Wintergreen Falls

Wintergreen Falls
A historic postcard showing Wintergreen Falls. The falls are located on the West Rock Nature Center property, near the main entrance to the state park.

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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 Sunrday, Nov. 5, 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. In other areas where forest is all native species, pruning work has been minimal. I have already put in 140 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.

Reblazed Trails
In 2017, I reblazed the Westville Feeder. I also reblazed most of the White Trail, excepting certain sections that I want to relocate to higher ground, out of areas that are muddy after heavy rains, particularly in the spring. I also reblazed the Regicides Trail from the South Overlook to the road crossing north of the Yellow Trail, excluding the section paralleling Lake Dawson. I hope to reblaze the entire trail by the end of 2017. These reblazings include a pruning back of the trails.

Download a West Rock map from the state website
Before heading out into the woods, be sure to download a map of West Rock from the state website. When I read negative comments about the park on websites like Trip Advisor and Yelp from people who have trouble finding their way, it is obvious they did not bring a map with them. 
Link for a full-color printable map: http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/stateparks/maps/westrockparkmap.pdf
Link to the GPS friendly map, which can be used on a smart phone: http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/stateparks/maps/westrockgps.pdf

DOT Plans for the West Rock (Heroes) Tunnel
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has hosted three community meetings regarding its plans for the West Rock (Heroes) Tunnel: Woodbridge in fall 2016,  New Haven in June 2017, and Hamden in Oct. 2017. The planning process continues with construction expected to start no earlier than 2022. The DOT has yet to settle on a "preferred option," but is advocating for a third tunnel, saying that the current tunnels would be difficult to improve without a major disruption to traffic flow.
The DOT has launched a dedicated website for the project, which includes links to historical plans and photos, and the 434-page report discussing the tunnel and the options for the future. State website: http://www.heroestunnelproject.com/index.php
A full overview of the project details are available at this page: http://westrocktrails.blogspot.com/p/west-rock-tunnel.html

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, closed for the season on Sunday, Oct. 29, and will reopen on Memorial Day weekend. The gate will only be open weekends and holidays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 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.
     Complete parking information is available on this page: http://westrocktrails.blogspot.com/p/west-rock-parking-and-vehicle-access.html

 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): http://westrocktrails.blogspot.com/p/invasive-species-and-problems-they.html
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.