The Pull of Diana
Diana’s Pool Falls & Trail, Chaplin
Chaplin is a funny town. There it is, quietly existing in eastern Connecticut… no one bothers Chaplin, Chaplin doesn’t bother anyone. Aside from a few trails coursing through town, there’s really not much in town bringing in people from elsewhere.
Well, except Diana’s Pool.
After all, Diana’s Pool was the subject of a 1983 New York Times article – probably the only time the Gray Lady has ever mentioned Chaplin in her life. And that article? It told people not to come here, because too many people were coming here. And don’t even think of swimming here, because swimming was disallowed here.
So much for Chaplin’s great unveiling.
The parking area for Diana’s Pool is very, very small. The road to access the lot barely allows two cars to pass and there’s nowhere to legally park outside of the designated lot. (Although it’s not like Chaplin has a police department, so I’m sure people go for it all the time.)
The two waterfalls here are not really falls at all; three, maybe four-feet high at most. So what, you’re asking, is the draw here?
Everything. The section of the Natchaug River that flows through here is one of the prettiest stretches of river in southern New England. The boulders and ruggedness of the area almost seems out of place for The Quiet Corner of Connecticut. The trout fishing here is supposed to be great too. Claiming a slab of rock alongside or in the river is also legal, and highly sought after. It’s just that deep, swirling pool of water – perfect for swimming – that is off limits.
Calvin and I walked the trail alongside the river – actually, several trails. At each chokepoint, there are a few options: the athletic nine-year-old route, the fairly capable dad route, and the “I’ll just stay safe back here” route. We visited on a warm March day; spring melt and rains had the river flowing pretty swiftly, but the water was freezing. This made the route choices of my nine-year-old more than a little dicey at times.
But I’ll admit some fatherly pride as he deftly parkoured up and down the smooth boulders high above the river as concerned onlookers held their hands to their mouths at times watching him. (The one place he begged to essentially shimmy along an overhanging cliff by grabbing exposed roots 15 feet above the river was a bit much for me though. I put the kibosh on that one… maybe that’s something to do in August, not March.)
The further one goes from the parking area, the smaller the trail becomes… ultimately devolving into a fisherman’s path. We followed it for a long way – much farther than anyone else there that day – and finally turned around after about 3/4 of a mile or so after the rocks became much smaller and the river much calmer.
But it’s never not beautiful. From that 1983 Times article:
The Natchaug River almost seems to be flaunting its beauty as it swaggers this way and that, washing over boulders and dancing between bold rock formations, its banks thick with maples, oaks, black gum trees and deep-green hemlocks, its trout-filled sparkling waters so pure that botanists at a nearby university can’t begin to grow algae in it.
(“A nearby university?” We can assume UConn of course, as it’s in the next town over, but it’s interesting that if that sentence were written today, they’d just say UConn.)
A few different sources promote various “legends” as to the “Diana’s Pool” name. There’s the Jilted Lover Jumps to Her Death trope. There’s the variation on that theme where Diana “slipped on all the tears she cried” over some dude. One isn’t a legend as much as an apocryphal story – local boys named the deep and very swimmable pool after Diana, the Roman goddess of “wild nature and the hunt.” Perhaps the other story of some guy naming it after his girlfriend is true?
Nah. I choose to believe that the Diana family, who apparently owned this land in the 1800’s and ran a concession stand near here, had the place named after them. Occam’s Razor and all that.
Calvin loved this area, and I loved that he loved it. Some idiots felt the need to deface some of the rocks of course – and when I say idiots, I mean it. Even if their heart was in the right place, spelling is not their strong suit:
I turned my attention back to the boulders my son was scaling and thought about the stories about how long ago, the Native Americans would jam logs under them to rock them, creating a booming sound. They were supposedly called thunder rocks. I’d like to see that.
It’s quite a scene. All in little ol’ Chaplin… the pull of Diana is real.