From a water’s-eye view on the Niantic River, an unbroken swath of green rises majestically on East Lyme’s western bank that contrasts with the houses, marinas and nuclear power plants spread out on the eastern shore and beyond.
These are the Oswegatchie Hills, a 420-acre Nature Preserve that comprises one of the largest sections of open space along Connecticut’s highly developed shoreline.
The preserve’s views reward from land as well as from water. Officially opened in 2007, it includes more than 3 miles of trails that meander past an abandoned pink granite quarry, alongside ponds and streams and through dense forest. Along with the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area in Stonington, Bluff Point Coastal Reserve in Groton and Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme, the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve offers some of the best hiking with water views in southeastern Connecticut.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. next Saturday, Aug. 18, a group devoted to preserving the hills plans to stage its ninth annual Niantic River Appreciation Day Kayak Regatta, partly a parade, partly a race but mostly a celebration of efforts to keep the hills unspoiled. I hope to be there to support the cause and to enjoy a paddle among fellow kayaking enthusiasts.
The free event is sponsored by the organization Save the River-Save the Hills, which for nearly a decade has been fighting to block or limit a Middletown developer who has repeatedly applied to build a high-density housing complex in the hills adjacent to the preserve. I hope the preservationists win, because, as is sadly often repeated, once such treasured land is built upon it is forever devalued and defaced.
Save the River-Save the Hills also has sponsored programs on water quality testing, watershed education and a pumpout boat. More information about the group and Saturday’s event is available on the website SavetheRiver-SavetheHills.org.
Participants may launch their kayaks at 10 a.m. or earlier at Three Belles Marina, 113 Oswegatchie Hills Road, Niantic.
The parade starts at 10:15 in front of 47 Oswegatchie Road, followed by short races for different classes of boats at 1 p.m.
There will be music, food, a fire boat demonstration and a drawing for prizes.
Hope to see you there!