|West Rock Ridge takes a sharp turn at its southern terminus|
in this view from the summit at East Rock Park, Aug. 2015.
West Rock Ridge State Park is a geologically significant location, part of the Metacomet Ridge trap rock ridge system that extends the length of Connecticut and into Massachusetts. Trap rock is a volcanic rock that lies under and pokes through the soil at West Rock, Sleeping Giant, and the Hanging Hills of Meriden, and many other places in Connecticut.
Movements in continental plates formed Connecticut. As part of their movement, cracks in the Earth's crust allowed magma to flow to the surface forming the main portion of the Metacomet Ridge, forming the eastern wall of Connecticut's Central Valley, extending from Beacon Hill in Branford to West Suffield Mountain in Suffield. This wall can be seen along I-91 as Beseck Mountain and Higby Mountain, just north of the merge with the Wilbur Cross Parkway. Other well known peaks along the ridge include the West Peak and East Peak in Meriden, Ragged Mountain in Berlin, and Talcott Mountain in Avon and bordering towns.
These cracks also allowed lava to flow near the surface forming a partial western wall in the Central Valley where it was later exposed due to erosion. This lava formed the basis of West Rock, East Rock, and Sleeping Giant in the Hamden-New Haven area.
West Rock Ridge extends about 7 miles from its southern curve near Springside Avenue in New Haven to its northern edge at the end of York Mountain in Bethany. The state park extends nearly the entire length of the ridge, excepting some privately-owned parcels near York Mountain.
The ridge takes a dip through which Brooks Road in Bethany crosses, then extends north another 9 miles as part of Mad Mare Hill, Mount Sanford, and Peck Mountain in Cheshire. Not coincidentally, this is the path of the Quinnipiac Trail, which runs out of steam before the ridge does. Continuing further north into Southington, the ridge is named Bluff Head, Mount Southington and Compounce Mountain before it finally comes down to Earth in the Plantsville section of that town. This western wall disappears until Avon, Simbury, and Granby where it forms Onion Mountain and the Barn Door Hills.
The rock in the main part of the ridge is basalt, while in the eastern section the rock is called diabase. The difference is that basalt formed from lava that cooled above the ground, while diabase formed from magna that cooled underground. Both are hard, dense rocks with fine crystals that are brown in appearance, but often have an orange hue due to the iron in them. These rock are brittle and break easily along sharp edged planes due to their crystal structure.
Trap rock is the bane of hikers because it forms uneven hiking surfaces and when the soil around it erodes, leaves rocks that roll readily underfoot. The term trap rock comes from the Swedish word for step, which is trappa.
|West Rock Ridge can be seen in the distance across New Haven Harborin this view from the West Haven Boat Launch.|
The first three books listed here were written by James Dwight Dana, Professor of Geology and Natural History at Yale University from 1850-1892. His biography entitled The Life of James Dwight Dana, Scientific Explorer, Mineralogist, Geologist, Zoologist, Professor in Yale University was written by Daniel C. Gilman, president of the Johns Hopkins University and published in 1899 by Harper and Brothers Publishers, NewYork. A free download is available here: https://books.google.com/books?id=JWBUAAAAMAAJ
- On the Geology of the New Haven Region: With Special Reference to the Origin of Its Topographical Features by James D. Dana, published in 1870 by Tuttle, Morehouse, and Taylor. This book may be downloaded for free from Google books at https://books.google.com/books?id=s-QQAAAAIAAJ. Google requires signing in to a Google account for the download. After signing in, click on the "gear" at the upper right to access options, including downloading a PDF. This book is also available for purchase from Amazon, www.amazon.com, or Barnes and Noble, www.barnesandnoble.com, as a scan of the original book, which would be the same as this downloaded version.
- On the Four Rocks of the New Haven Region, East Rock, West Rock, Pine Rock and Mill Rock: In Illustrations of the Features of Non-Volcanic Igneous Ejections, With A Guide to Walks and Drives About New Haven by James D. Dana, published in 1891 by Tuttle, Morehouse, and Taylor, New Haven. This book may be downloaded from Google books at https://books.google.com/books?id=yFtDAAAAYAAJ. This book is available for purchase from Amazon, www.amazon.com, or Barnes and Noble, www.barnesandnoble.com, as a scan of the original book, which would be the same as this downloaded version.
- Papers on the Quaternary in New England: The Glacial and Fluvial Phenomena, or the Drifts and Terraces, by James D. Dana, published in 1884 by Tuttle, Morehouse, and Taylor, New Haven. This collection of journal articles is a technical discussion of how glaciers affected the geology of New England, including West Rock Download the book for free from https://books.google.com/books?id=Cj-9GIlED6cC. This book is available for purchase from Amazon at www.amazon.com.
Fall colors brighten the eastern side of West Rock Ridge in this view down the length of the ridge from the overlook on the Red Trail near Farm Brook Reservoir.
- The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has a webpage entitled Connecticut Geological Survey, which has many geology-related links, including books, maps, educational resources, and the geology of some Connecticut State Parks. Oddly, neither West Rock, nor Sleeping Giant are featured on this page. Website: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2701&q=487928&deepNav_GID=1641%20
- The Long Island Sound Resource Center has an excellent web page called Connecticut Geology with graphics describing how Connecticut was formed over millions of years by forces including plate tectonics, volcanic activity and glaciers: http://www.lisrc.uconn.edu/lisrc/geology.asp?p2=History&p3=glhct and another page about Geology of the Long Island Sound Basin at http://www.lisrc.uconn.edu/lisrc/geology.asp, and Geology of Long Island Sound poster at http://www.lisrc.uconn.edu/lisrc/geology_simple.asp.
- State Geological and Natural History Survey, Volume 2-6, Bulletins 6-12, known as Public Document No. 47, written by William R. North and Herbert E. Gregory, was printed for the State Geological and Natural History Survey, 1906-1908. This document is a comprehensive look at the geology of Connecticut. This book may be downloaded for free from https://books.google.com/books?id=ex0QAAAAIAAJ. I searched for a Volume 1, but could not find one.
- "Age and Sequence of Metasedimentary and Metavolcanic Formations Northwest of New Haven, Connecticut" by Crawford E. Fritts, may be found on pages D32-36 of the Geological Survey Research 1962: Short Papers in Geology, Hydrology and Topography (Geological Survey Professional Paper 450-D), published in 1962 by the U.S. Department of the Interior. This discusses the types of rocks found in the Greater New Haven area. Download a free copy at https://books.google.com/books?id=aU_wAAAAMAAJ.
- The Quaternary Geology of the New Haven Region, Connecticut by Freeman Ward, Ph.D, state geologist and professor of geology, University of South Dakota, was published in 1920 by the state of Connecticut as State Geological and Natural History Survey, Bulletin 29. This 78-page book focuses on soil types and the effects of glaciers in the greater New Haven area, with West Rock Ridge mentioned throughout the book. Quaternary refers to a geological era dating from the present time back 2.6 milllion years, which includes the Ice Age and related glacial activity. Download a free copy at https://books.google.com/books?id=8RZHAAAAYAAJ&
- The Face of Connecticut: People, Geology and the Land by Michael Bell is a "bulletin" that was published in 1985 by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as it was then called, but is actually a book. The focus of the book is how geology and geography influenced human history and how people used the land.
- The 196-page book may be read one page at a time on the website of the Talcott Mountain Science Center (TMSC) at http://www.tmsc.org/face_of_ct/main.htm. The TMSC version does not show the picture galleries that are grouped between pages in the book, and the pictures it does show are smaller than in the book.
- This title may be purchased as a book from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/The-Face-Connecticut-Geological-Connnecticut/dp/0942081013.
- This is a review of the book from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/1986/02/02/nyregion/state-agency-issues-a-fast-selling-book.html
The book explains how continental collision and then separation have formed the different parts of Connecticut. The Western and Eastern Uplands are formed from metamorphic rocks created by continental collision. The Central Valley resulted when the continents pulled apart. During the separation phase, there were volcanic flows that formed the trap rock ridges. Finally, we have had glacial action, which scoured the bedrock and deposited various sizes of sediments to form soil.
Although this book was written in 1985, much of the information is still accurate and relevant. There are some statistics that are probably out of date, such as the percentage of Connecticut is that it still farmland. However, those are minor details that are easily referenced elsewhere. The book has a fair amount of complexity to it, which requires reading it more than once and taking notes while reading to truly understand the information. Once you read it, you will probably take a closer look at rock cuts when you see them!
Near West Rock, there are three interesting rock cuts on the Wilbur Cross Parkway Southbound. One is a basalt rock cut midway between Exits 64 and 63 under the powerlines that cross South Turnpike Road, Wallingford, near Mansion Road. Another one is a sandstone/brownstone rock cut south of Exit 63, just past the Hartford Turnpike overpass in North Haven. The third is just south of Exit 59, just before the Fountain Street (Rt. 243) bridge in New Haven. This is another rock cut comprised of igneous rock.
These are notes I took from the book, but I highly recommend reading the original to truly understand the concepts discussed in it.
Part 1: Landscapes
Chapter 1: “...A Nursery of Men”
Connecticut has four regions: the Western Uplands, the Central Valley, the Eastern Uplands and the Coastal Slope.
The ground consists of bedrock or ledge, which is covered by glacial drift. Glacial drift is the silt, sand, and boulders that remain after the glaciers scoured the bedrock.
The chapter title came from an observation in 1830 by French author Alexis de Tocqueville that Connecticut had become "...a nursery of men," who were transplanted into other parts of the United States.
Chapter 2: The Central Valley
The Central Valley extending from Massachusetts down to the coast in New Haven is excellent for farming. It has plenty of water, rich soil, and few stones. The Central Valley has red soil that results from brownstone; the geological name is arkose. Red soil is common in tropical and subtropical climates, but is unusual in a cold place like Connecticut. Brownstone is a sedimentary rock that forms when piles of sediment are cemented into stone. Connecticut’s sedimentary rocks are found almost exclusively in the Central Valley.
There are two main types of glacial drift: stratified drift and till.
Stratified draft is usually sand or gravel, but has a few stones or boulders. The particles are roughly of uniform size. This results when water from a melting glacier carries the particles somewhere else.
Till is a jumble of different sizes of sediment particles including clay, silt, sand, pebbles, stones, and big boulders that are all mixed together. Till results when the glacier melts and leaves the particles in place where it melted.
Since the brownstone of the Central Valley erodes easily, there are a few boulders in the Central Valley, and as a result hardly any stone walls.
The flat fertile landscape of the Central Valley is as a result of a former lake that has been called Glacial Lake Hitchcock, named in honor of the Reverend Edward Hitchcock who identified this feature in 1822. The lake formed behind a line of sediment that formed a dam at Rocky Hill, which collapsed around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, draining the lake forever.
The Central Valley is lined by the Metacomet Ridge, which runs nearly continuously from Branford, Connecticut to North Hampton, Massachusetts. In the north the ridge runs along the west side of the valley, but then cuts across the valley near Meriden and then runs down the east side toward Branford.
The Metacomet Ridge is formed from basalt, an igneous rock that is dense and erosion resistant. Igneous rocks are rocks formed from molten rock from deep inside the Earth. Some of the ridge formed from magma that reach the surface and flowed out as lava and then cooled into rock. The Metacomet Ridge was formed by cooled lava, which was then covered in brownstone, and then later exposed to air by erosion. Other ridges formed from magma that cooled underground.
This trap rock is dark gray – green on the inside, while it has an orange or reddish orange outside that is a form of rust. Trap rock is an erosion resistant rock.
Trap rock ridges generally have a steep cliff on the west side with a jumble of falling rock at the base known as talus. The east side of trap rock ridges has a more gradual slope and little or no talus at the bottom.
Brownstone is a popular building stone because it is attractive, relatively easy to quarry, and inexpensive. The problem is that it erodes easily, so brownstone buildings are slowly crumbling. Trap rock is used for road building and other construction purposes because it is very durable and easy to crush. Sand and gravel have also quarried in Connecticut. Clay has been used to make bricks.
Chapter 3: The Uplands
The Uplands are an ocean of hills that rise abruptly out of the Central Valley. They are made from metamorphic rocks, formed under the crust from heat and pressure. Metamorphic rocks are much more erosion resistant then the crumbly brownstone of the Central Valley. The two major types of metamorphic rock in Connecticut are schist and gneiss.
The Eastern Uplands slope gradually from the Massachusetts border where hills may be above 1,000 feet in elevation and drop down in height as it gets closer to the coast.
The zone of steeper slope along the coast that reaches about 10 to 15 miles inland is called the Coastal Slope.
The Western Uplands have two major landscape regions. In the southern section, the Southwest Hills are similar to the Eastern Uplands, formed from metamorphic rocks, and aligned predominately north south. They have the same slope toward the coast starting at about 1,000 feet in the northern part and then dropping down into the Coastal Slope.
The Northwest Highlands in the northern section are an extension of the Hudson Highlands, the Taconic Range, and the Berkshire Mountains. A characteristic feature of the Northwest Highland is plateaus topped by streamlined hills and bedrock knobs. The uplands have fertile, if rocky soil.
Colonial people tend to farm the hills, rather than the valleys, because the hilltops have a longer growing season and offer protection from floods. The Colonists also had the belief that the air was better on the top of hills.
People mined the uplands for a variety of minerals, including iron, pegmatite, and granite. The upland rivers were dammed for water power. Water flowing across hard bedrock is likely to form waterfalls and rapids. During the Industrial Revolution, people migrated from hilltop farms to mills in valleys.
Chapter 4: The Coast
North America has a Coastal Plain from Mexico to New York City. The Coastal Plain is an area of low, flat, sandy terrain. From New York City to Canada, there is no Coastal Plain.
Connecticut has a Coastal Slope with rocky terrain and low hills near the shore. From about 12 miles from the coast, the slope of the hills drops at a rate of about 50 feet per mile, as compared the north where the slopes drop from 10 to 20 feet per mile.
The gentle topography of the coastal area makes it good for farming. The rocky coastline creates an area for many good harbors. Where the hills of the Coastal Slope jut out into the water, this creates alternating points with coves.
Long Island was created when a glacier pushed rock, sand, and clay and dumped them in a large pile of debris known as a terminal moraine. When the glacier retreated, and water levels rose, Long Island Sound formed.
There are three types of islands in Long Island Sound: islands formed from the bedrock poking above the water, islands formed from glacial deposits, and islands formed from a combination of the two.
The coast is being constantly reshaped by sediments dropped from rivers, drift being driven down the coast by wind and waves, and sediments move by tides.
Chapter 5: The 20th Century Landscape
During the 20th century industry shifted from the uplands where it used steam power to the coastal areas where it used fossil fuels. After World War II people moved from cities to suburbs. Trap rock ridges were left largely undeveloped due to the difficulty and expense of building on them.
Part II: Geology
Chapter 6: A Sense of Time
A study of rocks and fossils allows geologists to estimate the age of various rocks. The theory of glaciers arose out of mysteries left in the geological record. These mysteries included sand deposits on top of hills well above flood zones, placements of large boulders scattered across the countryside, later known as glacial erratics, and many parallel scratches in the bedrock, indicating some heavy object had been dragged across it. Connecticut has many earthquake faults, although most are not active. Moodus Connecticut is one of the most active earthquake zones in New England.
Chapter 7: Mapping the Land
Different geologists have worked over the years to study the geology of Connecticut and to create geological maps. Plate tectonics has become an accepted theory about how the earth surface is changed over time.
Chapter 8: The Changing Face of Connecticut
Connecticut’s geology can be traced back to the continental collision that formed Pangaea about 350 to 250 million years ago. That collision formed the metamorphic rocks in the Western and Eastern Uplands and their corresponding Coastal Slope. The Central Valley resulted from a crack as Pangaea broke up about 200 million years ago. Erosion has removed more than five miles of rock from Connecticut’s surface.
There are stones in Connecticut soil because glaciers could not effectively grind up the hard metamorphic rock of the uplands. There is marble in the Western Uplands that resulted from the metamorphosis of limestone, formed from beds of shells, coral, and limestone muds, which became cemented together. This marble indicates that Connecticut once had a tropical climate.
The Central Valley was filled over millions of years by sediments from the hills around it that created brownstone, and also from three outpourings of lava that created trap rock. After the flow stopped, the lava was buried by thousands of feet of sediments that were deposited over millions of years.
Trap rock ridges have a typical tilt toward the east of about 15 to 25 degrees. This resulted from crust movements that tilted the stack of rocks. Without this tilting we would not have trap rock ridges; instead, we would have wide, flat topped mesas.
Some trap rock ridges formed from molten rock they did not quite make it to the surface. They finally came to the surface due to erosion.
There are two types of intrusive rock as it is called because the intrusion of lava into the crust.
One form is a sill, which runs parallel to the surrounding strata (layers). The other is a dike, which cuts across the surrounding strata (layers). The same rock body may run as a sill in one place and then curve up into a dike. West Rock breaks ground as a dike but extends underground in a sill over to East Rock. Sleeping Giant is a massive version of a dike called a stock, which is the main line of a lava flows plumbing system.
All of the sills and dikes in the Central Valley lie west of the Metacomet Ridge. These western rock formations originally lay underneath the formations to the east. They became exposed by the tilt of the Central Valley’s rocks.
The most recent glacial period was about 20,000 to 25,000 years ago at which time Connecticut was completely covered. The glaciers begin melting about 18,000 years ago.
Chapter 9: “Qui Transtulit...”
Land shows the geological forces that created it. People made changes to the land, leaving such markers as stone walls, hilltop farms and towns, and dams. How people use the land was affected by the geology of it. People have had a huge effect on the land through building dams, constructing buildings and paving roads. Blasting and mining is causing million years of erosion in only a few months.
- On page 139 of the The Face of Connecticut, it discusses the Bedrock Geological Map of Connecticut as being in progress, referring to it simply as the bedrock map. This is a link to the completed map, which gives a clear overview of the state's geological base, especially of how the traprock ridges cut across the Central Valley. The file is nearly 30 MB, so be patient as it loads: http://cteco.uconn.edu/map_catalog/maps/state/Bedrock_Geologic_Map_of_Connecticut.pdf
This screenshot of the Bedrock Geological Map of Connecticut provides a glimpse of the map's complexity, details that are only revealed in the original map, which may be downloaded from the above link.
The bedrock map may be purchased from the DEEP store at this link for $16.95, plus tax and shipping: http://www.ctdeepstore.com/Bedrock-Geological-Map-of-Connecticut-132.htm. Map choices included rolled and folded. I found no other source for purchasing this map.
- The Talcott Mountain Science Center has a grid map showing individual quadrants from the geological map on its website at http://www.tmsc.org/geology/bedrock/bedrock.htm. These are the direct links to West Rock: http://www.tmsc.org/geology/bedrock/bq80.htm (northern, including Sleeping Giant) and http://www.tmsc.org/geology/bedrock/bq95.htm (southern, including East Rock).
Specific West Rock references in the book are as follows
(with links to those pages on the the Talcott Mountain Science Center website):
- On Page 25, there is a brief discussion of how West Rock and East Rock were formed by trap rock that cooled underground. Link: http://www.tmsc.org/face_of_ct/25.htm
- On page 101, there is an aerial photo of West Rock Ridge as seen from the south, comparing the green ridge with the highly developed area surrounding it. Unfortunately the photo is black-and-white, as compared to many photos in the book that are color. Nevertheless, it is an interesting photo to see because the aerial view is a different perspective than a satellite view. http://www.tmsc.org/face_of_ct/101.htm
- Between pages page 160-161, there is a geologic sketch map of Connecticut, which shows the different types of rocks that underlie Connecticut, along with the tracing of the trap rock ridge outlines. This map is not available online.
- Pages 163-164 has a more detailed explanation of how West Rock and East Rock and Sleeping Giant were formed as underground volcanic flows. Link: http://www.tmsc.org/face_of_ct/163.htm (and then click the right arrow to advance to page 164).
- Trap Rock Ridges of Connecticut: Natural History and Land Use by Penelope C. Sharp with Ralph S. Lewis, David L. Wagner, and Cara Lee is a "bulletin" published in 2013 by the Connecticut College Arboretum and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. This book is a geologic and natural history of trap rock ridges, plant communities, insects (especially butterflies), reptiles and amphibians, mammals, and human use. West Rock is mentioned in several places in the book. This 57-page book may be purchased for $10 plus $2 shipping from the Connecticut College Arboretum, http://www.conncoll.edu/the-arboretum/arboretum-bookstore/, or for $10, plus $4.95 shipping and $0.95 tax from the DEEP store, http://www.ctdeepstore.com/Trap-Rock-Ridges-of-Connecticut-801.htm
The book may be downloaded for free from http://digitalcommons.conncoll.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1041&context=arbbulletins
- West Rock to the Barndoor Hills: The Trap Rock Ridges of Connecticut (Vegetation of Connecticut Natural Areas, No. 4) by Cara Lee, published in 1985 by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. This 60-page book is out of print, but may be available from sellers of used books.
The Trap Rock Ridges book is essentially an update of the West Rock to the Barndoor Hills book with color illustrations and photographs, as compared to the black and white format of the other book. Both contain excellent information about the geographic formation of trap rock ridges, including West Rock, along with details about the vegetation, animals, and use of the ridge, both historical and recreational.
The original book had some errors that were carried over to the new edition. Since I believe in the importance of giving people the most accurate information possible, refer to these corrections if you read either book. It feels a bit awkward having such a long list of corrections from such excellent books, especially when the information in the other sections is so good. However, getting the correct details out there is important.
Corrections and Updates:
The new book has a map of the trap rock ridges in Connecticut on page 6, but incorrectly spells Meriden with an ‘a’ in the third syllable.
The books discuss the harvesting of chestnut trees following the blight. Both refer to diseased trees that were cut and stacked for later use, saying the piles may still be visible on West Rock. Update: If the piles are there, I have not seen them, but they could be off-trail in the woods.
Another topic is climbing at East Rock and West Rock, indicating that climbers were occasionally arrested in both locations and still are being arrested. Update: Possible arrests are true for city-owned East Rock where climbing is strictly prohibited, but unlikely for state-owned West Rock where climbing is legal.
|This sign may be found in multiple locations at East Rock Park.|
Any questions about climbing?
Both books contain this sentence: “Of the 500 miles of hiking trails marked and maintained throughout Connecticut, those that follow the ridgetops offer the most delightful experiences.”
It should read: Of more than 800 miles of blue-blazed hiking trails maintained by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association throughout the state, those that follow the ridgetops offer the most delightful experiences. (The mileages of CFPA managed trails increased from 500 to 800 between 1985 and 2013, and the books should clarify that this references CFPA trails only, as there are likely thousands of miles of trails in Connecticut. I have no exact figure to share, since I do not know that information.)
Both books also mention the Quinnipiac Trail connecting to the Regicides Trail, which leads to Judges Cave, spelling both Regicides and Judges with an apostrophe. No apostrophe is needed in either spelling.
In the discussion of Judges Cave (spelling it with an apostrophe), the books did not name the judges, but said three judges drew up and signed a warrant for the death of Charles I, saying that the three later fled and spent several months hiding on West Rock with help from sympathetic townsfolk, noting that the cave is located in West Rock State Park.
Correction: A total of 59 judges signed the warrant, and three fled to the American colonies: John Dixwell (traveling alone), and William Goffe, and Edward Whalley. Goffe and Whalley spent a month hiding on West Rock from May 15 to June 11, 1661 in a small cave formed by three large boulders, returning for a few days in July 1661. They lived in Milford for three years, and then returned to the cave for a week in October 1664, before seeking more permanent refuge in Hadley, Mass. Meanwhile, Dixwell changed his name to John Davids and quietly lived out his life in New Haven under this assumed name. “Judges Cave” is in West Rock Ridge State Park, near the south end of the ridge.
Finally, both books refer to the air duct on the Merritt/Wilbur Cross Parkway. Route 15 is the Merritt Parkway in Fairfield County, but the Wilbur Cross Parkway in New Haven County. The air duct is more properly described as air shaft.
- West Rock gets some brief mentions in The Traprock Landscapes of New England: Environment, History, and Culture, written by Peter M. LeTourneau with photographs by Robert Pagini. The book was published in 2017 by Wesleyan College Press as a Driftless Connecticut Series Book, which is described as “an outstanding book in any field on a Connecticut topic or written by a Connecticut author.
LeTourneau is a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Wesleyan University, while Pagini is a photographer whose pictures have been featured in various outdoors publications. Both men are Meriden natives, so not surprisingly, the Metacomet Ridge in central Connecticut is a definite focus of the book.
The book covers the geography, geology, and ecology of the ridges, pointing out their importance and giving reasons why they should be preserved. It also discusses their influence their beauty has had on artists. The book closes with the recommendation that the area be designated the Connecticut Valley National Heritage Corridor.
LeTourneau provides detailed information about all these topics, writing in a clear, readable style. Pagini finds beauty in both the big picture with photographs from various high peaks showing the wide vistas visible from the top, and also in small details of such things as lichen, salamanders and wildflowers.
The book is a bit challenging to read because the essays by Letourneau that are spread out over many pages are interrupted by multi-page photographic spreads. It would be easier for the reader if these photo pages were clustered at natural breaks in the narrative. The title is a bit of a misnomer, as the book concentrates on Connecticut with some information about the ridges in Massachusetts.
From a West Rock perspective, important information is missing and the paragraph on the Judges has several errors. The book discusses various parks that were created to preserve the traprock highlands and never mentions West Rock Park, the New Haven park that protected the southern end of the ridge back to the 1800s, and West Rock Ridge State Park, which was created in 1975 by the General Assembly. The state took ownership of West Rock Park in 1982 and purchased the Lake Wintergreen from the water company in 1984.
The book mentions that the Sleeping Giant Association “was the primary force behind the establishment of Sleeping Giant State Park.” It is important to mention that the West Rock Ridge Park Association was the primary force in the creation of the state park, thus saving the ridge.
With regard to the judges, on page 182 of the book, it mentions Judges Cave (misspelling it as Judge’s Cave), and writes “according to legend, three English magistrates John Dixwell, Edward Whalley, and William Goffe, sought refuge in the early 1660s.” As the plaque on the cave correctly states, only Whalley and Goffe hid out at the cave. The book correctly states that Goffe and Whalley later fled to Hadley, Mass., stating, “where Goffe reportedly lived the rest of his life in anonymous exile under the shadows of Mount Holyoke; the fate of the others is less certain, although gravestones bearing their initials suggest that all three were eventually interred in New Haven.”
Having read many articles and books on the judges, the historical record (not legend) clearly states that Dixwell moved to New Haven under the assumed name of John Davids, got married, had children, and is buried behind Center Church on the New Haven Green. Whalley and Goffe are believed to have died and were buried in Hadley. We have no conclusive evidence for where they are buried. I cannot imagine that someone would transport their bodies through 85 miles of wilderness, including crossing the Metacomet Ridge, just to bury them in New Haven.
These omission and errors aside, the book is well worth reading. I bought a copy and suggest others with an interest in traprock ridges do the same. The list price of $24.99 for this softcover-only book is very reasonable, given the fact that this is a full color book with many photos.
|West Rock Ridge frames the horizon as seen from South Mountain in Meriden,|
another trap rock ridge.
|Sleeping Giant's unmistakable trap rock profile is framed by West Rock Ridge,|
in this view from the trap rock ridge in Meriden called South Mountain.
Some of these titles may be available for purchase at Whitlock's Book Barn, 20 Sperry Road, Bethany. I purchased The Face of Connecticut and West Rock to the Barndoor Hills here in March 2015. Of course, the stock will vary over time. Whitlock's is well worth a visit after a visit to West Rock. Check the website for hours, as the store is not open every weekday.
Directions: Rt. 15 to Exit 59. Take Rt. 69 North for 4 miles. Left on Morris Road (look for the Whitlock's sign) and go 0.5 miles. Turn right on Sperry Road at the T-int. and turn IMMEDIATELY right by the white fence into Whitlocks. There are two barns on the property. The lower barn is the main location and where the cashier is located.
|The distinctive reddish rock face of West Rock can been seen in this view from an unmarked trail behind the Teal Trail near Westville.|
- The Geologic History of Connecticut's Bedrock is another history of geology book, published by the DEEP. It may be purchased for $9.95, plus $4.95 shipping and $0.95 tax, from the DEEP store at http://www.ctdeepstore.com/Geologic-History-of-Connecticuts-Bedrock-112.htm
- The DEEP Store is online only at http://www.ctdeepstore.com/main.sc and sells a broad range of books about the outdoors.
- A United States Geological Survey website on Connecticut's volcanic past has a brief mention of West Rock at the bottom of the page: http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/LivingWith/VolcanicPast/Places/volcanic_past_connecticut.html
- The Peabody Museum of Natural History has produced a unit on the geology of Connecticut, which discusses the tectonic and volcanic forces that created West Rock: http://peabody.yale.edu/sites/default/files/documents/education/Connecticut%20Geology%20Guide%2013OCT2011.pdf
- The Sleeping Giant Association has Guide to the Geology of the Sleeping Giant State Park on its website. This 89-page guide was written by David M. Sherwood, Department of Geology, Northern Arizona University. The report provides a geological history of the Sleeping Giant, which has the same history and discusses the same forces that created West Rock. The guide includes photos and a series of stations at Sleeping Giant to show specific examples of these features. The photos and descriptions can be used to identify similar features at West Rock. For those hiking at the Giant, the guide makes the outing a truly educational experience. Download a copy at http://www.sgpa.org/GeologyTrail.pdf.
- The Long Island Sound Study has identified West Rock as an area of Stewardship Area of ecological significance. Website: http://longislandsoundstudy.net/2012/09/west-rock-ridge/ A video discussing this significance may be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/user/LIShealth/videos.
- Stone Quarries and Beyond is the name of this website with an exhaustive list of links related to Connecticut geology and quarries: http://www.quarriesandbeyond.org/states/cn/connecticut.html#geology
- "Ancient 'Weapons Factory' Found on Connecticut Ridge" by Abram Katz is the title of a Dec. 30, 2005 National Geographic article in which archeologists discuss finding thousands of arrowheads on West Rock Ridge dating back to 4,800 years ago. The article does not discuss where the arrowheads were found, which is a good thing because souvenir hunters should not be digging up the ridge in search of them. Website: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/12/1229_051229_stonepoints.html
|West Rock Ridge frames the streets of New Haven|
in this view from the overlook at the "other" rock, East Rock Park.
Wintergreen Brook is one of two major tributaries of the West River, the other being the Sargent River. The Sargent River flows south through Lake Chamberlain and Glen Lake, east of Rt. 69 before emptying into the West River at Lake Dawson. The West River starts at Lake Bethany and flows south along the western side of West Rock, and includes Lake Watrous, Lake Dawson and Konolds Pond.
Wintergreen Brook flows south through West Rock along the park's eastern side. Belden Brook, Wilmot Brook and Farm Brook flow south to the east of West Rock. Farm Brook merges with Wilmot Brook just north of Rt. 15, while Wilmot Brook and Belden Brook join Wintergreen Brook near junction of Rts. 63 and 69 south of the park. Wintergreen Brook merges with the West River south of West Rock.
- The West River Watershed Management Plan Technical Memorandum #1: State of the Watershed is a report prepared for Save the Sound and the West River Watershed Coalition in cooperation with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The report from Feb. 2015 was researched and created by the engineering firm of Fuss and O'Neill of Manchester, Conn. The report discusses the entire watershed, including water quality, plants, and animals. Weblink: http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/water/watershed_management/wm_plans/west/westriver_techmemo1.pdf
The West River flows south of Lake Bethany, along Regional Water Authority property.
- Save the Sound is a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, an organization that works on conservation and ecology projects. Locally, the program replaced the tide gates on the West River and built a raised boardwalk at Edgewood Park, both in New Haven. Website: http://www.ctenvironment.org/
- The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has curriculum resources for teachers. This one discusses Wintergreen Brook and the geology of West Rock: http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1984/6/84.06.03.x.html
- Macchi Engineers LLC provides a brief overview of the Lake Wintergreen dam reconstruction in 1994. The project cost $1.2 million and restored the lake to its historic level: http://www.macchiengineers.com/index.php/projects/details/lake-wintergreen-dam/
- The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station conducted an aquatic plant survey of Lake Wintergreen in 2004. They found 10 aquatic plants, all native species. More information at http://www.ct.gov/caes/cwp/view.asp?a=2799&q=376210.
|Small waves crease the surface of Lake Wintergreen|
in this view from the Red-White Trail.
- This is the state's weblink to the Lake Wintergreen boat launch, which is about 200 feet from the parking lot: http://ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2686&q=384040&deepNav_GID=1620.
- This is the link to the Connecticut Boater's Guide: http://ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/boating/boating_guide/boaterguide.pdf. You can obtain a paper copy at any Town Clerk's office, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and at marinas.
|This dirt area is the boat launch at Lake Wintergreen.|
- A bathymetry map of Lake Wintergreen identifying the lake depths is located here: http://cteco.uconn.edu/map_catalog/maps/lake/bathymetry/Bathymetry_Lake_Wintergreen.pdf. Lake depths with an aerial photo are published here: http://cteco.uconn.edu/map_catalog/maps/lake/bathymetry/Bathymetry_With_Aerial_Lake_Wintergreen.pdf
|This is a low-resolution JPG copy of the Lake Wintergreen bathymetry map, showing the various lake depths. A higher quality PDF version is available from the website listed above.|
- If you are interested in seeing bathymetry maps of other lakes across the state, this is the general link to that page: http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/fishing/general_information/lakebathymetrymaps.pdf
- A National Geographic article on Indian artifacts: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/12/1229_051229_stonepoints.html
Links about West Rock paintings
- Frederic Edwin Church in 1848 painted a famous painting of the south face of West Rock, simply titled "West Rock, New Haven." The perspective is viewed today today from Amrhyn Field off Valley Road and Blake Street. The painting is on display at the New Britain Museum of American Art. Museum website: http://www.nbmaa.org/ and the direct link to a biography of Frederic Church, which includes an image of the West Rock painting: http://ink.nbmaa.org:8080/emuseum/view/objects/asitem/People$0040285/1?t:state:flow=fec4a7e0-2bb4-4a02-ac02-354e284e93ec
|This is the original painting "West Rock, New Haven" as it is displayed on a wall of the New Britain Museum of American Art. The museum permits non-flash photography. A close-up of the descriptive plaque is shown below.|
|This plaque at the New Britain Museum of American Art provides information about the painting, West Rock, New Haven. Low light conditions resulted in a fuzzy photo.|
- "Reading the Landscape: Geology and Ecology in the Nineteenth Century Landscape Paintings of Frederic E. Church" is the name of a teaching unit written by Stephen P. Broker, who is a science educator, and a member of the Board of Directors for the West Rock Ridge Park Association. The unit is published on the website of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, and takes an in-depth look at the painting "West Rock, New Haven." Website: http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/2001/2/01.02.01.x.html
- This painting can be viewed at this website: http://www.artrenewal.com/pages/artwork.php?artworkid=28481 or at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:West_Rock,_New_Haven_Frederic_Edwin_Church.jpg
- The New Haven Independent had an article about an exhibit of paintings of West Rock at the New Haven Museum with photos of the paintings: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/west_rock/#cmt
- The New Haven Museum exhibit led to publication of a book called New Haven's Sentinels: The Art and Science of East Rock and West Rock, written by Jelle Zeilinga de Boer with photos by John Wareham, published in 2013 by Wesleyan University Press. Preview the book at https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0819573752. Website: http://www.upne.com/0819573742.html
- "Great American Artists of the Past Fascinated by State 'Rocks'" is an article from the Connecticut Post newspaper that discusses the book New Haven's Sentinels. Weblink with images of the paintings: http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Great-American-artists-of-the-past-fascinated-by-4753611.php#photo-5023811.
- The New Haven Museum has a wealth of information about the city, which includes West Rock Ridge. Website: http://newhavenmuseum.org/
The Connecticut Historical Society has paintings, engravings and photographs of Judges Cave.
- Robert Wiseman painted this picture of Judges Cave between 1896 and 1902: www.cthistoryonline.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/cho/id/20029/rec/6
- Artist John Barber Warner created this 1831 sketch of Whalley and Goffe at the cave that he labeled "Souther View of the Judges Cave near New Haven": http://www.cthistoryonline.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/cho/id/358/rec/2
- Warner then used this sketch as the basis for a wood engraving of the same scene: http://www.cthistoryonline.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/cho/id/527/rec/4
John Barber Warner sketches Whalley and Goffe at Judges Cave.
Of course, he did this wood engraving 170 years after the judges were actually there.
- John Barber Warner in 1825 created a woodcut of the southern face of West Rock, as seen from roughly the modern Blake Street area. He called the painting Judges Cave, even though the cave cannot actually been seen from this perspective. The woodcut is shown below: http://www.cthistoryonline.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/cho/id/87/rec/5
John Barber Warner created this woodcut in 1825.
- This 1910 photo from the rear of the cave is credited to Filley: http://www.cthistoryonline.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/cho/id/4978/rec/1
- This 1912 photo by Lewis Mills Sprague of the cave shows an iron fence. The cement footings for the fence can still be seen at the cave when you visit it yourself: www.cthistoryonline.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/cho/id/18815/rec/3
Links for Articles About the Judges Cave
The links for the Judges or Regicides have grown so numerous, they may now be found on their own page on this website entitled "On the Trail of the Regicides".
- The New York Times published an article on Judges Cave on Aug. 16, 1914, entitled "Historic Judges Cave, Near New Haven, Is A Good Goal for Motorists." Note the iron fence around the cave: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9F0DEFD8133DE333A25755C1A96E9C946596D6CF
- An article with a historic 1900 photo of Judges Cave is found here: http://ctmonuments.net/2012/12/judges-cave-new-haven. The photo itself comes from the Library of Congress and may be found here: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/det1994014733/PP/ and here http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/det1994014734/PP/