Although The Existence Of Pirate Treasure Is Questionable, Rocky Hill's Bulkley Park Is A Jewel

Peter Marteka
Contact ReporterThe Hartford Courant

It's a pretty good bet if you are searching for Captain Kidd's pirate treasure, you will find a reference to it in the histories of towns along the shores of Long Island Sound and up the Connecticut River.

There's the cursed Charles Island off the shores of Milford, where legend has it that Kidd buried treasure on his last journey in 1699. The Thimble Island chain has "Money Island," where more treasure was alleged to have been buried. Add Clinton's Coburn Island, Haddam's Thirty Mile Island and Gardiner's Island to the list of rumored booty sites and you have quite a treasure trail to follow.

The legends surrounding Scottish pirate William Kidd and his ship Adventure Galley made it as far north as Rocky Hill, where his scurvy band is believed to have buried treasure off a place on the Connecticut River known as "Tryon's Landing."

It's easy to imagine Kidd and his ship plying the waters of the Connecticut River as visitors stand high on a bluff in Rocky Hill's Bulkley Park. The 24-acre park along the abandoned Connecticut Valley Railroad has remained untouched for nearly a century, since Joseph E. Bulkley deeded it to the town with the simple instructions that "no trees be cut except those necessary to keep it in good condition."

About a mile of relative easy trails run through the park. There are some hilly expanses, but the trails are well-marked and easy to navigate. And except for a barge making its way up the river and the tops of nearby condominiums and houses, it's hard to believe you are in one of the most developed and populated parts of town.

"If you're looking for a short walk with views of the Connecticut River look no further," Ed "Rocky Hill Hiker" Chiucarello wrote in an e-mail to "Rocky Hillians" (apparently I am a guest Hillian). "It's a short hike, only a mile, but you can get your heart rate up since it is fairly hilly … It's a short walk, but it's a walk in the woods."

A side trail at the entrance takes visitors right to the abandoned railroad tracks and the banks of the river. I found myself exploring a rugged unmarked path to the river where dozens of chunks of quarried stone lined the banks. Each rock block was marked with drill and chisel holes from the time when they were quarried from a nearby quarry hole.

Thanks to the instructions not to remove trees, the oaks and beech trees in the park are huge. A trail leads past Unfortunate Pond and its abandoned car to a high bluff with views out across the river into the hills of Glastonbury, where white steeples poke out of the valley. Even seasonal views of the Connecticut River – while still splendid – are partially obscured by the giant trees.

Even though it's not part of the park, a walk along the rusted rails of the Connecticut Valley Railroad prompts thoughts of the hobo life. The old "Valley Road" once took passengers and freight south along the banks of the river from Hartford to the Fenwick section of Old Saybrook.

As for the treasure? According to Glenn E. White, who wrote "Folk Tales Of Connecticut," no treasure of Captain Kidd's and his band of pirates was ever found here.

"Or if it was, no one told of it," he wrote. "So perhaps gold, silver and beautiful jewels are still buried somewhere under the rocks off the Connecticut coast or among the many little islands and inlets of the lower Connecticut River."

The true treasure is this small untouched park along the old Valley Road.

Route 99 to Dividend Road just south of the intersection with Route 160. Take a left on Oak Hill Road and follow to the end. The park is on the left at the end of the road.

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