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Natural Features: Geology, Geography, and Judges Cave

Due to a website problem, some of the photos from this page were deleted. I will restore them when I have time.

Natural Features: Geology, Geography, and Judges Cave
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 recreating the main portion of the Metacomet Ridge, which forms 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 magma to flow near the surface, but trapped under the existing sedimentary rocks, which was sandstone, forming a partial western wall in the Central Valley where it was later exposed due to erosion, in part from scraping by glaciers. This magma 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.

This close-up of the Bedrock Geological Map of Connecticut shows the portions of the Metacomet Ridge in Hamden, New Haven, and Bethany. West Rock Ridge is on the left, but extends underground to East Rock in Hamden and New Haven. Mount Carmel, better known as the Sleeping Giant, lies in an east-west direction in northern Hamden.
Links about Geology and Geography
Links to where electronic copies of books can be located are listed with each specific title. Some books may only be available as used copies and there are several online options available beyond the major booksellers. Alibris and Biblio are websites where independent booksellers (yes, they still exist), individuals, and anyone else who opens an account, sell books, along with movies and music. Websites: and . Another option for purchasing used books from independent booksellers is Abe Books. However, Abe Books is owned by Amazon, so any purchase from Abe Books helps enlarge the Amazon Empire. Website:

Two books listed here were written by James Dwight Dana (1813-1895), Professor of Geology and Natural History at Yale University from 1850-1892. Dana wrote many books, including Manual of Mineralogy and and A System of Mineralogy, which are available online. His last book was published shortly after his death. At 302 pages, it has the ironic title of The Geological Story Briefly Told. I am not providing any specific links because the focus of this page is geology as it directly relates to West Rock. These books may easily be found at
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:
  • 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, New Haven. This 68-page book may be downloaded for free from Google books at Click on "Read the eBook" on the left side of the page for various formatting options. The same scan may also be downloaded from This book is also available for purchase from various online retailers as a reprint of the original book. A good option for a reprint purchase is Abe Books at or Forgotten Books at This book focuses on the way in which various forces sculpted the geography of the New Haven region with a focus on glacial scraping and subsequent deposition. The book is quite readable with some technical explanations to support his theories, such as discussion of the angle of scrape marks left by the passing of glaciers. This book is excerpted from a larger volume titled Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. II. This explains why the first numbered page is 45 and is preceded by a map on page 44, which is not numbered. All 25 volumes from 1866 to 1930 may be downloaded from These books are collections of articles on various scientific topics, some of which relate directly to Connecticut, such as one article in Vol. II, which recorded wind speeds and directions in New Haven during that era.
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 136-page book may be downloaded from Google books at The Google scan has clear text and photos, but the fold out maps are NOT scanned. In the Archive version, the pages have the original yellow tint and the photos in the scans are fuzzy, but the fold out maps are scanned: This book is also available for purchase from various online retailers as a reprint of the original book. Note that reprinted books come with a disclaimer that fold out pages are not included and this book has several foldout maps.
As described in more detail below, the book Walks and Rides in Central Connecticut and Massachusetts by Chester R. Longwell and Edward S. Dana and published in 1932 is essentially an update of this book.

The first chapter of the book is a technical discussion of the volcanic activity that formed the trap rock ridges in the New Haven area. The article appears to be Dana providing his theory on how the trap rock ridges formed, apparently in reaction to an article written by a Professor Davis. Dana writes a preface to give some of the necessary background information needed to understand his explanation. This chapter is reproduced from The American Journal of Science, July to December, 1891, which may be read at this link: James Dwight and his son and Yale physics professor Edward S. Dana were the journal's editors.

West Rock and East Rock are well known due to their size and the fact that they both are homes to parks. Pine Rock and Mill Rock are likely to be less identifiable to most people.
Pine Rock, located in Hamden east of West Rock, has been extensively quarried, so the formation that Dana describes is probably half gone. The western half is the home to the former Hamden town dump and current transfer station. The northern portion has a neighborhood of homes off Pine Rock Avenue with High Top Circle being the principal street. A clear view of Pine Rock can be seen from the Red Trail midway up the climb to the South Overlook. There is an excellent view north where High Top Circle West meets High Top Circle East. Other than this view, which can easily be had in the car, there is no particular reason to walk through these streets as the closely-set houses block any view of the rock itself, the climb to the top from Pine Rock Road is VERY steep, and there is little shade. Given that the rock was partially quarried, I find it puzzling that they did not quarry it more to spare residents the chore of living on steep streets.
Mill Rock is located in Hamden west of East Rock and is bounded by Blake Road to the north and Mill Rock Road to the south. I have not come across any reference to Mill Rock being quarried. Deepwood Drive covers the eastern half of Mill Rock. Naturally, East Rock has the best view of Mill Rock
An interesting walk starts by parking at the Eli Whitney Museum, 915 Whitney Ave., Hamden, and crossing Whitney Avenue at the light and walking north to Armory Street. Take Armory Street about a block, turning right on Prospect Street, then left on Mill Rock Road. At the end, turn right on Newhall Street, then at the next street, turn right on Augur Street. At the second street, turn right on Farnsworth Street, then left on Blake Road. At the end, turn right on Whitney Avenue, then right on Deepwood Drive. Follow Deepwood Drive to the end, and come back the same way. Be cautious on Deepwood Drive because there are no sidewalks and there are some blind curves. Turn right on Whitney Avenue heading south, and cross at the light to return to the museum. Blake Road and Deepwood Drive have interesting homes surrounded by dense landscaping and large trees. Along the way, there are views of the rock formation. At the end of Deepwood Drive, partial views toward New Haven are visible between the houses.

From pages 41 to 120, the second portion of the book entitled "Walks and Drives" is written in clear and understandable language for the average person, giving them information about trips to explore and understand the geology of the region.
In 1893 "drive" refers to a horse and carriage. This portion of the book includes New Haven area features, including, East Rock, West Rock (pages 65-73), and the Sleeping Giant, but goes beyond New Haven to discuss such features as Savin Rock in West Haven, West Peak in Meriden, and the Saltonstall Ridge in North Branford.
In his descriptions, Dana uses several landmarks from 1891 that no longer exist, or had changed names. Some streets had different names and different arrangements in the 1890s, as street names in Westville that were the same as those in New Haven were changed after 1898 when Westville was absorbed into New Haven.
At the time this book was written, the city of New Haven had just started to create West Rock Park. The city built a footpath in 1891 from Rock Street to Judges Cave, and had started work on the road from Springside Avenue to Judges Cave. Rock Street describes the section of Springside Avenue between Hard Street and Blake Street, and according to old maps, Rock Street used to extend to a dead end shortly north of Hard Street, west of Springside Avenue. This is now the parking lot for the apartment complex located on Hard Street.

On page 65, he suggests going from the Westville Post Office (probably the one now on Fountain Street at the corner of Harrison Street) over to Pearl Street, which is now Blake Street, and then referred to following that road from Whalley Avenue (that section was then called Main Street) over to Fitch Street.
On page 67, he recommends going from Franklin Street by the Westville School House over to the Pearl Street bridge. Franklin Street is now called Harrison Street and once connected directly to Mechanic Street (now Valley Street). On pages 65 and 68, after crossing the bridge on Pearl Street, he discusses taking the first road by foot or the third road by carriage to access the "quarry road" leading to ridge.
Since the roads have changed so much since the 1890s, this can be translated into modern terms to walk through the parking lot of the Early Childhood Learning Center on Blake Street, cross the footbridge over the West River, and turn left to follow the Westville Feeder (with Blue-Yellow blazes) to Judges Cave.
On page 69, he suggests taking the footpath to "Judges' Notch". No official trail currently exists in this location. There is an old unblazed bridle path behind the houses on Rock Creek Road that leads to a notch in the ridge. This bridle path has no direct connection to any of the trails near Amrhyn Field, and is reached by taking the Westville Feeder to the unblazed path along the West River, and then through open woods to the bridle path. Following that bridle path and through the notch up the ridge brings a hiker just north of Judges Cave, but there is no trail up the notch, which is somewhat overgrown. It is best to just stick to the Westville Feeder. The descent down from Judges Cave as described on this page sounds like following the current Regicides Trail (Blue blazed) south from Judges Cave and at the South Overlook descending on the Red Trail.
On page 67, he says that a carriage road to the cave from the vicinity of the "Almshouse" has begun. The Almshouse or city poorhouse (later known as the Springside Home) was formerly located on Brookside Avenue, forming a T-intersection with Springside Avenue. He also refers to a footpath ascending the ridge north of "the Triangle," which is a pronged notch in the ridge that near Springside Avenue. No modern trail exists in this location. The current alternative is to climb the ridge on the Red Trail or follow the Red Trail north and ascend on the Green Trail. On page 69, he discussed a steep road from Lake Wintergreen to Dixwell Avenue. This most likely is Wilmot Street. He recommends crossing over Wintergreen Notch to go from Lake Wintergreen back to Westville. This sounds like crossing over the ridge by the current West Rock (Heroes Tunnel). 
On page 70, he says to go past the Pond Lily Paper Mill to access Buttress Dike and Buttress Peak. The factory was once located on the east side of Whalley Avenue at the junction with Amity Road and is now the location of a shopping center. The former Pond Lily Dam was torn down to allow the West River to flow freely. A dike in geological terms is rock that forced its way through existing rock. In the case of West Rock Ridge, this dike was a magma flow through a previous magma flow.

The book Walks and Rides in Central Connecticut and Massachusetts by Chester R. Longwell and Edward S. Dana and published in 1932 by the Tuttle, Morehouse, and Company, New Haven, is an update and extension of the book On the Four Rocks of the New Haven Region by James Dwight Dana. Longwell was a geology professor at Yale, and Dana, a Yale physics professor, was the son of James Dwight Dana.
This book gives an overview of the geology of central Connecticut and Massachusetts and suggested trips in these areas with a focus on New Haven County in Connecticut, and the Holyoke Range in Massachusetts. This is an interesting resource because it includes both general information about the area's geology with specific information about where to go to see these various features and what to look for when you get there.
There are a couple of challenges in reading this book. One is that many landmarks no longer exist; another is that he sometimes does not refer to roads by their specific name.
As one example, he writes, "The best route to West Rock by motor car is out Whalley Avenue to Blake Street and thence north to the road leading to Springside Farm. To go by trolley take the Whalley Avenue car to Westville Post Office, cross West River near the Geometric Tool Company's plant, and go through the little playground on the flat."
Translated into modern terms, he tells people to drive Whalley Avenue to Blake Street and then left on Springside Avenue toward the Westville Manor housing project on Springside Avenue at Brookside Avenue. When taking the bus, walk through the parking lot of the Early Childhood Learning Center at the corner of Blake Street and Valley Street.
West Rock is highlighted on pages 112 to 119 with essays having these titles: "To West Rock", "To Wintergreen Lake and Falls" and "To the Buttress Dike."
The "To West Rock" essay has excellent information about the view toward the rock face from Amrhyn Field and the nearby trails, plus a description of what to see at the South Overlook (called the South Summit) and Judges Cave. The essay says the rocks that formed Judges Cave were likely carried by glaciers from as far away as Meriden.
"To Wintergreen Lake and Falls" naturally describes information about both locations. Modern visitors are fortunate to have access to the lake property, because under its prior ownership by the New Haven Water Company, access was limited and was by permit only.
 "To the Buttress Dike" refers to a rock formation that was a second flow of lava, which protrudes from the front of the ridge, in the same sense as a flying buttress supports the wall of a Gothic cathedral, although certainly not in the same direction or shape. Buttress Dike is most easily seen from the Red Trail south of the spillway for Lake Wintergreen, looking up the slope toward the Red-White Trail.
A 1961 reprint of the book has a preface by Longwell in which he writes that an update to the book is desirable, but he was not living in the area any longer and it was not practical for him to write a update. He wrote, "Parts of the book are somewhat inadequate because of changes made by man during the 30-year interval."
The original book has a semi-soft red cover and the maps have trap rock areas shaded in red. The reprint is a green hardcover and these same trap rock areas are shaded in grey. This book is not available in an electronic edition and should be readily available as a used copy.
  • Papers on the Quaternary in New EnglandThe 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 As with other books, check the links at the top of this section to purchase a reprinted copy.

West Rock Ridge can be seen in the distance across New Haven Harbor in this view from the West Haven Boat Launch.
  • 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:
  • State Geological and Natural History Survey, Volume 2-6Bulletins 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 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
  • 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
My review of the book: The Face of Connecticut is an excellent overview of the geological forces that shaped Connecticut, which, in turn influenced how people used the land. As a result, we find farms in the flat, central part of Connecticut, and mills in the rocky highlands where they could use water power. Another example of how people used the land is the mining of trap rock ridges.
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.

At the bottom of this page are notes I recorded when I read the book. I highly recommend reading the original to truly understand the concepts discussed in it.
  • 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. However, there is really no need to purchase this book because 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.
  • An online version of the book is here:
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.
     This book is recommended reading for those interested in the traprock ridges that define central Connecticut.

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.

  • 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
"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:

Some of these used 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, and Walks and Rides in Central Connecticut in Massachusetts in March 2018. 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.

Links about Lake Wintergreen and Wintergreen Brook and the West River

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 an 89-page 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:
  • A 103 page report called the West River Watershed Management Plan dated Aug. 2015, also prepared by Fuss and O'Neill is available here:
  • The West River Watershed Coalition seeks to improve the health of the West River and is working on plans to develop trails along the river. The Westville Feeder parallels the West River. Website:

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:
Small waves crease the surface of Lake Wintergreen
in this view from the Red-White  Trail.
This dirt area is the boat launch at Lake Wintergreen.
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.

Links about West Rock paintings
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:
  • 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
  • The New Haven Museum has a wealth of information about the city, which includes West Rock Ridge. Website:
The Connecticut Historical Society has paintings, engravings and photographs of Judges Cave.
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 created this woodcut in 1825.
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".

A historic photo of Judges Cave in 1900, taken from the Library of Congress website at the link listed above.
West Rock Ridge is part of a much larger greenbelt in south central Connecticut. On the western side of the ridge is open space land owned by the South Central Regional Water Authority (RWA) and the town of Woodbridge, among others. Between Rt. 69 and West Rock there is is 3,753 acres of land. There is another 8,912 acres of protected open space nearby, but not adjacent to West Rock, in Hamden, Woodbridge and Bethany, plus the sliver of the Naugatuck State Forest, Mt. Sanford Block, extending into Cheshire.

On the eastern side of the ridge on Hill Street is land owned by the town of Hamden. Part of the open field and woods near Farm Brook Reservoir is 42 acres of Hamden land. On the east side of Hill Street is Laurel View County Club, a golf course owned by the town of Hamden, which is 161 acres.
These numbers were derived from online GIS maps for Woodbridge, Hamden, Bethany, and Cheshire.

These numbers exclude other open space in Cheshire, and the acreage for the Naugatuck Forest Eastern Block extending into Beacon Falls. Any errors in identifying and totaling these numbers are strictly mine.

Open Space Near West Rock

East of Rt. 69 (adjacent to West Rock)

RWA, including Lake Watrous, Lake Dawson
Darling House property
Konolds Pond: private
Town of Woodbridge
by Konolds Pond and athletic fields
City of New Haven land

RWA, including Lake Bethany

RWA, north of West Rock

Town-owned land by Farm Brook Reservoir
Laurel View Country Club

Open Space Contiguous to West Rock

Open Space Near West Rock

Between Rt. 63 and Rt. 69
Bethany: RWA including Lake Chamberlain
Woodbridge, RWA, including Glen Lake
Town of Woodbridge

West of Rt. 63
Bethany, RWA, west of Rt. 63
Naugatuck State Forest, Bethany
Woodbridge, RWA
Town of Woodbridge

Bethany Townwide
Bethany Conservation Commission
Bethany Land Trust

Sleeping Giant State Park
Brooksvale Park
Naugatuck Forest, Mt. Sanford Block
Regional Water Authority

Naugatuck State Forest

Open Space near West Rock

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.

Notes from The Face of Connecticut by Michael Bell

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:

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: Map choices included rolled and folded. I found no other source for purchasing this map. 
Specific West Rock references in the book are as follows:
  • On Page 25, there is a brief discussion of how West Rock and East Rock were formed by trap rock that cooled underground.
  • 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.
  • 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

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.

The distinctive reddish rock face of West Rock can been seen in this view from an unmarked trail behind the Teal Trail near Westville.

West Rock Ridge frames the streets of New Haven
in this view from the overlook at the "other" rock, East Rock Park.

This close-up view shows the dramatic sweep of the south end of West Rock Ridge behind Southern Conn. State Univ. in this picture taken from the overlook at East Rock Park. The view extends as far north as the "dip" under which the West Rock Tunnel is built.

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