Bear Mountain (Connecticut)
|Elevation||2323+ ft (708+ m) NGVD 29|
|Prominence||433 ft (132 m)|
|Location||Salisbury, Connecticut, U.S.|
|Topo map||USGS Ashley Falls|
|Type||Thrust fault; metamorphic rock|
|Age of rock||Ordovician|
|Easiest route||Appalachian Trail|
Bear Mountain, is a prominent peak of the southern Taconic Mountains. It lies within the town of Salisbury, Connecticut, in the United States, and is the highest mountain summit in the state of Connecticut. The highest point in the state, however, is located on the south slope of Mount Frissell 1.3 miles (2.1 km) to the west at 2,379 feet (725 m). Much of the mountain is protected as part of the viewshed and corridor of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which crosses the summit grounds. From the summit the view includes Twin Lakes and cultivated fields to the east, the Catskills and nearby Taconic peaks to the west, and Massachusetts' Mount Everett and Mount Race to the north. Though the mountain's elevation is commonly reported at 2316', the elevation near its stone monument tower, the proper summit lies approximately 125 feet northwest of the tower, accessible by a herd path following the mountain's abandoned Bee Line Trail to the Northwest Camp owned by the Connecticut Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club. The mountain is noted for its old growth scrub forest of pitch pines, birch, oak and other short-statured trees, much like its neighbors, Mounts Everett and Race, for its numerous wild blueberry bushes which produce in late July and early August, and for its rattlesnakes, which in summer are sometimes seen sunning themselves on the mountain's numerous open rocks of mica, schist and gneiss.
A pyramidal stone tower was built on the peak in 1885. The current plaque which was originally on the now-demolished pyramid erroneously calls the peak the highest ground in Connecticut; it also overestimates the height of the peak. The pyramid and plaque as well as the identification of Bear Mountain as Connecticut's highest peak and misidentification as Connecticut's highest point are the work of Robbins Battell of Norfolk, Connecticut, who became convinced that the Encyclopædia Britannica was wrong in stating that there was no point in Connecticut over 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level, and had the Litchfield Hills surveyed.
Having identified Bear Mountain as the state's highest peak, Battell took out a long-term lease on the land and contracted with mason Owen Travis for a marker, to be visible from the surrounding district. Over the next three years, despite the lack of roads, Travis brought 350 tons of stone to the summit and constructed a pyramidal tower, 20 feet (6.1 m) square at the base and 22 feet (6.7 m) tall, tapering to 10 feet (3.0 m) square at the top, building it in the fashion of old Connecticut stone fences, with no mortar. A lightning rod stood another 17 feet (5.2 m) above the top of the tower.
Over the years, the tower deteriorated and began to collapse. Restoration was hampered by the lack of access by road. In 1972 a private donor had it restored and topped with a cement cap; shortly afterward, a group of Boy Scouts restored it once again; and finally in 1978, the eastern corner disintegrated and the tower completely collapsed, leaving the plaque in the ruins. From 1982 to 1983 a movement to have the state take over the site resulted in a decision not to rebuild the tower, and the ruins were stabilized and the plaque set into the rubble.
- Smith, Charles W G (2004). Massachusetts Trail Guide. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club.