WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Take me back down that old cool river

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The mighty Quinnipiac River! What a wonder it was for us as kids to have a natural recreational resource like the Quinnipiac River so close by.

The Quinnipiac River never stopped supplying us with some type of recreational pursuit, even through our growing years.

Our home on Hanover Road had the banks of the Quinnipiac just across the street as it meandered slowly in back of the St. Laurent Cemetery.

As kids we took full advantage of what the river had to offer, even though it was shamefully being misused with little regard for the quality of the water.

We made rafts to float the river. We even came up with a kayak and a small boat with which to explore. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn had nothing on us.

At that time, we were unaware of the different species of fish that could be found in just about any portion of the river, although we did favor fishing the upper river from Red Bridge up to what was then Carpenter’s Dam because we knew it was stocked with trout.

Hanover Dam always had a fascination for us and became a source of income because we could always capture a snapping turtle or two to sell for a whole dollar to some of the locals who used them to make turtle soup. Today, it is closed to the public.

Hanover Pond then became our next source of recreation. Believe it or not, I can still remember swimming at Dawson Beach, now the headquarters for the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association.

Thanks to the Meriden Lions Club. this was another portion of the Quinnipiac’s history that was saved. The classroom and office were completely rebuilt.

Hanover Pond also had a couple of sandy beaches for us teenagers to frequent. One of them was called “Double Beach” and the other “B.A.B.” (a.k.a. “Bare-Assed Beach,” for obvious reasons.)

Next it was Red Bridge, that beautiful iron bridge that was once the main crossing for vehicles on Oregon Road.

There were some in the city who wanted to have it removed, but thanks to the hardworking gang of the Meriden Lions Club, it has become a historical site and is more majestic than ever. To “Ziggy” and my fellow Meriden Lions, thanks for another job well done.

About 100 yards above Red Bridge was a huge tree that leaned out over the water. It had a cable attached to one of the limbs that was called “The Swing” and we could use it to swing out into the middle of the river and drop in for a cooling swim.

Sometimes we would get a huge summer downpour and this would result in some fast moving water in the area of the swing. The more daring of us would use the swing to drop into a current that would sweep us downriver to Red Bridge, where we would try to grab the abutment to climb out and do it again.

Fishing in the Quinnipiac River also garnered our attention in our teen years. We spent many hours in pursuit of some of the trout that were in the river from stockings by the Inland Fisheries and the Meriden Rod & Gun Club.

One of our favorite fishing spots was “Suckers Alley,” an oblong rock that sticks out into the river at the first big bend.

There was also “Charlie’s Rock” and across from it, “The Beach.” Next up was the “Broken Down Dam” and, just above it, “The Cables” — two cables that
were strung across the river and were perilous at best to try and use to cross the

Just upriver from The Cables was “The Rock Pool.” It’s still a favorite fishing spot for many trout fishermen and, over the years, has gotten a reputation for yielding some real trophy trout.

Then you came to what was one of the most frequented spots on the Quinnipiac River, “Boy Scout Island.” It is indeed an island, with the river flowing on both sides of it.

Back then there was a bridge of sorts going out to the island. It was really just the cut-down trunk of a tree, but it got us onto the island nice and dry.

The island got its name because it was used by the local South Meriden Boy Scout Troop for some overnight excursions with scout masters Harold “Pop” Waller and Floyd Spencer.

I can still vividly remember Spencer doing his cooking in a cast-iron frying pan over a bed of wood coals. Too bad today’s kids can’t have that same experience of days gone by.

Back in the 1950s there was also a small parking spot for a couple of vehicles just above the island and just below what we called “The Second Bridge.” If you walk the Q Gorge Trail, you will find a kiosk on the trail with info on the bridge.

Over the years I have fished for trout just above the Second Bridge. Would you believe it if I told you I even caught a couple of native brook trout there and returned them to the river? The native fishery in the Quinnipiac River is really unknown to many and maybe at a later date I will get into it.

Our two final Quinnipiac River destinations were Carpenter’s Dam (now removed) and what we called “The Third Bridge” (also now removed) that spanned the river just above Carpenter’s Dam. Both of these sites were favorite spots for fishing.

As we grew older, our fascination with the Quinnipiac River expanded and included the rest of the Quinnipiac River, all the way up to Johnson Avenue. It was in our teen years that we met almost every summer weekend at the spot that we called “Miller’s” just below the Johnson Avenue Bridge.

Just about any hot, summer weekend you could find the gang from South Meriden swimming at Miller’s and just simply enjoying being a teenager. Whatever happened to those peaceful years with no forbidden places to go electronically, no drugs and no drive-by shootings?

These are just a few of the memories that I thought I would share with you. What would life be like without some pleasant memories? I have so many.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.


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