Asbury Park Press
Chutes & Ladders
April 22, 2007
Spring showers lead to enticing waterfalls in
By Patricia Harris and David Lyon, Correspondents
Waterfalls large and small dot the Connecticut hill
country, where fractured bedrock creates some of the most abrupt
changes in altitude in New England. The Connecticut falls may
lack the thunderous melodrama of Niagara, but familiarity hardly
"People around here really look forward to the spring and enjoy
checking out the falls," says Mindy Fitting of Lakeville. "A winter
heavy with snow and a good spring rain makes a great falls."
The greatest concentration lies in the mountains near the
Massachusetts and New York boundaries, including the highest
waterfall in Connecticut, Kent Falls. Pull into the parking lot on
Route 7, four miles north of Kent, and you'll see a covered bridge.
A few hundred yards away, the lower section of the 200-foot falls
spills off the hillside over rippled slate and marble ledges. Talk
about instant gratification.
Many people snap a picture, then settle in with a picnic by Falls
Brook or in the grassy meadow. But you can get a good aerobic
workout ascending to the upper falls on the stepped trail, an
amenity originally created in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation
"I like to go up there with my dogs," says Sal Lilienthal of Kent.
"It's a nice 20 minutes up the trail."
The walkway ends in a hemlock glade with an overlook on the upper
falls — a single vigorous chute that whooshes through a rocky cleft,
splashes onto a ledge 30 feet below and then crashes again to a deep
"In the spring, there's so much water that the falls really roar,"
A feel-good tonic
Anticipation is the name of the game at Reed Brook falls in Dean's
Ravine, about two miles east of Lime Rock off Route 7. A
blue-blazed trail through the hemlock forest follows the rushing
brook as it gains momentum to get a running start for the leap into
thin air. The trail suddenly leaves the brook at the cataract of a
small cliff, continuing into the woods to a hairpin that doubles
back along the ravine's steep slope to the base of the 50-foot
The wide cascade explodes from between two big boulders and crashes
down an almost regular series of stone steps. Split right and left
by blocky boulders, the flow converges for another short drop before
continuing downstream. The base of the falls remains almost
undisturbed — a clump of tumbled marble stones and recent deadfall
Waterfalls are a bit like puppies — they make people smile. The air
around each chute, cataract or burbling cascade becomes a feel-good
tonic. There's even a scientific explanation: like lightning and
ocean waves, waterfalls fill the surrounding air with negatively
charged ions. Through some quirk of evolution, our brains respond to
these conditions by dropping serotonin levels, leaving us feeling
calm and at peace.
Prime trout season
Connecticut's practical mechanics and industrialists couldn't resist
putting some of the hill-town falls to work by constructing small
blast furnaces to smelt the iron ore discovered in Salisbury in the
1730s. At Macedonia Brook, two miles west of Kent off Route 341, you
can hike down to the picturesque stone ruins of an 1823 blast
furnace at the end of a quarter-mile cascade. If you decide to
simply walk along the country road beside the burbling rapids,
you'll probably encounter a few people fly-fishing for wild trout.
Waterfall season also is the best trout season.
Time and overgrowth almost have swallowed the remains of the 1826
furnace at Bull's Bridge on the Housatonic River, south of Kent
village on Route 7. But Tony Hernandez, who works at the Fife 'n
Drum lodging in town, sends guests to the spot for the easy hike
down to the bottom of the gorge.
"You go through the little covered bridge and park," he explains.
"The trail is narrow, but it goes right down to the base of the
falls. It's very dramatic."
The natural falls, with its water-scoured potholes in the rocks
below, are higher than ever, thanks to a modern concrete
Sixty-foot Campbell Falls, in a small state park north of Norfolk,
is one of the best falls for a picnic, even though you have to lug
your movable feast for 15 to 20 minutes down a pine-needle strewn
trail that crosses four rather decayed wooden footbridges. Many
purple trilliums grow along the trail; this member of the lily
family is considered an endangered species in nearby New York.
The final stretch of the trail begins at a granite marker denoting
the Connecticut-Massachusetts state line.
It descends the northeast wall of a small gorge where densely
knotted tree roots provide most of the footing. From the bottom of
the gorge, the Whiting River seems to burst out of the woods,
roaring two-thirds of the way down the embankment to splash into a
large, frothing pool.
As if it's gained a second wind, the river bubbles over and splashes
another 20 feet before it bottoms out as a placid stream wending its
way through the hills to join the Housatonic.
"The falls themselves are actually in Massachusetts," says park
manager Richard Miska. "At the bottom of the falls, the brook flows
Spread your lunch on the large, flat boulder of mica schist at the
base of the falls. Don't worry about the occasional spray — just
think of all those soothing negative ions.