. We’ve got a bit of a roller coaster week ahead, 50s one Wed, 20s on Fri. Crazy stuff. I hope you have a good week.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Best history lesson ever!! I can feel your excitement in your words! How cool is it to be so excited about something and be at a place in your life where you have the time and means to explore it more fully.

    Love the MiMi photos. I don’t blame her for protecting her space. But unlike Cheryl, I like the shOt, not the sh*t. I am cracking up over her typo!

    Maddie must’ve been in her glory to get a walk and a sit outside. We were in the mid-70’s yesterday too. This morning it’s 22 degrees.
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m glad you got a chuckle from Cheryl’s typo (I fixed it) – I’ve made that same one in the past. Maddie was in her glory. Not only did she walk and sit, but Faith was here on Saturday, and that always makes Maddie’s week!

      I thought I knew a lot about the CT River. It has been exciting to realize that there’s so much I didn’t know, and that a lot of it is able to be explored. In some cases, the timing is perfect, because it’s only in recent years that cities are rediscovering their connection to the river.

      It will be up and down temps for us this week. January is such a weird month. I hope you have a great week, Ginger.

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    1. That’s funny, Judy. I’ve never been interested in fishing, as I’ve never been one to enjoy sitting – maybe now that Maddie has me trained, I should take up the sport ;-)

      It was a crazy warm weekend. It’s cold this morning, but ups and downs are in the forecast. I hope you have a predictably warm week.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Big winds here too, Dan, that knocked out our electricity for hours. The warmth still persists …
    History is fascinating and the Connecticut River is no different. Loved the pictures of the water. Your adventure awaits you!
    For this time of year and having no snow is very very odd. Are you going through snowplow withdrawal?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Amy. I do miss the snow (a little bit) We normally get most of our snow in January, so it’s weird for the grass to be showing. I’m sure I’ll get a chance to get out there behind the machine this month. If not, I may need an intervention.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are so funny! We should be kind of careful of how we talk … we just may jinx ourselves and see more snow yet to come then we would like to. Our grass is greening! Never have I seen this in January. I can remember January’s past when the snow drifts were so high they looked like mini mountains.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad you got to do that, Dan. Local histories are fascinating — and somehow even more so when there’s a river involved.
    LOL warning heard — but looking forward to it. The gallery is great as always. Mind where you put those glasses! =^-^= Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. Big rivers defined this country, but here in New England, even the little rivers drove the economy. The Connecticut was the work horse river for four states. It’s not surprising to find that it was the source of business rivalries as well as economic success.

      MuMu likes to sneak in when I leave the room, so I have to make sure to take my stuff off the shelf before leaving.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Don’t you love it when things fall into place and the dots get connected? Makes it even more fascinating to me. This was a great read, Dan. And meeting the author…!! That is the best. Mind where you place you glasses, please. Don’t make me ‘accidentally’ swipe them away…….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mary. It looks like winter might make a comeback Friday night into the weekend. I’d be OK with that. I hope to be able to explore some of these scenic spots from the ground. We also have some interesting places in and around Pittsburgh that are being turned into parks and historic sites. I lived through the decline, it’s nice to be able to to visit the history.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting post, Dan. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the show “Aerial America,” but they have done one in Connecticut and the river is gorgeous! I’m from the south, and I’m drawn to all sources of water. When we lived in Groves, Texas for a while, my favorite times (besides the beach) were going on boat rides and fishing trips on the Neches River. Lots of interesting history there too, I should write about it someday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw several episodes of that show, but I don’t remember seeing CT featured. All over the country, our history often starts near a river. I love reading about rivers, north, south, I don’t care :)

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  8. Not something I’ve ever delved too much into, but it is fascinating how much geography has driven history and how human ingenuity (or, uh, greed) has attempted to change geography to suit needs (the Panama Canal being an uber-example).

    If you ever do any driving south, the C&O Canal from Cumberland, MD down into DC has some cool spots. Mental note: need to check out Cumberland, been on the “go there” list for a while now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve looked into a trip that might let me explore that canal. I think it connects with one on PA, as well. The dueling canal history here is something I had no idea of. I knew the history of the Windsor Locks Canal – I’ve been visiting that every year since our daughter first got comfortable on two wheels – but I didn’t know the reason they built it. Basically, greed. But there certainly was a lot of amazing engineering involved. Building an aqueduct to carry a canal over a crossing river, it simply amazing to me, especially when the tools of the day were axes, picks and shovels.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. canals. irrigation over the millennia. the dams for Venice. channeling the Mississippi (which has lead to the gradual disappearance of land below New Orleans). Lots of human ingeniuty involved in getting water to go where we want it to go.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. As I think about my friends, that might be a good approximation. I live on the west side, and if I have to choose, I choose Yankees. I’m not sure anything explains Pirates fans, in any area. Oh, wait. We all hoping Bottom Line Bob Nutting gets tired of baseball.

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    1. Thanks Marian. Maddie has been snagging one of us on these warm/warmish afternoons to sit with her. Yesterday, The Editor set up a chair and Maddie crawled up in it. There was a quick rearrangement, but it was cute.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve crossed the Delaware River many times and enjoyed hearing the stories of Gorge Washington and his troops crossing the river and surprising the British Hessian troops. I also grew up in a historic house that was once a school house centuries before and was also used as a hospital during the Battle of Couches Bridge during the American Revolutionary War in 1717. It is believed that George Washing was treated for wounds there. The house was over 200 years old when we lived in it and still stands today making its mark in history. All the other house were torn down due to the new highway, but they were not allowed to tear down the historic house we lived in.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dan, it makes me very happy to read this as living dreams, even serendipitous ones, is something everyone should do in retirement. I hope there’s always a mountain in my future and lots of outdoors anywhere. I look forward to reading more about your explorations and adventures.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janet. I’m pretty sure you’ll always manage to find a mountain. These things came in such quick succession that I thought I’d put it out there now, even though the actual exploring might need to wait until spring (some places are closed).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The sea monster floated away and got tangled in the pilings for the boat dock. I had a picture of it a few posts back. It’s chained there and will likely be removed when they put the dock in the water. I miss it 🙁

      I can’t wait to explore some of these places. My buddy and I are scoping out one that appears to be open year round. It’s several miles of walking, so we’re hoping for a warm-ish day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll miss it too. It became a feature, and really neat looking.

        I’m excited for you to and your buddy to explore the new places and see and read what you share.
        I hear you on the warm-ish day. I’m waiting for those too to do a couple of things myself. It’ll happen! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  11. When someone starts talking about rivers, my memory pushes up the Thompson River in the south Rockies on the eastern side. It’s kind of a violent river with boulders, rocks, and tree branches stirring in the mix. A few people have died in the river because they believed they could tame it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Dan – it’ll make an interesting series of blog posts – about the historical aspects over millennia and then how you view the area now. Enjoy – it’s quite a long river … with lots of tributaries … looking forward to reading all about your findings – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hilary. It will take a long time to explore, it’s over 400 mi (644 km) long, and the upper portions require driving on some smaller roads. I think it will make some interesting day trips. Rivers and bridges are two of my favorite things to look at.

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  13. I love it! I think one of the best things about retirement would have to be the freedom to explore things you love for curiosity’s sake. Looking forward to reading more about these, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Some great pics, Dan, as usual. I’m not surprised that you feel drawn to the Connecticut River. There’s something inherently attractive about them. One of my favorite non-famous Paul Simon songs is “Peace Like a River”. Well worth checking out, if you’ve never heard it.

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  15. I don’t know that warned is the right word there. I feel a bit hyped! I love this sorta synchronicity, things coming together like that tend to have impact on their importance to me. I’m only sad you can’t go back in time to take the steamship!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Taking the steamship would have been so cool. I’m not sure when I’m going to get to some of these places, but some look really interesting, and a lot of them have been turned into parks or historic walking areas.

      Liked by 1 person

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