Friday, May 22, 2009

Stone Castle, Hidden Tunnel, River

The Hadlyme ferry takes vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians across the Connecticut River for a small fee. The ride on the chugging boat to enjoy the cool breezes and panoramic views are well worth the cost. ($3 for vehicles; $1 for walkers.)

A ferry has been on site since 1769 and was often used throughout the Revolutionary War to transport needed supplies across the river.

Back then, it was pushed across the river using long poles. A steam-powered barge began to serve the ferry crossing in 1879. Since 1917, the ferry has been operated by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and provides a direct link between Chester and Hadlyme at Route 148.

Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam includes that high-above-the-river stone castle that can be viewed while aboard the ferry crossing over to the east. The odd stone castle is the centerpiece of a state park, open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission to the grounds is free; to tour inside the castle requires a fee.

Don't miss the somewhat hidden train tunnel on the grounds. William Gillette, the actor who once owned the castle and land, had a working railroad that skirted the river and ran along a loop on the grounds, passing through a hillside through a tunnel. Walker can still enjoy the loop walks.

Be forewarned to use tick preventatives (spray, wear long pants, tuck in the pants, wear light-colored clothing, and be sure to triple-check for ticks later in the evening.) Deer are quite bold on the property and there is a tick population, especially on deer pathways.

Three riverfront public camps along the Connecticut River offer more scenic opportunities at Hurd, Gillette Castle and Selden Neck State Parks, managed by the Department of Environmental Protection. Campsites are available from May 1 through September 30 for overnight stops by those traveling on the river.