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.