Its natural history
Its colonial history
Its more recent history
Its historic & biologic significance
Its fifth state
Its reach: the Connecticut River…
- is named after the Pequot word “quinetucket,” meaning long tidal river. The European corruption of that begat “Connecticut.”
- begins at Fourth Connecticut Lake, a small pond at an elevation of 2,670 feet, steps from Chartierville, Quebec.
- provides 70% of all the fresh water entering Long Island Sound.
- flows 410 miles from the Quebec-New Hampshire border to Long Island Sound at Old Lyme, Connecticut.
- is New England’s longest river running through four states–New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Rarities: the Connecticut River…
- hosts federally threatened and endangered species including the shortnose sturgeon, the piping plover, the puritan tiger beetle, dwarf wedgemussel, small whorled pogonia, Jesup’s milk-vetch and Northeastern bulrush.
Falls, dams, flows: the Connecticut River…
- is home to Moose Falls, Beecher Falls, Fifteen Mile Falls (buried beneath Moore Reservoir), McIndoe Falls, Bellows Falls, Turners Falls, South Hadley Falls and the Enfield Rapids.
- is dammed for the first time at Moose Falls in Pittsburg, NH, four miles from its source at the Canadian border.
- has over a thousand dams on its tributaries and 16 dams spanning its main stem, 12 of which are hydropower projects. The first full main stem barrier was built at Turners Falls in 1798.
- drains 11,000 square miles.
- is slowed by main stem dams which create a series of slow-flowing basins, or ponds of the river–from near the Canadian border, south to Holyoke, MA.
- has its largest falls at the Holyoke Dam, a vertical drop of 58 feet at a site commonly known as South Hadley Falls.
Curiosities: the Connecticut River…
- forms the eastern border of Vermont and western border of New Hampshire, but technically only flows in New Hamphire–which has legal claim to the riverbed all the way to the bank on the Vermont side.
- flows through Hartford, Vermont–and Hartford, Connecticut.
- flows through Springfield, Vermont–and Springfield, Massachusetts.
Natural history: the Connecticut River…
- basin was an early and important source for dinosaur tracks and fossil fish, most famously at Barton Cove in Gill, MA and Rocky Hill, CT.
- is one of the few large, developed rivers in the US without a port city at its mouth because shifting shoals at Long Island Sound make safe navigation by larger ships impossible.
- is tidal and navigable as far inland as Hartford, sixty miles from the Sound. Oil barges with shallow drafts regularly make the trip upstream to Hartford.
Colonial history: the Connecticut River…
- has its oldest city at Hartford, CT, settled in 1635; followed closely by Springfield, MA, in 1636.
- is home to the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry which began operation in 1655. It’s reported to be the nation’s oldest continuously operating ferry.
- in the mid-1660’s, saw the Iroquois Mohawk of today’s eastern New York and the Algonquian Pocumtuck of today’s Deerfield, MA, fight decisive battles near the confluence of the Deerfield and Connecticut Rivers; and a related battle just north near Hinsdale, NH, where the Mohawks engaged the Squakeags.
- witnessed the tragic engagement known as the Turners Falls Fight, or Turners Falls Massacre, in May of 1676, where several hundred Nipmuck, Pocumtuck, Wampanoag and Narragansett Indians (mainly women, children, and old men) were set upon in wigwams and slain by 150 colonial militiamen near the roaring falls, then known as Peskeomscutt, the “great falls.”
- saw the first European fort built on its upper valley shores in 1724. Fort Dummer near today’s Brattleboro VT in was built in 1724, followed by the Fort at Number 4 in today’s Charlestown NH in 1740. Both forts survived attacks shortly after construction.
More recent history: the Connecticut River…
- was spanned by its first bridge at Walpole, NH – Bellows Falls, VT, in 1785.
- is home to Thomas Cole’s famous “Oxbow”—a river loop which still exists as a cut-off meander at Northampton, MA. Cole’s 1836 painting, “View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm” (The Oxbow), hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
- flooded in February 1840, cutting Cole’s famous oxbow out of the river’s main downstream course.
- is spanned by the Cornish-Windsor Bridge–the longest covered bridge in the United States. Built in 1866, it’s the world’s longest two-span covered bridge.
- saw its last major log drive from the upper valley conclude at the sawmills of Bellows Falls in 1921.
Historic and biological significance: the Connecticut River…
- has bald eagles and peregrine falcons nesting along its shores. Falcons nest in the lower-river cities of Hartford and Springfield, as well as on Vermont and New Hampshire cliffs overlooking the river. Bald eagles nest at over a dozen river sites from Plainfield, NH to the Sound. Ospreys have also returned to the river—with nesting pairs bunched in the River’s lower reaches and a pair in Massachusetts.
- has witnessed corn being cultivated on its fertile bottomlands for over 1,000 years, from near its mouth to at least as far north as Springfield, Vermont.
- was explored by the Dutch captain, Adriaen Block in 1614. He sailed upstream past present-day Hartford, likely turning around below Enfield Rapids. Block reported on thousands of Native Americans residing in villages, from upstream of the River’s mouth into today’s Massachusetts.
- became part and parcel of the newly designated Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in 1991, the first watershed-wide refuge of its kind in the country.
- was designated one of just 14 American Heritage Rivers by President Clinton in 1998, due to its historic and cultural significance to the nation.
- became the first National Blueway, designated by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, in 2012 due to the collaboration of the over 40 partner organizations working in our watershed
- is home to twelve species of freshwater mussels. The dwarf wedgemussel is a federally endangered species. Eight of the other species are listed as either threatened, endangered, or of special concern in one or more states.
- is home to extensive and globally significant tidelands as recognized by both The Nature Conservancy (1993) and the Ramsar Convention (1994).
- features the least disturbed tideland area (36 river miles) of any large river in the Northeast.
- harbors federally rare and endangered species in those extensive tidal wetlands including the piping plover, the Puritan tiger beetle and the shortnose sturgeon.
- offers critical tidal resting and feeding habitat to migrating shorebirds, waterfowl and fish.
States in its watershed: the Connecticut River
- has five – not four – states in its watershed: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and a tiny sliver in Oxford County, Maine.