Sunday, May 13, 2012

All the Crossings of the Connecticut River in Connecticut

Last weekend I photographed the Putnam Bridge in Wethersfield. I looked at my map and saw I only had one more bridge to photograph, and I'd have photographed every crossing of the Connecticut River in the state of Connecticut. That last one would be the Baldwin Bridge in Old Saybrook.

But then I hatched an evil plot. I would go back and photograph every one of those bridges in one day. And once I got to Hartford, I'd do the rest on my bicycle. Because I am stupid and also, I love pain.

I left the house at 8:30AM and returned home at 6PM. Exhausted. But with the mission complete. I crossed every bridge, but one -- the Arrigoni in Middletown. I photographed every bridge, but one -- the Putnam. I was looking for a different place from which to take a picture, but when I crossed it, there was nothing but wilderness on the other side. So this post features last week's photograph, which I hadn't used in a blog yet, anyway, so it's technically new. Except the sky last weekend was cloudier.

Since the Connecticut River Ferry in Glastonbury was closed (I don't know why), that's not in this set. And since the Windor Locks Canal Trail is closed until July, there's a railroad bridge I'm missing.

Let's get started with the southernmost bridge and work our way north to the Massachusetts border.

Railroad Bridge, Old Saybrook
Nothing between this bridge and Long Island Sound. While I was packing my gear away, this bridge closed to let a train over.

Baldwin Bridge, Old Saybrook
Not shown, all the marinas around here... and all the fishermen. The river from here to Enfield was full of guys and kids fishing. Even sometimes I'd get lost on a trail, come across a clearing on the river and there would be more guys fishing.

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry
Even though I know Hadlyme is pronounced "Had-lime", some part of me wants it to be pronounced "Had-lee-me".

The governor wanted to close both this ferry and the Connecticut River Ferry in Glastonbury, and apparently got his wish with the latter. It's easy to see why; there are lots of bridges across the Connecticut in the Wethersfield/Hartford area (and we'll see them soon), but the next nearest bridge is the East Haddam Bridge, a bit to the north. This ferry will get a lot busier once Gillette Castle opens; I took this picture from the castle grounds with my 500mm lens.

East Haddam Bridge, East Haddam
I took this picture because that was the mission, but I spent most of this part of the trip taking pictures of the sailboats on the river. And of the powered sailplanes taking off from the Goodspeed Airport. There was a lot going on. There was even a wedding party having their pictures taken with the bridge as a background.

Sailboats on the river
I don't know why there were so many sailboats. Probably a club meeting or something. They didn't seem to go anywhere, but maybe they did after I left. They took good pictures, though -- the 500mm lens has such amazing depth of field. Tough to manually focus a really huge lens on moving things with a really shallow depth of field while also trying to frame stuff and trigger the shutter. Pro photographers probably earn their paychecks.

Providence/Worcester Railroad Bridge, Middletown
This bridge is often ignored in favor of the much more impressive Arrigoni Bridge right behind it. Its center section rotates to let the train through, but it is nearly always in the open position, as it is here. There were some crew races going on; the 500mm lens once again got the shot.

Arrigoni Bridge, Middletown
The camel humps of the Arrigoni Bridge are Middletown's signature landmark, appearing in nearly every photograph of the city on its website. This bridge, seen from the portal, is the background of this blog. It's a beautiful and impressive bridge. This particular shot isn't that great; I should have gone with my first instinct and taken a picture of it from very close, looking up. Also, inevitably, this shot has a more detailed picture of the railroad bridge.

Putnam Bridge, Wethersfield
This is the cheat, the only picture not taken yesterday. Forgive? The Putnam Bridge is so high as there's still boats coming up the river from the Sound. That will end pretty soon. The Connecticut River Ferry would be a little south of here, were it running.

Charter Oak Bridge, Hartford
This is where the bike pictures start. I parked in Great River Park in East Hartford, and then criss-crossed Hartford several times getting pictures. The bad part is all these shots are hand-held. The good part is, I got to go to places cars cannot. Although most southern of the Hartford bridges, this is the last one I shot. I biked from G.R.P. up to Founders, then to the public boat house north of Hartford, over the train bridge and then off road through mud, some trails, and some car tracks which ended in a field which I pedaled through back to Connecticut Ave in East Hartford, then over the Bulkeley to Hartford and then south through the Charter Oak neighborhood to this bridge, then back up the bike path on the East Hartford side to the parking lot.

I have pictures of this bridge from the side, but they were boring. They also weren't overexposed, as this one is, but that's what you get with no tripod and hence no HDR.

Founders Bridge, Hartford
This bridge brings Route 2 right into the heart of Hartford. The wide walkway on the top is filled with sculpture and flags. On the Hartford side, it feeds into the science center, the convention center, the Old State House Square and many, many other cool places. Bulkeley Bridge peeks through the supports.

Bulkeley Bridge, Hartford
The Bulkeley Bridge is one of the longest stone arch bridges in the world. Might even be the longest. It was built to be an enduring landmark for the ages at a time when the world was moving toward reinforced concrete and steel bridges. This photo, taken from the train bridge to the north, shown a rare angle of the Hartford skyline. Because most people don't want to go on the train bridge, I guess.

Those people are smart.

Train bridge, Hartford
Unfortunately, I am not so smart. I only intended to take a picture of this bridge from the banks on the hiking/mountain bike trails that fill the north end of Hartford's Riverside Park. And I did do that. The paths continued under the bridge. As I crossed beneath, I looked up and noticed that there was a plank walkway alongside the tracks. This bridge could be crossed without having to risk twisting an ankle walking on the ties. Thinking back to my crisis of nerves on the Westfield railroad bridge a few months ago, I felt I really had to do this one.

This bridge, it turns out, is Hartford's secret playground. You can kinda see a women midway along the bridge; she's a model having her picture taken with the bridge and the city as background. The photographer is crouched in a cubby on the other side of the tracks. At the far end, a couple of kids were playing. Below the bridge, people were fishing. A group of guys was walking up to cross the bridge into Hartford. It was a busy place.

Some of those planks were pretty creaky. I walked my bike over the bridge.

Bissell Bridge, Windsor
Stopped here on the way up to Windsor Locks. I could have biked here from Hartford, it's only three or four miles, but then I'd have to bike back to get the car, and that would mean going twice through the "stabby" part of Hartford -- Uptown.

Sometimes I'd bike to work through South Windsor, over the Bissell to Windsor, then down through north Hartford to work. I thought nothing of it, though traffic on Windsor Street can be a little chancy, there's always construction and cars going in and out.

Then I read about "The Second District", a reality-based crime drama set in north Hartford about police and gang violence. A switched flipped in my brain and I started feeling nervous whenever I'd go through the neighborhood -- with no reason -- and now for me it's just the "stabby" part of Hartford and I don't bike through it much anymore.

Dexter Coffin Bridge, Windsor Locks
I don't know what happened to the bicycle between the time I put it in the car in East Hartford and the time I took it back out at the Amtrack park-and-ride in Windsor Locks, but the front brake pads had started rubbing and no jiggling of the wheel would fix it. After about half an hour of futilely trying to fix it without having to break out the allen wrenches and potentially make it worse, I just decided to soldier on. Five miles up to Enfield and five miles back, and most of that on the flat and peaceful Windsor Locks Canal Trail. Easy peasy.

I was getting pretty tired, though. I could see the Coffin Bridge from the Amtrack parking lot so I just took the shot. Yeah, it sucks.

I was rapidly losing enthusiasm to complete the adventure.

Bridge Street Bridge, East Windsor
This was the last bridge shot. I got up to Bridge Street and was devastated to see that the Windsor Locks Canal Trail was closed until July. They had a fence across the trail and across part of the canal, to show they were serious. Some joggers came up, obviously crestfallen about the closure (it had been open when I last came by in December), and wondered if there was some way around the fence. Not unless you feel like swimming.

I got on the bike and started scritch scrape scritching my way to the other end of the trail in Suffield. It was by this time I was regretting not eating breakfast in my excitement to get going. My body was out of gas. I stopped by a convenience store along the way and got some candy and some G2 (2 for $3!), but my body wanted carbs and it wanted them six hours ago. So anyway that was when I remembered I pedaled right past the next bridge on the list, and I got it on the way back. After which I collapsed on the lawn of some industrial place and drank more G2.

Franklin Street Bridge, Suffield-Enfield
Now, the other end of the trail, when I eventually got there on my constantly braking bicycle. was hopping with people. Fishing, walking along the trail (which continues into both Suffield and over the bridge to Enfield), the parking lot was full and there were lots of people fishing both in the canal and the river.

I got this picture and wondered if there were an easier way back. My first thought was to head down the Windsor Locks Canal Trail and see if hit the railroad bridge before it got closed up. A sign at the closed trail head said that the last two miles of the trail were open, but the bridge is only a mile north of trail head. The trail itself is just a bit over four miles long, so 4-2=2, and the trail would probably be closed. I was interested in anything that would have me pedaling less at that point.

I headed over the Franklin Street Bridge, hoping to find a nice, river-hugging road on the Enfield side to head back to Windsor Locks on, then cross the Bridge Street Bridge back to Windsor Locks, then south to the car.

I didn't find one. Having to retrace my path for a mile, and with my phone back in the car (smart!) I couldn't navigate a better route, so I just went back the way I came, took the Bridge Street Bridge photo, returned to my car, drove home and collapsed.

But happy! I'd done it -- every Connecticut River bridge in the state of Connecticut.

I'm thinking about doing the same for the Housatonic -- I'm only missing one bridge there, the I-84 bridge in Newtown, and its two covered bridges definitely need a revisit -- but I think I'll wait awhile. And I'll be sure and eat breakfast first.


  1. Wow, that's impressive and crazy!! I really admire that you did this with interesting shots of each bridge. The train bridge...I know the feeling. I crossed one myself between two mountains in PA. Probably won't be doing that any time in the next 50 years. :) I look forward to your next bridge project/mission!

  2. GREAT blog post. I've been following for a bit and this one is exceptional. An entertaining read. Love bridges.

  3. Thanks, Cass & Steve! I was so excited to see comments on this post :) It was a really fun day!

  4. Charter Oak Bridge - LOVE this one, what a great shot, and it sounds like you had quite the adventure!

  5. It's all the ESAK in me... always have to keep exploring... and sharing about it.