A New Loop Trail and More Spring Outdoors
Earth Day was April 22, and I had the opportunity to celebrate in style with a very enjoyable hike at West Thompson Lake — one of the six U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (USACOE) recreation areas within The Last green Valley National Heritage Corridor. It was a perfect, sunny and warm spring day with temperatures rising into the 60s as I and a group of fellow hikers started out from the boat ramp on the east side of the lake, north on the yellow trail to the Blain Road hiking bridge.
I was there to not only enjoy the exceptional natural resources that abound at West Thompson Lake, but to take part in the dedication of the new bridge that crosses over the Quinebaug River, creating a 4-mile loop hike around the lake. The bridge had been closed for about 10 years and was sorely missed by countless hikers who enjoy the area.
When I arrived at the boat launch and trailhead, I was greeted by park rangers with the USACOE. The Army Corps, along with TLGV and Thompson Trails, organized three groups to enjoy the property before meeting up at the new bridge. I joined the group hiking the yellow trail and another group launched their kayaks and paddled the lake north and up the Quinebaug River to the new hiking bridge. A third group of mountain bikers, led by QC NEMBA members, was peddling along the west side of the lake.
The yellow trail my group hiked traverses the east side of the lake and is an exceptional trail with little elevation and wonderful views of the lake. The park rangers have placed benches overlooking the lake and do an excellent job maintaining the trail. There are a few woods streams to cross, and the forest is mostly deciduous trees of oak, maple and hickory with a few white pines and hemlock.
When we arrived at the Blain Road hiking bridge there were already 50 plus people on hand representing the USACOE, Thompson Trails Committee, Town of Thompson and local folks there to take in the ceremony and celebrate Earth Day. The group of paddlers had already arrived from the West Thompson Lake boat launch and folks on mountain bikes arrived from the orange trail on the west side of the lake.
Members of our Congressional delegation, including U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal were on hand to help cut the ribbon and dedicate the new bridge. Edward Greenough, Park Manager of West Thompson Lake, ESACE New England District, served as master of ceremonies and Eric Pedersen, the Chief Operations Division of USACOE New England District, was on hand as well.
It was 10 years ago that the old Blain Road hiking bridge was determined to be unsafe and thus began a long process of raising money for a new bridge. Engineering students from UCONN helped with structural analysis, and the Thompson Trails Committee, Town of Thompson and USACOE kept up the effort to have a new bridge put in place. It became a reality with help from Courtney, Blumenthal and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy to secure the funding, and the bridge was installed this past winter. This team effort is to be commended and the bringing together of community groups, town leadership, and the federal government represented by the USACOE and elected officials made it happen. The new bridge is beautiful and will be enjoyed now by many who use the recreational resource at West Thompson Lake.
With the completion of the bridge visitors to West Thompson Lake can now enjoy a 4-mile loop hike that takes in lake views, open fields and forest trails. Hikers can start at the boat launch on the east side of the lake and hike the 4 mile loop counterclockwise by taking the yellow trail north to the Blain Road hiking bridge and then south on either the orange Ramsdell Woods trail or the yellow trail and Shoreline Road to the Overlook Shelter and then yellow trail below the dam and back to the boat launch. You can also start at the Overlook Shelter and hike the loop “clockwise” by starting on the orange Ramsdell Woods trail to the yellow trail and back. Either way, you’ll be in for an enjoyable hike.
There is a second loop trail also available at West Thompson Lake, an 8-mile loop on the orange and yellow trail that continues north from the Blain Road hiking bridge to Red Bridge Road. This loop takes in views of the Quinebaug River, farm fields and forest. Both of these trail loops offer plenty of hiking opportunities for those looking for an exceptional day in nature.
The hiking trail map for West Thompson Lake is available on the USACOE website. Note that the map is being updated and still indicates that the Blain Road hiking bridge was removed for safety reasons. Take it from me, the bridge is open for all to use. Here is a link to the trial map.
Here in The Last Green Valley, there is still almost two months of Spring Outdoors left for your enjoyment. TLGV and our partners have organized wonderful opportunities for you to get out and enjoy all we have here in the National Heritage Corridor. Here is a link to the updated list of opportunities. Remember to check back often since more hikes and events are being added on a weekly basis.
We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley with exceptional natural and cultural resources for us all to enjoy. The new Blain Road hiking bridge at West Thompson Lake is now open for your hiking and recreation pleasure. I hope you’ll join me and others as we continue to enjoy our hiking trails, care for them, and pass them on to the next generation to enjoy.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. He can be reached at 860-774-3300 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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