DEEP: Letterboxing Clues for Wyantenock State Forest

Forestry – Looking Beyond the Trees 
Connecticut State Forests - Seedling Letterbox Series 

Clues for Wyantenock State Forest

{State map showing location of Wyantenock State Forest}

Wyantenock State Forest -
 the 23rd State Forest

{letter box stamp 23}

Wyantenock State Forest is one of the best-kept secrets of Litchfield County!  The forest consists of over 4,000 acres scattered among nine different parcels of land, spread throughout the towns of Warren, Kent and Cornwall.

Many of these blocks of forest have little or no public access and Wyantenock has virtually no “developed” recreation areas for public use. As such, Wyantenock remains one of Connecticut’s least visited state forests.  It is a rugged, remote forest that enhances the quality of life in Litchfield County by providing open space, wildlife habitat, opportunities for the production of commercial forest products, and watershed protection.  The forest was originally considered part of Mohawk State Forest when the first land was acquired in 1925.  As land was added, Wyantenock received its own designation.

Description: This Seedling Series letterbox is located in a different block of Wyantenock from the original Centennial Series box in Warren.  This letterbox is located in the 315-acre North Spectacle Pond Block of the forest, in the town of Kent, just a few miles from the New York border.  It can be found near Kenico Road off State Route 341, behind Wyantenock Marsh #3.  (Note - this marsh was created specifically as wildlife habitat.)

Wear bright orange during hunting season.  It is suggested that you bring gloves if you are not comfortable reaching into difficult-to-see crevices.  There may be no place to park when there is snow on the ground, as you must be able to get safely off of the road to visit this letterbox site.  A compass is suggested, but not necessary to successfully reach the letterbox. 

There are no authorized trails in this section of state forest, so you are advised to not wander too far from the letterbox destination.  This helps reduce disturbance to the natural environment, and also reduces the chance of getting turned around in the woods and lost or trespassing onto neighboring private land.  It is always wise to avoid being in forests on very windy days, as limbs and other material can dislodge from the trees above you. 

This is an “outlying” letterbox like those in the Housatonic and Tunxis State Forests, and is close to our state’s borders.  Because of their location, most people in Connecticut must drive longer to visit these boxes, and, consequently, they receive fewer visitors.  This means the chance to get a stamp that most letterboxers will never see!

Clues:   In Litchfield, follow Route 202 West.  From the junction with Route 209 in downtown Bantam, go another 3.8 miles on 202 West (passing Mt. Tom State Park along the way).  Take a right on Route 341.

Once on 341, go 1-1/4 miles.  You will pass the turn for the original Centennial Series letterbox (you will see a brown wooden shield sign for “Wyantenock State Forest”).  Keep going on 341.

After a total of 4.6 miles on 341, you will see the split of Route 45 and Route 341.  Bear left, staying on 341 West.  Take a right onto Kenico Road just 3/10-mile past the sign marking the Kent town line (for a grand total of 7.9 miles on Route 341).  Just before the turn for Kenico Road, you should see both a 4-way intersection caution sign and a yellow horse sign. 

Go slowly up the winding, curvy Kenico Road for a half-mile, and look right to see a wooden sign off the road labeled "Wyantenock Marsh #3".  There is also a green gate to a small parking area that may or may not be closed.  If closed, you will have to park at the entrance in front of the gate.  Try not to block the gate, but do so if you have to in order to safely get off the road.  Please do not park in the private drive across the road by the stone pillar and boulder that says "45-Private". 

Once out of your vehicle, you should have a good view of the small marsh.  This is one of the marshes originally built between 1950s and 1970s using Pitmann-Robertson sportsman funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  A number of these constructed marshes exist throughout Wyantenock State Forest, and there are 65 statewide, varying in size from just an acre to 175 acres!  This one, along with Marsh #4 just up the street, were reconstructed during 2011.  

These marshes benefit many types of wildlife species, including waterfowl, wading birds, as well as mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and invertebrates.  Examples of species known to use these marshes include black ducks, mallard ducks, wood ducks (the wooden box mounted in the marsh is a wood duck box), king birds, swallows, cedar waxwings, kingfishers, herons, bats, and many dragonfly species.  You may also find otter, mink, muskrat, beaver, green frogs, bullfrogs, pickerel frogs, painted turtles, spotted turtles, snapping turtles, and spring peepers.  Some marshes have become deeper due to beaver activity and now provide fish habitat. 

Of course, there are also many natural marshes in the state, including some created with the help of beaver damming.  The dikes along this marsh were designed so that water levels could be manipulated up or down to favor certain types of vegetation growth (e.g. - sedges, rushes, shrubs), which in turn favor specific types of wildlife.

Walk 250 feet across the impoundment dam to a small opening at the edge of the woods.  Note that you will be crossing on some rip-rap stone for a spillway, which may have water flowing over it if the pond is full.  The dam itself can get wet and muddy if there has been recent rain.  At the forest edge, head straight to the quadruple white oaks 40 feet in front of you.  Even if you don't know your trees well, you should be able to figure out the white oaks.  They are larger trees with grayish bark, and oak-like leaves with rounded lobes.  The white oak is the official state tree of Connecticut (the same species is sometimes referred to as the "Charter Oak"). 

Look left of the white oaks and you will be able to see 3 smaller stems, about 5-6 inches diameter each.  These are serviceberry, also known in Connecticut as “shadbush”.  Note the somewhat subtle bark striations as an identifying feature. Serviceberry is known as one of the earliest spring bloomers.  It provides a beautiful display of white flowers in early spring – a sight worth seeing if you are at the letterbox at the right time. 

From the white oaks, now look right, toward the East.  You should see a rock upon which a hardy yellow birch is growing. Walk the 60 feet over to this interesting tree and stand by it upon the rock. A yellow birch can be identified by its papery, peeling bark that is distinctly gold to bronze in color.  Yellow birch normally grows on rich, very moist soils.  This tree is obviously persisting despite less-than-ideal conditions! 

Next, look for a cluster of about 4 white birches (“paper birch” is same species), all growing out of the same spot.  If you have a compass, put your back to the yellow birch and go in the direction of bearing N50E or azimuth 50, for 75 feet to the white birches.  Walk to the other side of the trees, and with your back now to the white birch trees, go N15E or azimuth 15 straight ahead about 55 feet to a rotting stump (note: in summer during leaf-out, you may not be able to see the stump at all from the white birches).

While at this stump, be a sleuth—was this a cut stump or a natural stump (in other words, was the tree cut or did it die and fall over, leaving a stump).  Look on the opposite side of this stump and reach inside.  It is suggested that you use gloves if you are not comfortable with that idea!  Try not to damage the stump further or widen the hole when you reach inside.  When done, cover the letterbox with a few leaves or debris to keep it challenging and prevent passersby’s from finding it. 

If you look around the area of the stump, you will see patches of witch-hazel.  This plant also occurs adjacent to the site of the Centennial Series letterbox in Wyantenock.  Witch-hazel is a woody shrub with arching stems and irregular, lopsided leaves.  These leaves have large, rounded teeth along the leaf edges.

Witch-hazel occurs only in the northeast and is probably most common in Connecticut. The entire plant can be chipped, processed and distilled into an astringent used in medicines and many cosmetics.  It’s a little-known fact that virtually 100% of the world’s supply of witch-hazel comes from Connecticut!  Connecticut produces over 2 million gallons of processed witch-hazel per year, with a value of over $9 million. 

You will also see a small black cherry, and black birch, red maple and yellow birch trees close to the area of the stump.  Most of the large trees around you are red oaks, white oaks, and red maples.  There is also American hornbeam (also called “ironwood” – it is a smooth-barked smaller tree), striped maple, highbush blueberry, and serviceberry.  How many of these can you identify or recognize?  This site is a perfect example of the incredible natural diversity of vegetation that makes up our Connecticut woods, without many of us even realizing it.

Learn More, Earn a Patch:  DEEP hopes you enjoyed your visit to Wyantenock State Forest and learned some fun and interesting facts.  If you are there in spring or early summer, stick around and enjoy the spring peepers’ calls or bird watching.  You can also visit Wyantenock Marsh #4 just up the road!  To find it, proceed another 1/10-mile up Kenico Road and look down the dirt road on your right.  This may also make a good place to turn around.

This is one of 32 letterbox hikes in the new second series of boxes, called the “Seedling Series”, sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Division of Forestry.  This letterbox replaces the original “Centennial Series” box located in the Woodville Block off Route 341 in Warren.  

Take 4 additional sponsored letterbox hikes to earn a commemorative Connecticut Forestry Centennial patch.  When you have completed five of these hikes, please contact us and let us know what sites you have visited, what your stamp looks like and how we may send your patch.  We will verify your visits and send the patch along to you.   Contact DEEP Forestry

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Content last updated April 3, 2013