Chase Reservoir
Cat Hollow

Old Furnace

Wauregan Reservoir
Owen Bell

Town and State Parks

Old Furnace State Park

Old Furnace State Park contains a three-mile hiking trail that starts in the parking lot and leads you to the top of the cliffs overlooking Half Hill Pond and down to the parking lot and boat ramp at the northern end of Ross Pond. The trail continues along the western edge of Ross Pond to Squaw Rock Road. The trail is one of the many blue-blaze trails maintained by volunteers of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association.

The views from the top of the cliffs are stunning. The cliffs tower 200 feet over Half Hill Pond and give you an uninterrupted view over the eastern half of the town of Killingly and into Rhode Island.

 


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Directions:

Take Route 6 east out of Danielson towards Rhode Island. After passing under I-395, take the first turn to the right on South Frontage Road. Follow the road for 0.3-mile to the main parking lot at Old Furnace State Park. The hiking trail starts from the southern end of the parking lot and is marked with blue blazes.
To reach the boat ramp, continue down the South Frontage Road for an additional 0.3-mile and turn right onto Ross Road. After 0.4-mile turn right again and continue for 0.5 mile until the road ends. The boat ramp is on your left.

 

 

 

Trees and plants in the park

Old Furnace State Park contains a mixture of deciduous and evergreen forest trees that are typical in much of Eastern Connecticut. Stone walls and other relics show that farming and industrial activities have taken place, resulting in the second growth forest and man-made ponds that are visible today.

The most notable tree throughout the year is the Canadian (Eastern) hemlock. These majestic evergreen trees are found in many spots along the trail and the cliffs and can be identified by their flattened needles, small cones and dark cinnamon-brown bark. Unfortunately, the damage of a non-native insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid, is very evident in the park. The feeding activity of the hemlock woolly adelgid causes severe thinning and stress on the hemlocks. Other evergreen trees include two species of pine. The most common pine is the eastern white pine which bears soft blue-green needles and long narrow cones. A less common species is the pitch pine which grows in a few places along the edge of the cliff. The pitch pine has stiff, dark green needles and rounded cones which cling to the branches. Pitch pine is more common in coastal areas, but this tree is able to adapt to the poor growing conditions at the edge of the cliff. Deciduous forest trees throughout the park include various species of oak, birch, beech, maple and hickory. Common understory shrubs include witchhazel, blueberry and mountain laurel.

Several streams, wetlands and man-made ponds can be found along the trail. They contain an interesting mix of native plants including skunk cabbage, cattails and waterlilies. Unfortunately, several invasive plants have colonized the ponds, including phragmites and purple loosestrife. Phragmites is very easy to find because it looks like a large scraggly corn plant which has formed very dense groups along the shoreline.

Invasive plants are a concern at all of our ponds in Killingly. Once established they are very hard to eradicate and will crowd out the native vegetation. To help prevent the spread of invasive plants you should clean weeds off your boat when you exit the water and wash your boat when you get home. You can read more at the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group web site.

History of Old Furnace

Originally a Town Park in 1909. Old Furnace State Park was the site of an iron furnace during the 1830’s and 40’s. Through the efforts of Reverend Charles Hutchinson, Jr., the Danielson Methodist minister who was then serving in the Connecticut Legislature, it was made a State Park in the early 1940’s. Although remnants of the stone furnace are still visible adjacent to Fall Brook, extensive landscaping during the beautification of the park destroyed many of the features.

Timeline of the park

1809 - A grist mill is erected on the property, perhaps by owner Samuel Titus
1830 - Zephaniah Young, now the owner of the property, leases the land to Caleb Fenner for 3 years. The property consists of a dwelling and a grist mill.
1831 - The iron furnace has been constructed.
1833 - Both the furnace and and forge are in operation on the property.
1834 - Young sells 2 acres with a dwelling house and a furnace to his daughter Reba Hubbard.
1835 - Hubbard sells 7 acres with a dwelling and a furnace to Parsons Brainard.
1840 - Census reports 8 persons employed at the furnace.
1847 - Foundry moves to a site adjacent to the railroad on present day Furnace Street in Danielson.
1909 - After changing ownership several times, William Pike, now the owner of the “Old Furnace” property, sells it to the Town of Killingly for use as a park.
1918 - Town of Killingly sells 4.5 acres comprising “Old Furnace” to the State of Connecticut as a State Park.
1964 - The Ross Camp area is added to Old Furnace State Park.

The furnace

Numerous small iron furnaces were constructed in the Northeast during the eighteenth century. Most had similar shape and basic method of operation. Iron ore frequently found in swamps and bogs, fuel; often charcoal from nearby timber stands, and flux such as limestone or a gabbro rock were fed into the top of the furnace. Blasts of hot air from enormous water powered bellows fanned the fire. Molten iron was either hardened into long cast-iron bars called sows or it was immediately poured into molds and cast into a variety of products. The slag produced during the operation was frequently disposed of in a nearby river.

Powered by an overshot wheel, the furnace converted iron ore to molten iron which was then cast for multiple uses. The 1830’s saw a number of small cotton mills being established in Killingly. This period also marked the peak of the furnace operation so it was thought that much of the finished product from the furnace was utilized in the construction of mill machinery. More efficient technology and he completion of the railroad through the present day Danielson in about 1840 hastened the demise of the furnace.