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From Swimming Holes to Waterfalls, Connecticut Offers Wonderful Ways To While Away a Late Summer's Day

HARTFORD -- August 3, 2005 -- However appealing, swimming pools vary little from place to place. Contrast this with a splash in a quiet pond dappled with sunlight filtered through leafy trees, or the gasp of breath when first encountering a deep pool in a fast-running, rocky stream, or the way the tide, hour by hour redefines the beach, leaving little treasures - some still wriggling - in its wake. Or a waterfall plunging through a rocky gorge or gently undulating over mossy hillside rocks.

These are some of the essential ingredients of summer, the season when everyone becomes a kid again, when what matters most is reconnecting with nature and rejuvenating the body and spirit. Cooling off is good but nothing takes the place of the "good ol' American swimming hole" and its close relatives the pond, lake, stream and seashore and Connecticut has them to spare - each one offering a unique and memorable enjoyment. So what could be better than booking a cozy B&B, country inn or convenient hotel or motel, spending the weekend at the beach or lake or tubing down the river, with plenty of outstanding meals in area restaurants along the way?

For starters, there are over 20 Connecticut state parks and forests as well as numerous state recreation areas with swimming opportunities. Hopeville Pond State Park (860-376-2920) in Griswold, for example, has a history dating back to when the Pachaug River was a fishing ground for Mohegan Indians (their stone fishing weirs are still there). In the 18th and 19th centuries, the pond and river provided water to power a wide variety of mills. Today, visitors can swim, camp and fish in surroundings that seem untouched by man. Nearby, the Greenfalls Recreation Area (860-376-4075) in the Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown also offers swimming in a beautiful natural setting.

Chatfield Hollow State Park (860-663-2030) in Killingworth is a designated Trout Park that allows visitors to hike trails in search of Indian caves, explore rocky ledges and recesses, sit back by the refreshing waters, or picnic in soft pine woods. Indian Well State Park (203-735-4311), convenient to New Haven and Bridgeport, is another swimming and picnicking choice. There is a waterfall that tumbles into a deep, dammed pool as well as a more official swimming beach on the Housatonic River complete with lifeguards and facilities.

The trails of Burr Pond State Park (860-482-1817) in Torrington possess a bronze tablet marking Connecticut's role in the Civil War and Industrial Revolution-not to mention the swimming in crystal clear water, sandy beach, picnicking, kayaking and canoeing it also has to offer.

Bantam Lake in Morris is another swimming spot with a sandy beach with fresh water and opportunities for canoeing and picnicking as well. And, Lake McDonough, in Barkhamsted, features boating (rowboats and paddleboats), hiking, fishing and picnicking as well as swimming. The lake's Braille Trail is a fully accessible, self-guided nature trail complete with braille signage.

Satan's Kingdom Gorge in the Satan's Kingdom State Recreation Area (860-693-6465) in New Hartford is particularly popular for tubing on the Farmington River. In addition to quiet stretches, a number of exciting whitewater rapids makes the trip unforgettable. In addition to free swimming along the river, a commercial company provides all that's needed for the tubing, including transportation back from the end of the run.

Those preferring a little sand and salt water have at least four state parks along the Long Island Sound. These include Hammonasset Beach (203-245-2785), Rocky Neck (860-739-5471), Sherwood Island (203-226-6983) and Silver Sands (203-735-4311). For more information about all state parks and forests offering swimming, visit the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection website at

For weekenders and other travelers with more interest in watching water than actually swimming in it, Connecticut offers over 50 waterfalls, some, like Kent Falls (860-927-3238), dropping as much as 250 feet, others only three feet or so. Kent Falls, near Kent, is actually a series of falls that stretches a quarter of a mile (there are picnic areas and picnic tables to enhance the visit), while Wadsworth Falls (860-424-3200) in Middlefield has a level walk from the Cherry Hill Road parking area-off Route 157-to the brink of the falls. The falls are connected by a trail system to the main swimming/picnicking area as well as other scenic areas of the park. The trail passes through densely wooded areas, several meandering streams, and the Little Falls from a stone bridge Colonel Clarence C. Wadsworth, the noted scholar and linguist, used himself.

A perfect salt water-watching spot for the summer is the Sheffield Island Lighthouse (203-838-9444) in Norwalk. Part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and owned by the Norwalk Seaport Association, this historic lighthouse was built in 1868 and has four levels and ten rooms. Accessible only by boat, the Norwalk Seaport Association provides ferry tours to the picturesque island throughout the summer. In East Haddam, Devil's Hopyard State Park (860-873-8566) has 21 wooded sites near a scenic waterfall. While no swimming is allowed at the park, it is an ideal place for stream fishing and offers some of the finest birding in the state.

The second tallest waterfall is Mount Carmel Spring Falls (203-789-7498) in Hamden. Situated within the Sleeping Giant State Park, which has an excellent hiking system, the falls run rather gently down an enormous cliff face of about 76 feet. Directions to the falls take visitors past impressive rock formations and through a gorge. An excellent source of information about Connecticut's waterfalls, including directions on how to find them, is

In addition to these swimming holes, some of Connecticut's theme parks offer thrilling escapes from the heat. Lake Compounce Theme Park (860-583-3300) in Bristol has more than 50 rides and attractions for the whole family to enjoy, including the expanded Splash Harbor Water Park. Quassy Amusement Park (203-758-2913) in Middlebury is a 20-acre family playground on Lake Quassapaug that offers boat rides, swimming, and plenty of special events and entertainment.

And to correspond with all these mentioned activities, inns ranging from the quaint to the luxurious in Connecticut complete a perfect summer getaway. The Interlaken Inn, Resort & Conference Center (860-435-9878) in Lakeville is ideally situated on 30 acres between two lakes. In Old Saybrook, The Saybrook Point Inn & Spa (860-395-2000) provides panoramic views of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. Also located on Long Island Sound are Water's Edge Resort & Spa (860-399-5901) in Westbrook and the Madison Beach Hotel (203-245-1404) in Madison.

For further information about the 52 Getaways to Connecticut, restaurants, resorts, country inns, B&Bs and other places to stay in Connecticut, please call 888-CTvisit (888-288-4748) or log on at Connecticut offers visitors a multi-faceted wealth of attractions, historical, cultural and recreational activities, diverse and beautiful natural landscapes, parks, beaches and wilderness sure to fulfill any getaway need.

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