The James L. Goodwin and Natchaug State Forests aspan across 6 towns including: Ashford, Chaplin, Eastford, Hampton and Pomfret, The name Natchaug stems from an Algonquin term meaning "land between the rivers" and refers to the land at the junction of the Bigelow and Still Rivers which join to form the Natchaug River, a designated Trout Park.
Both the Goodwin State Forest and Natchaug State Forest offer miles of trails for hiking, cross country skiing, mountain biking and other outdoor activities. Along the river, beautiful riverfront picnic sites set amidst groves of hemlock trees are in demand on weekends during the summer. Picnic areas will be spoken for by lunchtime.
Other amenities include boat launches (nonpicnic pavilion, located on the east side of Potter Road at the trailhead for the white, red, and yellow trails, overlooks the 130 acre Pine Acres Pond. Enough seating for 50 people.
James L. Goodwin Conservation Visitors Center
Environmental education facility owned and operated by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. A variety of of programs are offered to the public, schools and those that use and impact Connecticut State Forest's. There are nature paths that wind through a butterfly garden and living displays of the history, ecology and management of the forest.
Campsites & Cabins
Primitive backpacking and horse camping available year-round in Natchaug State Forest. Backpacking sites limited to one-night stays. Limited facilities. BYOT (bring your own tent). Water only provided at approved State Park and Forest wells.
Mountain Bike Trails - James L. Goodwin & Natchaug State Forest
A network of doubletrack and singletrack multi-use snowmobile trails, dirt and gravel roads within the two Connecticut State Forests pass through a mixed forested landscape of tall hemlocks, white pines, mixed hardwoods, wetlands, reservoir and pondscapes. Some stands of trees have been around since the mid-1800's.
The snowmobile trails in Natchaug State Forest provide connectors between the woods roads. Some stretches of the secondary roads may be overgown with brush. In general, these natural material roads and footpaths are open to mountain bikes except where noted.
This trail network allows for a variety of blazed mountain bike loop ride options that encircles and girdles the entire James L. Goodwin & Natchaug State Forests. Mountain biking loop rides of 7+ miles in Natchaug State Forest alone are possible.
You can also access The Airline Trail - Northern section from the James L. Conservation Center for a bicycle ride all the way to the Massachussets border!
James L. Goodwin & Natchaug State Forest Trail Connections
The Natchaug Trail within the forest is a 5.6-mile stretch of Connecticut's 800 mile Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System. It passes north/south through the Natchaug and Goodwin State Forests along the Natchaug River. The northern end of the Natchaug Trail connects with the Nipmuk Trail, a popular hiking & backpacking route, just .2 miles south of Eastford Road in Ashford, CT.
The statewide Blue-Blazed hiking trail system is maintained by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, a private non-profit conservation organization.Natchaug Trail, part of Connecticut’s 800-mile Blue Blazed Hiking Trail System. This statewide network is maintained by volunteers of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association.
Airline Rail Trail
The Airline Rail Trail (North) crosses Potter Road just a few hundred feet from the James L. Goodwin Conservation Center. It connects to the Natchaug State Forests. Just below the Hampton Reservoir, it heads northeast out of the forest and travels through Putnam at it's northeastern terminus all the way to the Massachussetts border. Stone walls that delineated the farm fields will usher you out of the forest.
Trail Highlights & Nearby Points of Interest
Wildlife Watch & Photo-Ops
Pine Acres Pond, Black Spruce Marsh, Brown Hill Marsh
The 196-acre Pine Acres Pond is primarily used as habitat for migrating waterfow such as the Great Blue Heron and Kingfisher; wildlife observation and fishing. During the summer, lily pads provide lounges for a variety of frog types and turtles like to align shoulder to shoulder on half submerged logs.
A wooden observation deck by the boat launch provides great views of the lake and also serves as a wildlife watch platform. The marshes also provide good birdwatching areas. A remnant stand of Atlantic White Cedar is located at the north end of the pond.
White-tailed deer are common. Look for signs of muskrat and beaver activity.
Recreation Areas, Bikes & Kayaks
Canoeing, kayaking and fishing are popular activities. The reservoir provides a variety of bass such as bigmouth, smallmouth, striped and spotted.
Goodwin State Forest: An trail extension off the Natchaug Trail climbs to the top of Orchard Hill. The vision of the Natcahug River Valley and the town of Chaplin to the southwest are lovely during Fall Foliage season.
Bikes & Civil War Trails
Nathaniel Lyons Memorial Park
The Natchaug State Forest encompasses a small 5-acre park, a memorial (established 1805) that contains a large stone fireplace and chimney that are the remains of the birthplace of General Nathaniel Lyons of Eastford, CT, the first Union General killed in the Civil War along the Natchaug Trail. What a claim to fame!
Lyon was born on a farm in Ashford, CT and following in the footsteps of his relatives who served in the Revolutionary War, he served in the Seminole and Mexican-American wars. During the Civil War, he was appointed Commander of the Union arsenal in St. Louis, Missouri and was most noted for his actions at the beginning of the conflict.
James Lippincott Goodwin (1881-1967) was one of the state’s earliest conservationists, one of America’s first professional foresters and a long-time Connecticut Park And Forest Association (CFPA) Director. He came to this property in Hampton, CT in 1914, where he practiced 50 years of pioneering forest management techniques that he learned as one of the first foresters to graduate from Yale School of Forestry in 1910. He grew white pine for timber, sold Norway spruce for Christmas trees, and grew apple trees in his fields.
In 1964 James L. Goodwin gifted the entire property, what he called “Pine Acres Farm”, to the State of Connecticut after 50 years of state-of-the-art forestry management. The house and 80 surrounding acres were then designated as a forest and wildlife Conservation Center.
3 miles east of South Chaplin on Route 6. Follow the brown state forest signs. 1.2 miles west of the junction of Connecticut Highway 97 and US 6 is the access road, Potter Road which leads to a parking area across from park headquarters. (shown on map above).
James L. Goodwin State Forest
Connecticut Dept. Of Energy & Environmental Protection: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP