There are over a hundred state parks in little
But I am a sucker for waterfalls, and when a photo group planned a shoot at
, I had to check it out. The falls are a beautiful photo spot, but don’t stop there. The state park is a great place to spend some
time and wander around. Southford Falls
The falls run on Eight Mile Brook as it flows from
to the Lake Quassapaug . If you're mapping it out, be careful to avoid wrong turns from the naming convention used out here - this waterway is not to be confused
with Seven Mile Brook or Six Mile Brook that both flow into the Eight Mile, or
with Five Mile Brook and Four Mile Brook that flow into the Housatonic
south of the Eight Mile. Clear? OK, let’s move on. Housatonic River
The steep drop of the river, coupled with the narrow channel through the rock ledge, made this a good spot for water power in the 1800’s. Fabric mills, saw mills and grist mills were built along the banks. In 1855, a papermill was built on the falls. A second mill was built a little farther south, and a raceway from the falls brought steady supply of water there. Over time, the paper mill was expanded, and a dam was built for power generation – creating what is now Papermill Pond on the north side of the park. The Diamond Match Company bought the mill, and operated it producing cardboard until it burned around 19251.
|The Diamond Match Company papermill, with|
the falls at the right side of the page.
from History of the Town of Oxford, Connecticut, Litchfield and Hoyt, 1960
Looking around now, with the park and river and bridle trail, you might describe the area as peaceful, bucolic, serene, pastoral… But in the early 1900’s the river was heavily polluted, and the noise from the mills must have been deafening. After the mill burned, the property was sold and eventually given to the state. Finally, in the 1930’s, workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps removed remains of the mill buildings and cleared the way for the state park as it sits now.
I include that history lesson because (one) I just like history and know our state parks didn’t just appear out of thin air one day, and (two) you can explore around the falls and find remnants of foundations and the raceway, so now you know what the heck they are. You can get even more detail at the Oxford Historical Society or the town's Municipal History page.
The nearly two-mile long loop trail goes past the falls, across a covered bridge, along the river through a pine forest and over a short boardwalk on the river bank. And that’s just the first third of a mile.
|Picturesque covered bridge. It's good they put that sign up,|
otherwise we wouldn't know what that red thing was!
|Tree latched onto a boulder. Check the rock formations as you |
pass through the ledge channel.
Rockhounds - look for Collinsville Formation in the outcrop uphill from here
|Boardwalk along the river bank|
The trail continues around through the hardwood forest over ledge and marsh, with a spur that heads up to an observation tower. The trees have grown up as tall as the tower, so the view is only open toward the west. But it's fun to climb and have a look anyway.
|Reflecting pool above the falls|
If two miles isn’t enough of a hike for you, go around again and see what you missed the first time. Past the wetlands, the trail leads along the bank of Papermill Pond, a stocked and protected trout park. Next to the pond, there is a large picnic area and pavilion, and a big open grassy area.
With the waterfall and easy trail, trout pond and picnic area,
is a great spot to spend half a day. The Southford Falls and Southbury area is nice to drive around, too. Who knows what you’ll stumble on – if I hadn’t
driven by this sign, I’d never have known what to do with the deer this hunting
1 Norman Litchfield and Sabina Connolly Hoyt PhD, History of the Town of Oxford, Connecticut, Oxford, CT 1960.