Monday, July 12, 2010

A Chief's Waterfall Beckons On A Hot Day

10:26 a.m. EDT, July 11, 2010

When it is fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot, there is no word in the natural world better than waterfall.

The word brings up images of a shaded dell with huge hemlocks growing around a small stream twisting through the forest before meeting an rocky overhang and then plunging to the earth as a cool, misty spray wafts through the sunlight breaking through the forest canopy.

Ironically, that describes Woodbury's Nonnewaug Falls. And like anything magical, you must take a little journey to reach your reward. From a parking area off Hickory Lane, visitors pass farm fields and cross the Nonnewaug River. Then it's a steep climb through a deciduous forest, under transmission lines and past more farm fields until the entrance to the falls – like a dark tunnel – stands before you.

And generations of people – from Native American Indians to visitors arriving on horses and buggies - have visited these picturesque falls. A trail through the hemlocks takes visitors along the northern slope of the upper and lower falls – now protected by the town and Bethlehem Land Trust. At different points visitors can get a closer look at the falls. For those who don't mind getting their feet wet, a trip along the stream's mossy banks will reward them with the spray from the falls as it plunges into huge, deep pools.

The falls are named after one of the last chiefs of the Nonnewaug tribe who was buried nearby. A plaque on the southern side of the upper falls keeps the chief's memory alive. The plaque was placed there in 1916 by members of the Nonnewaug tribe of Seymour. It reads: "To the memory of Nonnewaug last chief of his tribe, friend of his white neighbors, who sleeps with his fathers near these falls which bear his name."

The falls are fed by a clear, gentle stream – the East Nonnewaug River - that cut channels into the rocky ledges. Moss covers the rock outcroppings, the gnarled and twisted roots of the hemlocks and the boulders in the stream. It's always fun to walk upstream and view this tranquil, gently flowing waterway that turns into a huge cascade below.

"Viewed as a whole," wrote William Cothren in his "History of Anciety Woodbury," published in 1854, "it is as wild and romantic a place as can anywhere be found in our country." Especially when eggs are frying on the sidewalk.

Take I-84 to exit 17 to Route 63 north. Take Route 6 west and then Route 61 north. Take Nonnewaug Road and follow to Hickory Lane. The trail head is straight ahead at the end of a dirt road blocked by an iron gate. Follow the trail and look for the path on the far right at the fork.,0,3431858.story

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