Thursday, September 15, 2016
Derby/Shelton...One Town Or Two? More of Connecticut
Derby is proud to tell you that they are the smallest "city" in Connecticut. With just under 13,000 people, they may be right. It's also been ranked as an All American City back in 2000. It sits on the Naugatuck River which separates it from the town of Shelton. To look at these two cities, you would think that they were all one big city. But just as in the case of Budapest or Buda and Pest, they wish to keep their separate identities. I respect that. I love that Derby has it's Derby Day and Shelton has it's Shelton Day. However, for the tourist, it's a single venue. If you go to visit one, you will visit both. Because of the streets and bridges, you might visit one of them entirely involuntarily.
I chose the obvious, which was to visit them both at the same time. In my quest to visit the state parks, I realized that they each have one, along with the fact that they share a riverfront and it's filled with parks and greenways. What I found was something spectacular.
Derby/Shelton sits along Route 8, the major thoroughfare for the western part of Connecticut. They are cities with a small town feel. Kids wander the streets without their parents and ride their bikes to the parks. Public transportation is area, not city provided in the bus system; however Metro North does stop there with one combined stop for Derby/Shelton. One thing I can tell you is that the people of this area spend their time along the Naugatuck River; the entity that divides them. They work, live and play on the river. It is lined with parks, walks, houses, and even the rowing house for Yale University.
My visit started at Indian Well State Park in Shelton. I'd heard about the waterfall. What I hadn't heard about was this gorgeous park next to the railroad along the river with a boat launch, pavilions, beautiful beaches and a huge bath house to change your clothes in. There is nothing that isn't scenic about this place. I came down Route 34 to get there that day, so I came down the opposite side of the river and saw it from across the way. I thought that there must be another state park in the vicinity, because I couldn't imagine that this park was the one that I read about where people only talked about a waterfall. The park is outstanding for a waterfront park. The beaches are gorgeous, even though there will be no lifeguards for the foreseeable future thanks to cutbacks here in the state. Ironically, the one thing that I did not see was a waterfall.
So I took in the view for a while and consulted Google. They told me that the trail to the waterfall was directly across from the parking area. There were several parking areas, but I was parked in the biggest one and there was a trail across the street. I grabbed my things and took off to where the trail was. It was called the Pawgusset Trail and it ran right up the hill on the other side of the street. It was marked, which Google said it was not, but I thought I would try it anyway. It was the only trail I could find.
I found a lot of things along that trail. I found three housing additions, a construction site, a sign telling me that I was on the trail to the well that feeds the waterfall. I even found some random birdhouses in the woods. I found some unusual trail markers. I found other people looking for the waterfall. I saw squirrels, and chipmunks, and a relatively unhappy ground hog. What I and no one else could find, was a waterfall. I followed every trail I could find to no avail. Then, on my way down, I saw a man with watershoes on. I asked him, and it turned out that he'd lived there his whole life. He told me that the trail to the waterfall was across the street from a parking area down the road from the park.
I did what the nice man said, and there it was. With a sign at the beginning of the trail warning you not to climb on or jump off of the rocks; I knew I'd found the right spot. Sure enough, I followed a trail lined with beautiful wildflowers for a little over a quarter of a mile and I found the falls at Indian Well. Of course, Connecticut is having a huge drought, so there was little to no water, but I found it and that's all that counts. Now that I know where it is, I can see how beautiful it must be when there's water, so I will be back.
The next stop for me was the middle of the two towns and the river. The Naugatuck River Greenway is the centerpiece of Derby/Shelton. Most of the greenway is in Derby. The great thing about this place is that it offers such a variety of scenery. You never know what you'll find. There are all kinds of bridges to see and walk on. You even walk right under Route 8. You also walk both over and under the railroad. You can sit and watch trains go by, enjoy the wildlife, check out the scenic vistas, and get some exercise all at the same time. The main walk is just around three miles, and it's worth taking the walk. It's urban scenery at it's finest.
I'd walked many miles that day, but I had one last state park to check out. Osbornedale State Park is in Derby. It's a scenic park with meadows running up the hills and a great little lake. There's a pavilion for picnicking, and there's a sign that says you can swim. I didn't really see a beach, but I didn't take the time to look around a lot either it was getting late and I had to get home. It was a beautiful little park and right up the road are the Osborne Museum and a wildlife sanctuary to go with it. Delightful properties and some beautiful places to spend some time.
One thing that Osbornedale seemed to come with was a gaggle of Canadian Geese that were very tame and friendly. They posed very well for me to play with my camera. They work for corn, which is a pretty good deal.
So, the wonders of Derby/Shelton are all around, but I promise you that they all center around the river. It's a quiet community with a ton of restaurants serving all kinds of food. There are a lot of little stores instead of chains, although the Home Depot is visible from the greenway. It's an area of hidden treasures and great parks. Although it sits right on one of the busier roads in Connecticut, it seems as though you are a million miles away from the hustle and bustle. It's small town life in a world that is no longer living small town life. It's like a step back in time, but yet with a modern flair. The wonders of Derby/ Shelton are fun and relaxing, all at the same time. So come and see the smallest city in Connecticut and it's partner and check out life along the river and enjoy!