The Long Road Home
Bishop Swamp Wildlife Management Area, Andover
Here’s the deal: You never know what you’re going to get with our state’s Wildlife Management Areas. There’s the singularly fantastic Sessions Woods in Burlington, then there are several that provide a nice little hike, then are those like Bishop Swamp that are just… there. And then there are many that are not even worth my time. And that’s saying a lot.
You’d think an undeveloped woodland with a swampy lake in it in Andover could be decent. And I guess it is, since the trails and old roads in it are certainly hikeable. But… there’s really not much of anything here of interest.
I’m telling you this after hiking it. Had I spoken with Andover town guru and historian Scott Yeomans prior to my hike, I might have had more realistic expectations. A few hours after my hike Scott told me, “There’s nothing there. I’ve hiked all over it several times and it is just devoid of wildlife. It’s probably the most boring place in the whole town. I’ve never even seen waterfowl there. The fishing is terrible. It’s like a nuclear waste dump or something.”
That’s more or less a direct quote, by the way, not me exaggerating for comedic effect. Two bits of it strike me for different reasons. “It’s probably the most boring place in the whole town…” um, this is Andover. Not exactly known as the most happening town in the state. Also, the “devoid of wildlife” bit is interesting to me because in my friend Matt’s ExploreCT recap of his hike through here, he said that he saw hundreds of frogs. I only saw billions of mosquitos and gnats.
After this record-setting rainfall summer of 2021, that’s my experience everywhere though, not just here.
If for some dopey reason you choose to hike Bishop Swamp, you have a few options. One – and probably your best bet – is to park in the lot on Boston Hill Road, roll down your window, breathe in the fresh Andover air, and go somewhere else.
Two, which is the second best option, is walk along the old woods road from here for a mile or so, decide you’ve seen enough, and simply head back to your car. And three, the 7-mile dumb completist CTMQ option which I’ll now describe.
This property is fine. It really is. It used to be owned by the Jurovaty family which is one of the big Andover families. (This, too, I learned from the town historian.) The family sold it to the state who promptly changed the name of Jurovaty Pond to Bishop Swamp. I do not know why.
There are no trail blazes here and every map you’ll find is unofficial. But at the same time, you should be able to sort yourself out, as there aren’t very many options for getting lost. I followed the main path which begins wide and clear through some fairly young forest. I’m guessing the Jurovaty’s farmed this a hundred years ago and it was a clear-cut area.
There are sudden stretches of bramble and grasses and overgrown trail. It’s sort of weird. I crossed the gas pipeline cut and continued along the old road for about a mile. The pond and swamp staying out of view. In other words, you walk along a rutted and often muddy old forest road for over a mile.
There are trail options at that point. One heads west to a farm. Another heads east to the swamp. As for me, I simply wanted to keep to the main path so I continued generally south. I’m not sure why I was so eager, since all I was looking for was a giant powerline cut.
Look, you’re not going to hike at this place. Why would you? There are 100 places to hike within 20 minutes of here that will give you a much better experience. I will say once near the swamp, since only a handful of people ever make it this deep into the property, I did feel that weird “lone explorer” feeling that is fairly rare in our small state.
Which is weird because the trails were fairly well-cleared and I saw plenty of footprints and bike/ATV tracks (but no other people). And there is the creepy old cabin that local kids use to drink and… my god, there was so many mosquitoes it would be kind of hilarious if the kids tried to do anything staying in the same general place for more than 40 seconds in the late summer of 2021.
Kid comes home, buzzed, with a hickey, and 27,000 mosquito bites… “Nah mom, I totally wasn’t up at the old cabin at Bishop Swamp, what makes you think that?”
Once to the powerline, it was either turn around and walk back the same 2.5 miles or chug it out through the hilly cut to a long road walk. Everyone likes loops, but I implore you to turn around and stay in the woods.
If you choose to do the full loop, you walk a mile east under powerlines, then a mile north on Gilead Road, then another two miles along Jurovaty Road – here you’ll get your best view of the pond at least – and then, get this, back west along that natural gas line cut you crossed over at the beginning. (Or you could stick to the roads to your car.)
Honestly, if you read this, you’re all set. Gay City State Park is mere minutes from here. Why are you even here? Get outta here.