When fall arrives in the Lower Connecticut River Valley, water and sky are as frenzied and alive as ever. Learn more, plus our picks for the area’s best scenic route, photo op, fun for kids, and where to eat and shop.
By Yankee Magazine
Aug 13 2018
Lynde Point Light in Old Saybrook marks the entrance to the Connecticut River, whose lower stretch is among New England’s most scenic spots for wildlife-watching during fall migration season.Photo Credit : Carl Tremblay
Right through October, the river-veined core of Connecticutclings to a fall stage that can only be called … denial. Virginia creeper vines slithering up tree trunks are caramelized red; the river banks shine gold, signaling upland maples it is time they, too, relinquished their green. Yet water and sky are as frenzied and alive as ever. The Connecticut—New England’s mightiest river—gets a shot of saltwater from Long Island Sound as it nears the end of its 410-mile run, creating an estuarine environment that sees a flurry of wildlife activity in the fall. Book a riverboat cruise from East Haddam or Deep River and enjoy nature’s show, from ocean-bound baby shad leaping in silver streaks to a bald or golden eagle soaring overhead. Hundreds of winged species migrate through each fall, but the tree and barn swallows are an autumn phenomenon unto themselves: When nearly a million of these birds swirl in a funnel before plummeting en masse to roost among amber reeds, their flapping creates a vortex of energy you can actually feel.
The rush is magnified if you paddle into the melee in a kayak or canoe. Low to the water, which snaps so crystal clear after the first frost you can spy on the tens of thousands of blue crabs that march downriver just as foliage color peaks, you’re no longer an impartial observer. Old Lyme–based Black Hall Outfitters offers kayaking ecotours into the 500-plus pristine backwater acres of the Great Island salt marsh, where you can banish civilization from sight and immerse yourself in an autumn splendor that feels as if it could go on forever. —Kim Knox BeckiusLearn more in “Peak Perfection,” our guide to where to find peak foliage color in New England from mid-September until the end of October.
Scenic Route From Old Saybrook, take Route 154 north to Route 148 east straight to the Connecticut River: The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, in service since 1769, is there to catch you. ct.gov/dotPhoto Op Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam offers a lofty view of the Connecticut River and the fall colors that shimmer in its waters. ct.gov/deepRefueling Stop Call ahead, and Simon’s Marketplace in Chester will have your custom gourmet picnic (try house-roasted beef on a fresh-baked baguette) ready to tote on a boat or car ride. 860-526-8984Fun for Kids All ages will be enchanted by the Lilliputian architecture of the Wee Faerie Village, a seasonal art installation at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme. florencegriswoldmuseum.orgShopping Break Walkable, waterside Essex Village has clothiers, galleries (including the state’s oldest artists’ co-op), and the “goods and curiosities” of the Griswold Inn Store. essexct.com