NAUGATUCK STATE FOREST
Naugatuck State Forest covers almost 5,000 acres and is spread across Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, Oxford, Bethany, Hamden, Cheshire, Ansonia, and Seymour. It is organized into five Blocks, named West, East, Mt. Sanford, Quillinan Reservoir, and Great Hill.
The Forest originated with Harris Whittemore, an industrialist and member of the State Forest and Park Commission. In 1921, Mr. Whittemore began buying parcels of land in the Naugatuck Valley, intending to donate them to the State. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to realize his dream, but after his death in 1928, his family continued to acquire land, and in 1931, almost 2,000 acres were donated in his memory.
The Forest is managed for sawtimber, firewood, wildlife habitat, and recreational activities such as hiking, hunting, mountain biking, bird-watching, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.
Naugatuck State Forest, located in Connecticut, has a rich history that dates back several centuries. Here is an overview of its historical significance and development:
1. Native American Presence: The land encompassing Naugatuck State Forest was traditionally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Paugussett and the Wepawaug, who used the area for hunting and gathering. Evidence of their presence can still be found in the form of Native American artifacts and tools.
2. Colonial Era: During the 17th and 18th centuries, European settlers arrived in the region, and the forests were utilized for timber, farming, and other natural resources. As Connecticut's population grew, the area experienced significant deforestation, leading to concerns about the destruction of the natural environment.
3. Conservation Efforts: In the early 20th century, the state of Connecticut recognized the importance of protecting its dwindling forested areas. In 1921, the state began acquiring land for conservation purposes, eventually establishing Naugatuck State Forest in 1931. The initial purchase of land focused on restoring the forested landscape and preserving the natural resources of the Naugatuck River Valley.
4. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): The establishment of Naugatuck State Forest coincided with the Great Depression, during which the federal government initiated various work relief programs. One such program was the CCC, which operated from 1933 to 1942 and employed young men to carry out conservation work. In Naugatuck State Forest, CCC Camp Co.169 was established, and its enrollees constructed forest roads, bridges, and recreational facilities. The CCC's efforts greatly contributed to the development and accessibility of the forest.
5. Recreational Development: Over the years, recreational opportunities within Naugatuck State Forest have expanded. In the 1930s, a campground and picnic areas were developed for public use. Today, visitors can enjoy activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Various trails, including the Naugatuck Trail and the Quillinan Reservoir Loop, offer scenic views and opportunities to explore the forest's diverse wildlife.
6. Forest Fire and Disaster: In 1946, a devastating fire known as the Great Hill Disaster swept through Naugatuck State Forest and surrounding areas, destroying over 16,000 acres of land. The fire was caused by a cigarette flicked from a passing car, and the dry conditions and strong winds fueled its rapid spread. This disaster prompted further efforts to protect and manage the forest more effectively to prevent future devastating fires.
Naugatuck State Forest covers approximately 4,000 acres and serves as an important natural area for wildlife conservation, outdoor recreation, and environmental education. It continues to be managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to ensure its preservation for future generations.
Connecticut has made state parks, forests, trails, historic sites and beaches more accessible to our residents so they can enjoy the many attractions and beauty they offer. Under the Passport to the Parks program, parking fees are now eliminated at Connecticut State Parks for those with Connecticut registered vehicles. You can view the CONNECTICUT PASSPORT TO THE PARKS
web page to learn more.