My earliest experiences in nature were in the Niantic River region of Eastern Connecticut, in a little town aptly named Niantic. The town’s slogan is “Niantic by the Atlantic” because it sits at the mouth of the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. For nearly 28 years my family lived in a small neighborhood in an area called Saunders Point, sometimes known as Oswegatchie Hills because of the area’s rich Native American history. It is also known for the abundant arrowheads, village ruins and old burial sites.
When I was young, I found remains of several dwellings in the form of ground caves, huts, and teepees. But the place I spent the most time in was the quarry.
For years, this quarry was hidden by thick laurel bushes. It seemed as if my friends and I were the only ones who knew about it. Today, it’s a portion of a new trail system being preserved by the community.
The Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve
I have hiked through this region thousands of times, but hiking it this time, with marked trails to follow, was very refreshing. There is wildlife all around these woods, beautiful birds and many small critters, but the best thing about this trail system are the surrounding lakes, rivers, and ponds. The trails lay between quiet residential areas and beautiful waterways. The trails are wonderful year-round, but make sure to wear proper foot gear during wet seasons.
Most of the trails are rocky, but that is part of the charm. Make sure to keep a look out for rare wild orchids like the one in this photo. They are often just a few feet away from the trail. Please admire these rare jewels in their natural surroundings or in the photos you take. They are one of several endangered species living on this preserve.
Mountain bikers use these trails, too, so stay alert and keep the trail clear. I recommend having lunch at the quarry, but make sure to pack out everything you packed in. Also, for adventurous hikers and experienced swimmers there are some great river jump-in points along the Niantic River’s edge, on trails farther from the trailhead. Bring a suit and towel in the heat of the summer and explore outside the map’s edges.
Here is the most recent trail map for this area, and some photos from our hike. Oswegatchie Hills Trail Guide 2011
Saunder’s Point, CT, is located in Niantic, CT, approximately in the location shown on this map.