Thursday, October 27, 2011

Autumn Surprises at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, CT

This week I found myself driving through Madison, Connecticut, and when I passed the turnoff for Hammonasset Beach State Park, I noticed a sign for their Nature Center at Meigs Point.

That was enough to convince me to make a U-turn and drive down there on a partly cloudy, and not-too-cool late October day. I thought I had been to this park several years ago, but if so, what I found this day was nothing like my memory.

The place is huge, and there are three separate beach entrances with their own parking lots and shelters, so you have your pick of what spot on the 2-mile stretch of beach you want to enjoy. If you're not into sand and surf, there are hiking and biking trails, seasonal camping, fishing, and of course the Nature Center.

Since the Nature Center brought me in, I followed the signs to Meigs Point, the farthest area from the entrance, the southernmost point of the park where it meets Long Island Sound. There is a boat launch is this area, and I first explored the high rocky outcropping which the informational signage revealed to be a "recessional moraine," or a mass of rocks left behind by a retreating glacier.

Hammonasset describes their glacial boulders as "dump truck sized." For all you budding geologists out there, the glaciers long ago advanced as far south as Long Island before they retreated back along southern New England. So our coastline has a lot of deposits of massive boulders that were created during this retreat.

After I explored the view from the edge of Meigs Point, I followed a trail down the hill to the beach, where to my surprise I discovered beach roses, fragrant as they are in June, still blooming in earnest next to red-orange rose hips formed after earlier blossoms expired. Nothing brings me joy faster than seeing and smelling these wonderful beach roses.

Next, I snooped around the Nature Center. Here is a photo of the building:

Behind the building is a wonderful garden where I found monarch butterflies happily slurping nectar from the purple blooms on the butterfly bushes.

There are also walking trails, birdhouses, and some cool seashell sculptures on the grass. These were created by Chan Davis in 1986, and measure at least 4 or 5 feet across. You could sit a small child upon one. Since I was alone, I couldn't take a photo of myself beside one to show scale in the picture below.

This Nature Center is a neat little gem, an attraction within the park attraction. I love what I saw carved into driftwood on their front porch.

Further on, at one of the beach parking areas, I saw abundant juniper berries clustered on the tips of the evergreen branches. Such beautiful color!

I also saw a typical autumn sight around here, the yellow and red-orange of bittersweet berries, although this might be the first time I've seen bittersweet growing in sand!

I might also add that I evaluated the beach at each of the three points of entry, and I already figured out my favorite. I must say, the beach seems to have adequate width, good sand, and clean water, but I suppose I would have to confirm all this during high season.

The only thing that I did not like, which is not related to the park itself, is finding a bunch of balloons washed up on shore. There were three tied together, two of them partially inflated. There was the name of a high-end real estate firm stamped on the latex. Who knows how the balloons got loose. I popped the two inflated balloons before removing the whole thing from the beach, because floating balloons are very dangerous to sea life when, for example, sea turtles might mistake them for jellyfish.

If you enjoyed this post about Hammonasset Beach, read yesterday's post about the butterflies at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, CT. And for more information about Connecticut shoreline parks and beaches, my beach eGuide is available at the Beach Bath And Trash website.

What are you finding at your local state parks this fall?


  1. You found so many treasures! Thank you for sharing with us :) I think my family will have to make a day trip to the Nature Center at Meigs Point. Looks amazing!

  2. A note to readers: The Meigs Point Nature Center is closed on Mondays.

  3. What a nice place you found! I'm fascinated by the big shell sculptures, I'd love to have some in my yard. I'd love to visit the New England coast!


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