Since childhood, my love of the outdoors has always been a part of me. And as an adult, I hope to share that passion with my own children.
So, I offered this challenge to my family, to join me in exploring the hidden treasures and more popular gems Connecticut and the surrounding region have to offer. From hiking to biking to kayaking, I hope my window into the outside world inspires you to explore as well.
Turtle Creek Preserve
During the height of the fall season, Connecticut’s peaks and valleys are often quite stunning. But, a visit to the Connecticut River can be just as gratifying for hikers looking for a quieter spot by the water.
Turtle Creek on the Essex-Old Saybrook line is one such place.
Run by the Nature Conservancy, the 93-acre preserve maintains a loop trail with some additional pathways through a wooded grove that leads to a cove along the river.
Leaving from the parking area tucked off a secondary road, the hike begins easily enough.
Dogs are not allowed here, so I left the boys at home. But, I quickly found out it’s a rule that’s largely ignored - after running into several pet owners during my morning jaunt.
The wide trail - covered in dirt and mulch - cuts through the stands of hemlock, oak and beech that grow here. And, it wasn’t long before I found myself on the banks of South Cove via a little spur path allowing me access to the water.
The view on the river is expansive with the colors of autumn dancing in the glimmer of the sun. The tide was a bit low exposing the rich, dark sand – and flocks of water fowl dotting the water and skies above.
With so much more to explore, I headed back into the thicket of tree. As I headed past what’s known as Hayden Point, I could see an isolated home peering through the foliage. Ironically, this touch of suburbia doesn’t pierce the otherworldly feel of the preserve and it didn't wear away as I approached my next spot along the waterfront.
An expanse of beach greeted me where the Turtle Creek flows into the river. This estuary which is home to wild rice and eel grass is important to the brackish tidal marshes vital to this fragile environment.
In addition to its importance, this pocket of land is beautiful as well. Passing boats and the haunting horn of the Essex Steam Train adds to the allure.
After wandering on the beach for a bit, I headed back on the trail – traveling on higher ground, but close to the marshy creek below.
My hike took me back to my starting point, but I wasn’t yet finished. I wanted to check out Deitsch’s Pond – so I trekked on a secondary, unmarked trail to the spot located in the southeastern corner of the preserve. The pond is supposed to be a great place to see basking turtles – although I didn’t spot any on this day.
Back in the day, the pond is said to have been used in ice production. Now, it sits as a quaint, picturesque scene straight out of a postcard. Its broken dam which allows water to spill over into the creek below provides an additional touch.
Quite a nice finish to my riverside trip - packed with all the nuggets necessary for a peaceful hike in the woods.
Directions: Take Rt. 9 to exit 2 for CT-154/Middlesex Turnpike towards Old Saybrook. Turn left on CT-154 N/Middlesex Turnpike. Turn right onto Watrous Point Rd. Parking is on the left.
Trail Distance: 2 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy