Programs and Events

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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.

Just 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.

Between 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.

A 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 expansion area.

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 environmentally 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.

Our 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.

Visible 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.

A 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.

The 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 state.

Turning 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.

In 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 kids.

A 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.

With 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.

 

 

 

The meadows held one more surprise for the group...especially those of us who remember just how cool a two tone '57 Chevy was.

 

 

 

 

Frozen 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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Great Meadows Conservation Trust
P.O. Box 171
Glastonbury, CT 06033

Send inquiries to:
info@gmct.org