Target This Hike
Tidal Marsh Trail, North Haven
I must admit that I didn’t plan to target his hike behind Target. Calvin and I spent the bulk of the day in New Haven, but then ventured out here – to North Haven’s sea of strip malls, chain restaurants, and box stores – in order to find a little museum.
On our way there, I noticed several signs pointing to the Tidal Marsh Trail. “Hm, someone really wants us to hike their trail,” I thought, following the directional signs through acres of pavement and storefronts along Universal Drive. (I must note that the hulking, empty Toys R Us building is very odd here with its incongruous sort of Aztec stylings for some reason.)
Calvin ate some FroYo at a rather strange Fro-Yo place and then we drove behind Target to the trailhead. The Tidal Marsh Trail is a result of the efforts of the North Haven Trail Association – certainly one of the pluckiest little trails organizations in the state.
Not only is their Tidal Marsh Trail wonderfully cleared and blazed, but the signage is ample, their website is decent, and they’ve taken on the impossible task of dealing with the Banton Street/Quinnipiac River Park area over near Hamden. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a 3.5 mile or so section of trail that was the southern terminus of the CFPA’s Quinnipiac trail for decades.
However, constant flooding, forests of poison ivy and other nastiness, and general disregard prompted the CFPA to cut it loose. North Haven Trail Association picked it up and they’ve cleared a bit of the area. While they can’t stop the flooding, I’m interested to see what they’ve done from the Banton Street rest stop northward. This was the worst 3 miles of CFPA trail in the state.
But that’s for another day. We’re over here on the other side of the Q-River on sandy bluffs walking down a trail. A trail with some really nice views of ol’ Hobomock, otherwise known as the Sleeping Giant. Photographers with nice cameras would do well here.
Although that building ruins the shot I guess.
As we walked along the trail, Calvin constantly wanted to scootch down to the water. I kept delaying the inevitable until we got to a place where it would be easy to get back up. We passed a couple of spots, but this is a hot fishing area and we certainly didn’t want to bother any of those folks.
Once we found an accessible riverside spot, I was glad we did. An osprey across the river was active and loud. My guess is that it was a mama osprey with some eggs or babies and she was protecting her nest. Seagulls would occasionally fly nearby and the osprey would go nuts on them. Honestly, seagulls are lame but I don’t think they wanted anything to do with the osprey and didn’t deserve the hassle. Still, it was cool to watch.
We skipped stones for a while (a long, long while, actually) and then made our way back up to the trail and into the woods.
Usually I’m not really a fan of “junk in the woods,” but the abandoned Cedar Hill railyard here is different. It was supposedly one of the largest railyards ever built in the US. With a capacity of 15,000 rail cars, the yard covered 880 acres and extended more than 7 miles from New Haven up here to North Haven.
You can search around the area to kind of see how it used to be. The idea here was to alleviate congestion in New York City and to send trails off in reconfigurations for their final destinations.
Just off into the woods next to the trail lie line after line of abandoned rail. Hopping around here you’ll find other, smaller railyard remnants. Of course, rusted pieces of metal hidden in the underbrush is also a recipe for disaster, so be careful.
As we continued south on the trail, lookout towers from the heyday of the railyard (parts of it are still active) now house massive osprey and maybe eagle nests. This whole area is just sort of a fascinating jumble of time periods. Sleeping Giant’s geological history, the railyards, the box store era of development… and then this trail sort of ties it all together in a weirdly satisfying way.
After I finished writing this page, I came across the SCRCOG’s blurb about it:
Regardless of the season, expect to be pleasantly surprised by what you may find! The trail offers people an occasion to watch and listen to birds, discover interesting geo-caches, explore a part of the region’s commercial/ industrial history, or study the varied flora and fauna that make brackish marshes their home.
Calvin and I reached the end of the line (railroad term!) and poked around a weird tunnel over a tunnel next to a train track structure. It was certainly unique to me. We tried to get a closer look at some of the towers and abandoned buildings from the Cedar Hill yard before turning tail and heading up the same trail to the car.
If you read my trail reports, you know I have an affinity for these types of unexpected urban trails. Literally tens of thousands of people drive right past this trail every day… it’s flat, well-cleared, and just really takes hikers away from the surrounding highways, commercial development, and, well, all that junk that makes our world what it is today.
Well done, North Haven Trails Association, well done.