Putnam River Trail
In the mood to go biking, I headed to Putnam smack dab in the ‘quiet corner’ of northeastern Connecticut to ride two of its river trails. But, what I found was more like ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.
The Putnam River Trail is a winding asphalt trail that gently dips in and out of riverside parks. While, the River Mills Heritage Trail – which overlaps the river trek in parts – highlights the area’s rustic history and lies in the busy heart of downtown.
I started off my ride by the dog park that sits at one end of the River Trail. The two-mile trek, follows the Quinebaug River and offers many scenic stops on the way. The path is a popular one with people who enjoy walking or relaxing by the water.
This is - by far - the quieter portion of the trail. You can’t escape the traffic that runs parallel to the path, but, with its frequent dips into light woodlands and adjacent grassy areas, you can forget about the noise for a little while.
That is, until you hit construction. The first bout is by the Pomfret Street bridge. The bridge, which leads to the impressive Cargill Falls Mill, is being overhauled. But, the view from the trail is still a dramatic one.
The historic mill looms in the backdrop of the river it once depended on. It functioned as a grist mill in 1730. And, in 1807, a cotton mill was built – making it the oldest such site in the nation.
Bypassing the bridge, I continued riding on the trail past the river’s crashing waterfall. The trail meanders through another riverside park and offers more quiet moments to watch the different species of waterfowl swimming here.
Nearing the end of this two-mile trek, my surroundings changed once again. Instead of nestled by trees, my ride took me past some more historic mills and into a street-riding climate. The path transitions over to the River Mills Heritage Trail, sharing the same space as the sidewalk that kept zipping traffic at bay.
This particular path took me over the river before looping back on the other side. Luckily, the trail is a little less congested here, especially when diverting into the park by Bridge Street - along the river’s edge.
I found taking this bridge and cutting back to the River Trail is your best bet. Construction on the other bridge will prevent you from taking the longer loop. Besides, the section of the Heritage Trail leading to the other crossover looks to be in disrepair and could lead to a nasty fall off the precipice there.
Once I made it over the bridge, I reconnected to the River Trail and headed back to the car. With every spin of the bike’s wheel, the noise and bustle of downtown Putnam began to slip away. This is the ride I came here to experience - the one I always imagined the ‘quiet corner’ would give.
Directions: Take I-395 North to exit 95. Turn right at the end of the ramp onto Kennedy Dr. The first parking lot is about a half-mile up the road on the left.
Trail Distance: 4 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy