A Dam To Fall For

Note: The "Way To Go" column has been discontinued. I started this column in iTowns to revisit some of my favorite places in the state's natural world I've been writing about since 1998. But over the years, I've included new places and shared the stories of my childhood and watching my own children growing up in the natural world. I thank you for coming along and accepting my invitation to explore these places on your own. My Friday "Nature" column will continue. So happy trails to you. Until we meet again on Fridays.

Over the years of writing my nature columns, I've gotten into a bad habit of describing the fantastic views across our state as "something you would see in Vermont or New Hampshire." And that really hasn't been fair to our state.

So head up to Barkhamsted and check out the view from Saville Dam. One looks out over the Barkhamsted Reservoir – formerly known as the East Branch of the Farmington River – and one will see a view like they were standing in, well, northwestern Connecticut.

I'm embarrassed to say that in my 44 years of living in Connecticut, I've visited the northwest corner of the state only a handful of times. During this visit, Saville and the reservoir weren't even my main objective. I had stopped at Enders Falls to take some pictures of the swollen waterfalls shortly after the remnants of tropical storm Lee passed through and was on my way to Peoples State Forest when my jaw dropped in amazement.

There in front of me was a castle with a drawbridge shrouded in a bit of ghostly fog on the edge of a huge lake. Ok, so it's the castle-like gatehouse for the Saville Dam and the lake is actually the eight-mile-long Barkhamsted Reservoir – the main water source for Hartford. I pulled into a parking area at the east end of the reservoir and looked out across the water into the hills of Massachusetts. This place must be incredible during peak foliage.

I walked across the dam – named after its chief engineer Caleb Mills Saville - as cars and trucks zoomed passed. I silently wondered why anyone would go so fast surrounded by all this natural splendor. On the western side is the most incredible dam spillway I've ever seen. Constructed in 1940, the spillway is made of large stones running from the edge of the reservoir under a granite bridge down to Lake McDonough.

On the opposite side of the road, a trail takes visitors through a deep patch of forest down to a rock garden along the bottom of the earthen dam. Visitors can walk along a loop road and get a sense of the work it took to create this dam looking up at the earthen impoundment. Off to the east a stream flows over a series of scenic waterfalls into the lake.

A walk along the south side of the top of the dam will give visitors a commanding view of the hills and Lake McDonough to the south. In the middle of the dam is a cool map of the area superimposed over a compass etched in a slab of granite showing the center of the state and Metropolitan District Commission's system of reservoirs. Churches, farms and houses of Barkhamsted Hollow were swallowed up when the dam was completed.

So from here on, no more comparisons to New Hampshire, Vermont or Maine. We have a beautiful state and her name is Connecticut.

The Saville Dam is located on Route 318 near the intersections of Route 219 and Route 181.


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2013 YEAR IN REVIEW
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