Last month you read about two parks, Bartlett Arboretum and Harkness Memorial State Park, in guest posts here from Debbie at A Garden of Possibilities and Cyndy at Gardening Asylum. I continue the great parks in Connecticut series with a visit to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison.
Connecticut beach lovers have soaked up summer sun along the Long Island Sound shores of Hammonasset Beach since 1920. A visit there during off-season may be less warm, but just as charming.
Hammonasset’s shoreline and the shores of the nearby Hammonasset River were once inhabited by Native Americans who grew crops, fished, and hunted until they sold the land that is now Hammonasset Beach to colonists. Before becoming a state park, the area supported salt hay farming and porpoise fishing (porpoise were used as fertilizer and fin oil), and served as a rifle firing and ammunition testing range. (see Friends of Hammonasset for more history)
Today’s visitors to Hammonasset Beach State Park can still fish from the shore, but hunters seek only crabs, clams, and shells, and the only shooting is via the lens of a camera.
In spite of the Native American meaning of the word Hammonasset – where we dig holes in the ground – the park does not have cultivated garden areas. Instead it offers more than 400 natural beach and tidal wetland acres ripe for investigation, observation, and enjoyment.
Shoreline strolls may reveal a garden of shells.
A garden of seaweed, uncovered during low tide.
Or the silhouette of an ancient spirit that steadfastly keeps watch over water and tide.
Tidal wetlands covers just over 300 acres of the park. Over the course of a year it supports as many as 300 species of birds. The salt marsh and sand dunes also contain beach grass, cord grass, beach plum, and bayberry.
Hammonasset claims to have the largest tidal wetland in the state, and it’s accessibility makes it easy for all to study and admire.
Visit Hammonasset for a beautiful winter stroll along more than two miles of beach or along the parks many boardwalks and paved or dirt trails along the tidal wetland.