Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Good Things, Small Packages - Southford Falls State Park

         Southford Falls State Park, Oxford, CT

         State Park site                         Trail Map

There are over a hundred state parks in little Connecticut, and beyond Sleeping Giant, I’ve only been to a few – those with miles of trails on their own or where one of the blue-blazed trails passes through.  At 120 acres, Southford Falls is one of the smaller parks.

But I am a sucker for waterfalls, and when a photo group planned a shoot at Southford Falls, 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. 

The falls run on Eight Mile Brook as it flows from Lake Quassapaug to the Housatonic River.  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.

Eight Mile Brook as it rushes down from the falls under the Covered Bridge

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, Southford Falls is a great spot to spend half a day.  The Oxford 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 season…

1 Norman Litchfield and Sabina Connolly Hoyt PhD, History of the Town of Oxford, Connecticut, Oxford, CT 1960.


  1. Great report on the park. your pictures are fantastic. I will put this place on my list for the spring so i can hike it and then fish the trout park. 70 bucks to get your deer butchered is actually one heck of a deal.

  2. Greatly enjoyed your post. Unless you object, I've shared it on my state parks web magazine,

  3. Imagine that - a match company burning down?!! Looks like a great hike! Great pictures, too - how would this be for one of our winter hikes?

  4. great shots and documentary,Jim, Thanks for posting!! :p)

  5. Great post. I grew up in Connecticut and this post is making me homesick! Thanks.

    Dani @ ONNO Hemp Clothing

  6. i like your blogger nice blogger

  7. I love the pictures. Makes me want to come out and visit you from Colorado! I particularly love the covered bridge photo.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Well, now that I'm in Colorado, I might have to swing over and see you! Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Great blog...don't stop! Would love to see more on your adventures from this summer. :)

  9. Awesome park report, Nice pictures.
    Spring is almost here so Will be Hiking there, go fishing in the trout park.

  10. Hey, I had a great time reading your website. Do you have an email address that I can contact you on? Thank you and hope to hear from you soon.



  11. Always enhances the adventure when history and the historical structures are included. Great right up. for the weather, cool site.



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