DEEP: Letterboxing Clues for Quaddick State Forest

Connecticut State Forests - Seedling Letterbox Series Clues for Quaddick State Forest

{Connecticut State Map showing location of Quaddick State Forest}

Quaddick State Forest -
 the 22nd State Forest

{Seedling Series Letter Box Stamp #22}

Quaddick State Forest: contains approximately 550 acres and is located entirely in the town of Thompson in the extreme northeastern corner of Connecticut.  It is bordered on the east by Rhode Island.  The forest is located both on the east and west sides of the Quaddick Reservoir, an industrial reservoir covering approximately 466 acres.  The original parcel was acquired by the Resettlement Administration of the United States government and leased to the State back in the 1930’s.  

The forest protects the Reservoir while also providing ample recreational activities.  This includes fishing for bass and pike, hunting for deer, turkey, and small game, canoeing and kayaking opportunities, and youth group camping.   

Description:  The letterbox lies off of Quaddick Town Farm Road in Thompson.  The hike is approximately 1/2 mile in length roundtrip, on easy terrain.  The estimated time of roundtrip is forty-five minutes.  A compass is helpful for bearings.  Wearing bright orange is encouraged during hunting season (November and December).  Mosquitoes and deer flies can be thick by the wet areas, so consider bringing bug repellant. 

Clues:  To access the Quaddick State Forest Letterbox take Exit 99 off of Interstate 395 (Route 200/North Grosvenor Dale/Thompson Exit).  Go east on Route 200 for approximately 0.6 miles until you reach a four-way intersection (Junction of Route 193).  Go straight through the intersection and follow Quaddick Road for 2.6 miles.  At the stop sign, turn left onto Quaddick Town Farm Road.  Follow for 2.4 miles to intersection with Baker Road.  Continue straight for 0.1 mile past Baker Road.  

The start of your letterbox hike begins at the cedar gate on the left side of the road.  Park in front of the gate, or back at the junction of Baker Road, on the dirt portion of the road.  Beware of large trucks travelling at high speeds on Quaddick Town Farm Road.    

Walk through the gate and look to the left into an old plantation of red pine.  Red pine is a conifer, otherwise known as an evergreen – it keeps its needles year round.  It has 2 needles per fascicle, and reddish, plated bark.  Notice how tall and straight the red pine grows.  This quality makes red pine a desirable species for utility poles.  

Can you guess how old these trees are?  Do you see any signs of management?  To get a feel for how fast a plantation can grow, take into consideration that these trees were planted in the 1950’s, thinned for pulpwood in 1973, and thinned for sawlogs in 1983.  The term “thinning” refers to removing lesser quality trees to reduce overcrowding and promote growth in residual trees.  The last management done in this plantation was in 1983, when fifty 65’ poles were harvested for use as utility poles.  No management has been done since then because there has not been a forester assigned to the Quaddick State Forest for several years. 

As a side note, red pine is not native to Connecticut and in most cases was planted in plantations similar to this.  Over the last several years, most stands of red pine have been killed by exotic insects such as the red pine scale and/or the red pine adelgid, or have been salvage harvested for their wood products.  The trees in this stand are still alive perhaps because the past harvest operations allowed enough space between trees to limit the spread of the insects.  Or, it may be because this area of red pine is separated enough from other infected areas of red pine so as not to be affected. 

As you start walking along the old woods road, notice about 200’ down the road the trees close in on either side of you.  This regeneration consists primarily of white pine with some scattered oak.  White pine is different from red pine in that it has five needles per fascicle instead of two.  Looking beyond the regeneration on the right side of the road, you will see a few large white pine trees.  This stand of trees was heavily thinned in the early 1980’s.  The State-run crew harvested much of the mature white pine, and sent the wood to the state-run sawmill.  The lumber from these trees was used for picnic tables and buildings that can be found at the various state park and forest facilities.  Other wood was sent to the state-run shingle mill in Voluntown to produce shingles.  Notice how tall the regeneration has grown in the past 20 years.  Now would be a good time to go back to harvest the overstory trees to release this regeneration, and allow it to grow with more sunlight.  

At 350’ stop at the opening for the wildlife marsh on your right.  This man-made emergent marsh, called Sherman Marsh, was created in the early 1950’s as goose and duck habitat.  At that time it was a fairly open body of water, but as you can see it has grown in over the years.  As the marsh fills in, it loses some of its original value for goose and ducks, but increases in value for other species such as frogs and turtles.   

As you follow the road across the dam structure, notice the hardwood wetlands on the left side of the road.  Many common wetland plant species are found here, such as skunk cabbage, pepperbush, and multiple types of ferns.  Skunk cabbage is one of the first wildflower plants to emerge from the ground in the spring, and is well known for its ill scent and ability to produce its own heat. It can literally melt its way out of the ground! 

The flowers of skunk cabbage are purplish-brown and green, and the plant flowers between February and April.  The broad spreading leaves arrive after the flower, and reach a height of 1-2’.  Sweet pepperbush is a deciduous woody shrub reaching 3-10 feet in height.  It has shiny, alternate leaves with toothed margins and a short stalk.  The fragrant white flowers, located on a spike poking above the shrub, bloom in midsummer.  These white flowers bloom from the bottom up, so that the oldest flowers are on the bottom. 

Can you see a skunk cabbage plant, or a sweet pepperbush here? 

Continue on your journey.  The marsh separates from the road at approximately 150’ past the opening you just left.  If you look to the left at this point, you will notice the drier, uphill site that is home to plant and tree species different from those you were just viewing.  This stand you see now is a small, sawtimber-sized white pine stand.  Not a lot of light is reaching the forest floor in this area, due to the crowded conditions of the trees.  As a result, there are very few understory species found here, with mostly just pine needles carpeting the forest floor.  

From this point, head west-southwest for approximately 150’.  You should still be on the old woods road, but it is not clearly marked in this area.  Walk through the white pine stand until the road becomes clearly visible again.  At this point, the bigger white pine trees will give way again to thick regeneration.  This regeneration is approximately 10-20’ tall and is mostly white pine.  On the left side of the road, many of the overstory trees are red pine.  From this vantage point you should be able to get a better look at their crowns.  

This is a good time to familiarize yourself with white pine. As you enter the regeneration area, look closely at a seedling or sapling on the left side of the road.  Count how many needles are in each cluster, or fascicle, as we have been calling them.   Would you like to guess the approximate age of the tree you are looking at?  The age of a white pine can be easily determined by counting the “whorls” of branches, or cluster of branches, that grow out of the main stem forming a circle around the main stem.  The space between these sets of whorls represents one year’s growth!  

From the space between whorls you can also tell how good of a growing season the pine had that year  - the longer the distance between whorls, the better the growing season!  The tree you are looking at is probably around 15 years old, and came in shortly after the red pine harvest mentioned earlier.  

From the start of the regeneration area, continue on for 350’ until the trail jogs to the right.  During this 350’, you will pass through the sawtimber red pine/white pine regeneration area and into an area where the regeneration thins out and there is mostly sawtimber-sized white pine overhead.  Here, there is also a fern understory, which may not be visible in winter.  This change occurs in a dip in the landscape that has a subtle difference in soil types, and is slightly wetter than the area you just came from.  Did you notice the change?  Continue on down the hill, passing through a mature white pine stand with an understory of white pine and fern.  

When you reach the jog in the road, head west-northwest for a short 50’.  You will then find yourself between two large white pine trees.  From this point head southwest for 200’ until the understory opens up in front of you, and the lake is visible through the trees.  Be aware of your surroundings as the trail is disappearing at this point, and might not be as visible from different directions.  

As the understory opens up, the forest floor will be primarily covered with both huckleberry and blueberry bushes.  Blueberries area spreading shrubs, with leathery, unlobed leaves and white bell-like flowers that become blueberries.  Huckleberries closely resemble blueberries but have darker and smoother bark and yellowish resin dots on the leaves.  Huckleberry flowers can be either white or pink, and hang down in clusters.  Both species like acidic soils and are important food sources for wildlife.  They also both flower in early summer and fruit in mid to late summer. 

As you look around you, take into account that the stand of trees you are walking through was last cut in the late 1970’s.  The harvest was aimed at converting the stand from a softwood/hardwood stand of oak and pine to one that was primarily white pine.  Did they succeed?  

From the knob on the side hill where you now stand, continue downhill approximately 100’ to the next hilltop knoll.   On this knoll, the hilly terrain of the surrounding area becomes more noticeable.  These steep slopes consist of gravelly sandy loams, which favor the oak pine forest types you see around you, including the blueberry/huckleberry understory.  Pines are more suited to this type of soils, which explains the past desire to convert to pine 

From this point, the letterbox is located 50’ to the north-northwest, next to a small rock pile.  If you are facing the water, turn right or head towards 3 o’clock.  It is hidden under some rocks that are in between two mid-sized white oak trees.  These oak trees have one sapling-sized white pine next to them.   After signing in, please replace the box where it was found, hiding it well to avoid vandalism problems.  

If you have time to explore, head down to the water’s edge.  Look for the flowering water lily pads if it is summertime, and listen for waterfowl year round.  If you happen to be visiting on a Thursday during the summer or fall you may hear the sounds of the Thompson Speedway located at the top of the Reservoir.  At the waters edge, look back towards the way you came to see an 18” white pine with wildlife holes in it.  Notice the sawdust at the bottom of the tree, indicating a large amount of rot inside the tree.   

Learn More, Earn a Patch: Your walk has led you through various types of timber harvests, where management has both a product and a purpose.  You have also seen a wildlife improvement project conducted in the 1950’s, as well as learned about some of the local plants and trees. 

This is one of 32 letterbox hikes that are being sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Division of Forestry. When you have completed 5 of these sponsored letterbox hikes, either from this series or the Centennial series; you are eligible to earn a commemorative State Forest 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 you your patch. We will verify your visits and send the patch along to you.  Contact DEEP Forestry

The Letterbox Page

Content last updated, November 23, 2011