Hammonasset Beach State Park

Hammonasset Beach State Park boasts the longest shoreline in Connecticut, with a two mile stretch of sandy beach along Long Island Sound. The park is surrounded on two sides by water, with the Sound on one side and the Hammonasset River on another. With 600 acres of tidal marsh, 100 acres of young forest and 300 acres of grassy land, this is a haven for beach goers, picnickers, birders and hikers. There is a long boardwalk making it easy to navigate along the beach, pavilions at the east and west end of the park and Meigs Nature Center, which is home to various displays and where a birding log is kept for those who are interested in what birds might be seen at a given time.

Rugged trees and other debris line the dunes at  Hammonasset Beach.

Rugged trees and other debris line the dunes at Hammonasset Beach.

The park was created when the state began buying land in 1919 and opened to the public in 1920. Prior to that, the land was used by Winchester Repeating Arms Company as a testing ground. By 1930, the state had acquired almost 1100 acres, and the park offered camping, hiking, and of course a sandy playground for summer beachgoers.  There is a huge stone break-wall at the Meigs Point end of the park. Views of the salt marsh and the river are easy to get to, using the well-kept trail that runs behind the nature center at Meigs Point.

What to Photograph

Sand and water creates many interesting shapes and textures.

Sand and water creates many interesting shapes and textures.

Like other sites along the shoreline, this beach is a good setting for sunsets, with Long Island in the background, boats in the Sound and in the harbor, and plenty of grassy sand dunes. The salt marsh and the river may also give you ideas for watery landscapes. The beach runs for two miles, and you can walk along the sandy part watching for the small details like seaweed, shells, driftwood, or anything else that the tide washes in. Or get the big picture landscape, with the grassy dunes in the foreground or background. There are a few rugged trees backing the dunes that make good photo subjects.

Walk along the boardwalk or the sandy trail that parallels the beach but is on the opposite side of the dunes, and you’ll have a completely different perspective on the park. You’ll see the  sandy dunes, and the birds that frequent the area. Get a shot of the tall grass with the sunny sky backlighting. Look for unusual salt-loving plants for close-ups. Walk along the salt marsh for different perspective of the water with stands of grasses that turn from green to golden in the fall.

There is a sandy trail that runs behind the dunes parallel to the beach. You never know what you might find there - even a tiny tree decorated for Christmas.

There is a sandy trail that runs behind the dunes parallel to the beach. You never know what you might find there – even a tiny tree decorated for Christmas.

Of course, there are all kinds of birds to track down, if you are able to be there when the park isn’t packed with people. Come early in the day or in the off-season, and try not to come on a beautiful day in the summer. To photograph birds, its best to come for spring or fall migration when you might be able to see some of the more rare or occasional birds. In the winter, you will see others such as loons, scoters, eiders, grebes, golden-eye, and arctic species such as snow bunting and horned lark. The following website might be helpful if you want to see what birds have been sighted at any given location in Connecticut: http://lists.ctbirding.org/pipermail/ctbirds_lists.ctbirding.org/

When to go

Any season of the year is good to go, but its best when there are fewer people on the beach, if you want to try sunsets or sunrises. In this case, the fall, winter and early spring are preferable. For birds and their migration, the spring or fall is the best time. As usual, plan for early morning or evening, as you know that the light is best at either end of the day.  The one drawback here is that the gate is locked until 8:00 am, and the walk from the entry to the beach is quite long, but not impossible.

The salt marsh is easily accessed and can be seen from the long road that leads to the parking lot at Meigs Point.

The salt marsh is easily accessed and can be seen from the long road that leads to the parking lot at Meigs Point.

Tips and Techniques

Check the birding log at Meigs Nature Center to see what birds have been sighted in the area if you are interested in photographing some of the shore or migrating birds. Connecticut is on the path of the major Atlantic migration route, and this park is a known site for many birds, including shorebirds, waders, seabirds, wintering waterfowl and owls. There are ospreys nesting in the park along the river. The nature trail that runs behind Meigs Nature Center provides some good vantage points, with a decent lookout  over the river. The Manuntauk Audubon Society website has lots of information about this park if you are interested in birding http://www.menunkatuck.org/index.php/birding_sites/.

 Tourist Tips

You can’t visit the area without stopping for lunch at Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tales. It has been a shoreline institution since 1979, and if you like tasty seafood and a casual atmosphere, this is the place to go.

 Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tales
1301 Boston Post Road
Madison, CT 06443
Tel: 203.245.7289

http://ljfishtale.com/

Winter Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m. -9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday: 11 a.m. -9:30 p.m.

Directions

Hammonasset Beach State Park
1288 Boston Post Road,
Madison, CT 06443

 Phone: 203-245-2785

Email: dep.stateparks@ct.gov

http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=325210&depNav_GID=1650

http://www.friendsofhammonasset.org/ for a detailed historical perspective of the park.

GPS Coordinates:  41.2739108, -72.5594247 (N41° 16.4346′, W072° 33.5655′)

Parking : Like most state parks in Connecticut, there is a fee for parking from May through September. Check the website for fees, since they vary on weekends and weekdays.

Hours: The park is open from 8:00 am to sunset.

There are a few buildings in the park. Look for details or texture in the woodwork.

There are a few buildings in the park. Look for details or texture in the woodwork.

This entry was posted in Region, The Shoreline and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *