Barred Owl

Barred Owl
A barred owl rests in a tree along the Red Trail, Sept. 2017.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Welcome to the West Rock Trails website

West Rock Ridge State Park is located in Hamden and New Haven, Connecticut (with a small portion in Woodbridge and Bethany). West Rock Ridge is the second largest state park in Connecticut with 1,722 acres of land (and growing).* 
There are many recreational opportunities available at West Rock.

This website has pages arranged by topic. Click on the web page name below or the links at the right to access the page that interests you.

(The date of Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 is the date this website was started.
The most recent update took place Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.)

Fast-Growing Plants
With the steady rains in 2017, plant growth has absolutely exploded, particularly in areas that receive lots of sunlight, and especially those areas overrun with invasive plant species. I have already put in 100 volunteer hours in 2017, and have managed to cut back many areas where the trail has narrowed to almost nothing. I continue to cut back where I can, but understand that some areas may be narrow, even after being pruned back
The photos show the results of six hours of work to clear four downed hemlocks from the Regicides Trail, prune back branches growing onto the trail, reblaze a third of a mile long section of trail, and collect bottles that have been lying in the woods along Baldwin Drive for more than 40 years.

Hemlocks blocking easy passage along the Regicides Trail has been a problem in the past 10 or more years. The woolly adelgid, a tiny invasive insect, sucks the sap from the needles and kills the trees, and they eventually fall on the trail. This was one of four hemlocks on the trail in a quarter mile section of trail that needed to be cleared.
With the Silky Ibuki pruning saw shown in the photo, it took more than an hour to make two cuts and roll the tree off to the side. If I had assistance that day, the clearing would have been quicker because we could have taken turns using the saw. I do not own a chainsaw. Even if I did, chainsaws are dangerous to use, particularly because I often work alone (due to the challenge of getting others to help). The manual saw is a great workout. These were cleared in Aug. 2017.

These two hemlocks fell near each other on the Regicides Trail.

It took about a hour to clear these two trees, using the the Silky Ibuki saw. This photo is taken from a different perspective than the "before" photo. These were cleared from the Regicides Trail, a bit north of the Purple Trail. in Aug. 2017.
Baldwin Drive was a major party spot when the road was open to the public. These bottles were collected in the woods along the road in Aug. 2017.

Revised West Rock map posted to the state website
The state has posted an updated trails map of West Rock to its website. This map shows all the updates to trails, updates which are detailed on the Trail Updates page. Be sure to print the new map when using the park. Website:
Link to the GPS friendly map, which can be used on a smart phone:

Revised Naugatuck State Forest map posted to the state website
The state has posted an updated trails map of the Naugatuck State Forest, West Block, and East Block to its website. The first map shows all the trail colors that resulted from the project I did (with help from others) in the West Block.
East Block map: details on the state forest are available on this page:

DOT Plans for the West Rock Tunnel
The Department of Transportation (DOT) hosted a meeting in Woodbridge regarding its plans for the West Rock Tunnel (Heroes Tunnel) in fall 2016 and in New Haven in June 2017. A meeting in Hamden is planned on Wed., Oct. 18, 2017 at Hamden Memorial Town Hall, 2370 Whitney Ave. An open forum starts at 6:30 p.m. and the formal presentation is at 7 p.m. Full details are available at this page:

Fall colors frame the West Rock Tunnel (Heroes Tunnel) in fall 2015.

Limited Hours for Main Gate Opening
The main gate on Wintergreen Avenue, leading to the South Overlook and Judges Cave, reopened on Memorial Day weekend, and will be open weekends from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the fall, and may close at 5 p.m. as sunset comes earlier. The other parking areas are readily available 8 a.m. to dusk with the nearest and best choice being the Lake Wintergreen parking lot, 40 Main St., Hamden.

The parking lot adjacent to the main entrance is open due to a broken chain. This parking lot is actually owned and operated by the Department of Parks, City of New Haven. According to Park Ranger Martin Torresquinterro, people keep breaking the chain, and the parks department has not yet implemented a more permanent solution. Martin recommends that if people park in this lot that they hide any valuables, since there have been break-ins in this lot. As detailed elsewhere on this website, I have seen broken window glass on the pavement from people parked both outside and inside the main entrance. Play it safe and park at Lake Wintergreen, or other locations.

 Emerald Ash Borer Invades West Rock
The emerald ash borer, an insect native to Asia, is killing the ash trees at West Rock Ridge State Park and there is no practical solution at the moment to save them in the forest.
Read complete details about how this pest is affecting West Rock at this page (scroll WAY down):
General Information
Trail Descriptions
Information for Specific Activities
    Natural Features
    Historical Information
    Trail Maintenance
    The trail descriptions are spread across so many pages to make the information easier to access.

    * The largest state park by area is Macedonia Brook State Park in Kent with 2,302 acres. Sleeping Giant is third in size for state parks with 1,673 acres of property. Gay City places fourth in size with 1,569 acres. 
    All these state parks are dwarfed Pachaug State Forest in northeastern Connecticut with 28,804 acres, Cockaponset State Forest with 17,186 acres divided among multiple properties in eastern Connecticut, Centennial Watershed State Forest spread over 15,370 acres of current and former watershed land in Fairfield County, Housatonic Meadows in Litchfield County with 10,894 acres, and Meshomasic State Forest, east of the Connecticut River with 9,026 acres.
    There are numerous other state forests larger than any state park.

    The state of Connecticut continues to add land to West Rock Ridge as it comes on the market (or is donated) and as funds are available for purchase. The legislation that created the park legally requires homeowners within the park's legal boundaries to give the state a right of first refusal for purchase.

    What is the difference between a state forest and a state park? There are two basic differences. The state actively manages state forests for both lumber and habitat, cutting areas of trees on a regular basis. The state also allows hunting in state forests, except where they are close to roads and buildings. Hunting is generally prohibited in state parks. One exception is a limited deer hunting season at Collis P. Huntington State Park in Redding/Bethel. The park name is a coincidence, as it was named for its wealthy donor.