Goff Brook from Mill Woods to the CT River
On a "balmy" Saturday morning in January, thirteen
adventurers met at the Eleanor Buck Wolf Nature Center
and set out to follow Goff Brook down to the river. Nature
Center Director Christopher Shepard, driving the Park
and Rec van, met us on Mill Street, after the first leg
through Mill Woods. We were out to see first hand what
kind of a wildlife corridor Goff Brook provides linking
Mill Woods in "upland" Wethersfield with the
Great Meadows down along the Connecticut River.
downstream of the town swimming area and ball field complex,
the group passed along the shore of Bell Pond where Goff
Brook pauses before plunging 15/20 feet over the dam spillway
and flows through a "cateract" below the magnificant
oak, maple and beech woods, down to the Maple Street culverts.
Mill Street and the Silas Deane Highway the "corridor"
narrows, passing between apartment buildings and business
parking lots. The group paused for a photo on the foot
bridge linking the parking lots.
quick shuttle in the van brought us safely to the East
side of Silas Deane Highway/Route 99 to resume our stream
walk, where deer scat in the grass below the Two Rivers
Bank parking lot gave evidence of nocturnal wildlife grazing.
Clearly, the main culvert under the highway would accommodate
a white tail deer, though a buck with a big rack might
have to duck. The frozen still water between between the
Two Rivers Bank and Puritan parking lots was the first
clue that other wildlife might be enjoying this stretch
of the Goff Brook habitat, including the area proposed
for the Hartford Hospital Medical Building parking lot
The question faced last spring by the Inland Wetlands
and Watercourses Commission, and now before the Army Corps
of Engineers is whether another 100 feet of Goff Brook
should be filled and paved up to the edge to make way
for a badly needed parking lot expansion, or whether the
present wetland area should be preserved and other more
responsible arrangements be made for our automobiles.
One such arrangement would be a parking garage that would
allow twice as many cars per acre of pavement.
excursion may not constitute a scientific study of the
value of Goff Brook as a wildlife corridor, but we sure
saw some eyepopping evidence. Check out the row of cottonwoods
laid down for winter food supply by very enterprising
beavers along Goff Brook just below the former Society
for Savings office building parking lot.
from the East side of the brook were two beaver dams with
successive drops of 15 to 20 inches each. Beaver dams
perform an important environmental function by settling
and filtering out pollutants like the road sand washing
off the highway and parking lots. Meanwhile the water
spills freely over the dam in a small rapid aerating the
water. Fish attempting to swim upstream to spawn can leap
over them. The cottonwood trunk downed across this dam
has been neatly pruned of all its small branches.
short ride in the van brought us onto Middletown Avenue,
under the I91 overpass where we paused to note the spillway
and remnants of the ice pond dam that once flooded a large
area now paved and filled for highways and parking lots.
In the late 19th and early 20th Century, industrial ice
harvesting flourished adjacent to the Valley Railroad
that once brought Wethersfield ice and produce to market,
and connected Comstock Ferre and Hart Seed Companies with
their customers and
their growers nationwide.
van took us south on Middletown Avenue, past the 1802
Hartford Turnpike marker...6 Miles to Hartford; 35 Miles
to Old Saybrooke. Last summer a Uconn grad student working
with Nick Bellantoni, the State archeologist and technicians
from the USDA, searched the area with ground penetrating
radar, looking for the brownstone horse watering trough
that used to stand at the foot of "rocky hill."
The student's thesis, combining the disciplines of geology,
fluvial morphology and archeology, was attempting, using
the high tech radar to predict the location of Native
American artifacts in the Great Meadows, based on the
shifting course of the Connecticut River as it has meandered
over the centuries. A ditch dug for an irrigation pipe
along the turf farm a decade ago is still the largest
Native American archeological dig ever completed in the
down Goff Brook Lane, past the MDC water treatment plant
brought our expedition into the Great Meadows where Goff
Brook melds with Beaver Brook and meanders south along
the railroad tracks and the old Rocky Hill town dump,
before heading out to join the river. The
group paused to note the Great Meadows Conservation Trust
logo nailed to a large tree marking one of the 46 properties
preserved by the Trust through out the Great Meadows.
this broad forrested wetland area, beaver have created
the conditions for Jim Zagroba, and the three eager beaver
middleschoolers he brought with him, to relive scenes
from his childhood. Jim, third generation Ferry Landing
resident and his friends, used to skate among the trees
along Goff Brook on cold winter's days when they were
large uprooted tree provided the base for this impressive
high rise beaver lodge. Sprinkled through the woods on
slightly higher ground are oak trees whose acorns provide
winter food for deer, turkey,
squirrel and other hungary wildlife, digging through the
snow. A half mile walk brought us downstream out of the
woods between two cornfields to the downed tree serving
as the base for the dam the beavers had engineered to
hold back so much water.
snacks getting thin, the van took us the long way around
on the Great Meadows Road where we rejoined Goff Brook
as it flowed through the culverts toward the freedom of
the great river.
meadows held one more surprise for the group...especially
those of us who remember just how cool a two tone '57
in the ice at the confluence of Goff Brook and the Connecticut
River were softballs, plastic bottles and one black and
white soccer ball floating high in the water. The deer
and the beaver signs we'd seen were evidence that Goff
Brook provided more than a oneway downstream ride for
these flotsam and jetsam of our suburban life.
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