Bull's Bridge in Kent, CT. offers a wonderful river walk with waterfalls, rapids, overviews, a small gorge, and if you're in decent shape a picturesque overview high up looking back over the river.
Part of the trail system encompasses the Appalachian Trail so you can follow the white marker as long as you'd like...but remember, you'd be heading south, and the white markers don't stop until you hit Georgia 2,000 miles away!
Bull's Bridge is a great place whether you just want to stretch your legs for a few minutes or set out on a strenuous hike.
First thing you'll want to do is take time to check out the covered bridge, the old power station and the waterfalls cascading through the stmall gorge. Local history has noted that several versions of the bridge have been built. Two brothers from the Bull family built an ironworks around 1740 and likely a first version of the bridge. Another story heard is the most recent bridge design was initially built mid-1800s to attract New York City traffic heading up state. Prior to the bridge this region had no means of getting traffic across the Housatonic River in this region. In 1917 Connecticut Light and Power built the Rocky River power station to harness the power of the river. The dam/canal system that creates the waterfalls and rapids is part of the hydro-electric power plant.
Most will come to the bridge via Route 7 (visitors coming from New York may arrive via Route 22, then Route 55, then past Webetuck Village complex, so just be aware and reverse these instructions if you happen to come that way). From Route 7 you dip down left towards the bridge. It's a one-lane bridge and those coming in the other direction DO NOT have to stop but you will have a stop sign so you must yield to them and allow them to pass through the bridge first. Just out the other side of the bridge is the main parking lot on your right (you can park anywhere along the road if the lot is full and in spots where there aren't "no parking" signs. From the main lot you can visit the falls area by hiking the trail that's between the parking lot and covered bridge on the north side. Use caution hiking near falls in this area since trail erosion and varying water heights could make it dangerous up close. DO NOT get right up to river's edge or out on rocks if rapids are strong or you may be taken out in a body bag a mile down river - if they find you. It's amazing to see people, and especially those with kids, put their feet right next to a raging river rapid or even hop onto a rock just offshore. People have been swept away and killed in this region. Kayakers from all over the East Coast of America know of this rapid after a huge rain. They travel hundreds of miles to take it on. It's incredibly dangerous no matter how beautiful it is. Most times of the year it's a gentle flow but even then you're not going to swim back to shore in this rapid. You will be swept into the rapid that plunges down over massive boulders and sink holes. It would be a miracle if someone were to survive unscathed from it. There's no need to tempt fate. Just enjoy the beauty of it from a safe distance and have a relaxing time.
Back at the main parking lot you can walk left towards the dam and waterfall. Careful in here as path gets close to rapids and may be slippery. Back across the street across from parking lot notice a worn path going into the woods. About 100 feet in is a great wooden platform that opens up out of the forest high over the river with a magnificent view of the rapids flowing away from you. This is the best, and safest place, to see the river rapids and especially true if it's really raging. But just like the other waterfall section there's a short side trail down to the river's edge that happens to be the most powerful stretch of water in the whole park. It's the kind of place where if you tossed a stick into the rapid when the river is really running hard, it'll be a hundred feet lower and a half mile away, in a half a minute. I once watched parents allow their toddlers to jump out onto a boulder during a raging rapid after 4 days of straight rain. The crowd of people gasped in horror since it was obvious to anyone else that if they had slipped into the rapids raging around the small rock they were they were standing on, those parents were going home alone without their children. I say these things not to scare anyone but to let you know that tragedies have happened here. It's one of my favorite places and you'll love it...just stay away from danger zones. If you're nervous, you're smart. Listen to the voice that says "stay away from that". Dramatic warnings aside, this platform is a safe place to take in a nice view. Perfect photo op with a couple of benches to rest or stretch out in!
To get to the riverwalk keep walking up the road away from the covered bridge and parking lot. You'll walk over the river then to your left will be a large dirt path which begins the riverwalk. This usually is a blue trail and isn't the Appalachian Trail as everyone assumes but it does lead into the Appalachian Trail about a 1/4 mile away. A few feet in you'll come to the bulletin board with park information and possibly some maps that are free. Stop and read it for trail updates or warnings.
The best time to hike the riverwalk is after a recent rain, but it's really nice any time of year with the least appealing time being a long summer drought which will bring the waterfalls to a near trickle.
Typically, the Housatonic River really flows through this section with great power and beauty.
Nature is a dominant force here.
Unlike a lot of trails that meander along through open fields/woods, or up a mountain, this place really gives the hiker a powerful sense of nature. As long as there hasn't been a prolonged period with no rain, the waters tumble and fall over massive boulder and rocks to create some nice white water runs. If it's rained a lot a small stretch of rapids become the highest rated in terms of whitewater rafting. Kayakers from all over come to test their mettle during these peak times as it's not a place for novice or even intermediate level kayakers.
The trail is flat then rises up slowly and eventually you're looking down at the river far below. Where it begins to rise up is where the A.T. comes out of the forest to meet the entrance trail. From this point on you're officially hiking the Appalachian Trail south. After it rises it dips down through the forest and soon comes back down right near the river's edge. Use common sense where the trail edge drops off steep or comes close to the river. As mentioned, Bulls Bridge has seen it's fair share of tragedies. This section of the river is deceptively powerful. It's not a place to allow children to dip their hands in or skim rocks. Children have been lost in this section of river either swimming, falling in, or even trying to put a raft/kayak in. Please stay well away from the river or trail's edge where it's steep and just enjoy a peaceful hike rather than go for the thrill seeking which is all too tempting for some. The trail is perfectly blazed to make for a great day enjoying the river. Walking off trail or using side trails that aren't official trails to get right next to the river is asking for trouble. There are many places along the river that aren't dangerous where you can dip your toes in or skim stones. Use those places instead of those where the river runs fast.
Eventually, you come to a point where Ten Mile River rushes into the Housatonic River with a really nice iron footbridge allowing you to stand over Ten Mile just where it runs into the Housatonic.
The other side of the bridge you gain access to the large camping field that many Appalachian hikers use called Ten Mile River.
If you're in good shape, follow the A.T. (white trail) up as it goes along the banks of Ten Mile River a short distance then abruptly left using a series of switchbacks to get you up a short but somewhat steep mountain hike, called Ten Mile Hill. Soon after the steep hike flattens out at the top of Ten Mile Hill is a side trail to the left (south). If you take this trail it eventually will take you to a rocky overview looking back at the river you just hiked along. If you don't have a good sense of direction or don't hike much you probably shouldn't take this side trail since it's not very well marked and easily lost in a couple of short stretches. But some common sense would get you to the overview. It's a peaceful forest hike through here that eventually hooks left (east) and to the Herrick Trail. The overview is actually the end of the Herrick Trail so DO NOT go RIGHT (south) onto the Herrick Trail. Instead bare to your left and you'll see the rocky overview clearing through the tall pine trees and thick forest cover. It's not a jaw dropping view but a great place to chill out and snack before heading back.
If you miss this side trail or want more hiking after it, just keep on going along the A.T. and soon another nice little over look west into New York comes to light. Just like the other overview, it's not a jaw dropping view but quaint and nice. A good place for peace and quiet.
For those interested in hiking (or backpacking) the Appalachian Trail north from Bulls Bridge main area, you wouldn't enter the river walk described here but would walk up the main road away from the covered bridge until that road comes upon Schagticoke Road. Hike right on Schagticoke Road and keep your eyes open for the A.T. white hash marks on trees and/or telephone poles where soon the trail heads up left to a steep forest hike, heading out for Schagticoke Mountain. A few miles in is a campsite for backpackers and a good place to get a good night sleep before tackling the trail for a few days.
Directions: From Route 7 in New Milford, Ct. go north 10 miles towards Kent.
On the right side, you'll come upon signs advertising the Bull's Bridge Inn and the Bull's
Bridge market/gas station. About 75 feet further up Rt. 7 is a traffic light.
Take a left here. The covered bridge signifies your arrival to the right
place. Go through the bridge and park in the dirt parking lot or go another 100 ft. for the AT Trail lot.
The weekends can be a little busy because this is a jump
off point for those who like to fish and try their hand at kayaking the rapids. However, it is rarely crowded.
Printable version of the Bull's Bridge page
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