Wet, Wet, Wet

If you’re ever in Hamden, Connecticut, and the temperature starts rising, you might wonder why there’s so much water nearby and nowhere to swim. You can’t swim in Lake Whitney because it’s part of the public water supply (and you might go over the dam) …


… and you can’t swim in the Mill River because, well, the State says so …


… and it would be unwise to swim in the New Haven harbor. So you have to get in your car and drive a ways, at least twenty minutes (though you can easily double that in the summer traffic of I-95). My mother and I explored several of these options while I was home this summer.

We started with Hammonasset State Park in Madison. This is, according to one state website, Connecticut’s “longest shoreline park.” In addition to a giant sandy beach, Hammonasset boasts a large marshy area …


… beautiful dune roses …


… and the Meigs Point Nature Center, where you can learn about local wildlife, lay your hands on sea creatures in the touch tank, and see fish like this somewhat-creepy skate up close and personal.


You can also walk an easy trail along a moraine, “a long east-west ridge of unsorted sediments” formed when the glacial ice receded somewhere between 17,000-20,000 years ago. In less geological language, this means that there are now boulders strewn all along the shoreline.


Someone has had a good time taking the smaller rocks and turning them into ephemeral art:


In a somewhat futile search for exciting tide pools, we next went over to the small but pretty beach in front of the Madison Beach Hotel.


We poked around the rocks for a little while, but we mostly spent time enjoying the hotel’s excellent beach chairs and brollies.


The next stop in our beach adventures was Silver Sands State Park in Milford. This beach is much quieter than Hammonasset, but not for long — they are building new walkways, changing facilities, and a concession stand. We were glad to be there before the works project finishes and the throngs start pouring in, because we had long stretches of sand almost entirely to ourselves.


Mom and I timed our visit for low tide in hopes of walking out over the causeway to Charles Island …


… but the tide didn’t cooperate, and a very polite ranger kept us from making a go at it. So we searched for shells …


… took silly photographs …


… and admired the seaweed-slicked rocks instead.


It’s worth noting that there aren’t many waves on the Connecticut beaches — Long Island stands between the entire state and that kind of fun. So you mostly find quiet stuff like this instead:

Silver Sands also has a lovely marshy area that you have to cross to get to and from the beach:


My favorite beach within striking distance of Hamden will always be Lake Quonnipaug in the town of Guilford. We used to go swimming and boating (canoes and kayaks, and later windsurfers) there when I was a kid. Be warned: they long ago took away all of the street parking, and the lot is crazy-expensive unless you’re a Guilford resident (or unless you are lucky enough to be traveling with someone who qualifies for a senior season pass). The beach itself is pretty tiny and crowded. But the lake … I’m a sucker for swimming in lakes.


The town also now has paddleboats and kayaks that you can take out for free! So Mom, Prescott and I all loaded ourselves into a paddleboat and headed out for an adventure.


We ended up paddling to an island and doing a little exploratory hiking.


I found flowers!


Back by the beach area, a couple of cormorants appear to have taken up permanent residence by the tiny pier.


And there’s one final bonus if you make your way out to Quonnipaug: they’ve added a cornhole game to the beach. So there’s no excuse not to have fun!


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