Farmington Canal Heritage Trail

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Farmington Canal Lock 12, Cheshire, CT

The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail is an 80-mile (130 km) multi-use rail trail located in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The trail was built on former New Haven and Northampton Company (NH&N) (later New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad [NH]) railbed, which was constructed along the route of the Farmington Canal in Connecticut and the Hampshire and Hampden Canal in Massachusetts, respectively.

The sections from New Haven to Tariffville are part of the East Coast Greenway, a partially completed trail intended to link Maine with Florida.

Railroad history[edit]

In 1821, a group of New Haven businessmen convened to construct a canal in Connecticut much like the Erie Canal that had just been completed in New York. It took ten years to complete and was open for use in 1835. Twelve years later, rail became the more cost efficient transportation option and facilitator of trade. A rail bed was put down to follow the same route that the canal had.

The line changed hands throughout its lifetime, from the NH&N, NH, Penn Central, Conrail, and finally Guilford, who abandoned the line in segments throughout the 1980s. The Connecticut Department of Transportation purchased most of the line from Guilford for railbanking purposes. In 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) provided states the ability to utilize federal funds to finance the conversion of derelict railroad corridors into rail trails.

The trail runs from downtown New Haven, Connecticut to Northampton, Massachusetts, closely following the path of the original Canal and Route 10.[1]

Portions of the original canal still exist, such as an historic "lock house" dating from the time of the original canal, as well as retaining walls, canal locks (elevators for boats), old sections of canal, and other features. In Cheshire, Connecticut, the only restored lock along the original Canal line has been incorporated into the Lock 12 Historical Park.

History on Trail

Trail status[edit]

The entire route of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail is not yet completed (72% in Connecticut, 47% in Massachusetts). The trail is divided into three sections:

  • southern: New Haven-Plainville, Connecticut
  • middle: Farmington-Suffield, Connecticut
  • northern: Southwick, Massachusetts-Northampton, Massachusetts (In Southwick, the trail s known as the Southwick Rail Trail and in Westfield, It is known as the Columbia Heritage Rail Trail.)

Southern section[edit]

As of October 2009, two sections of the trail are paved and open to traffic. With the completion of a 12-mile (800 m) section in New Haven,[2] there is a continuous 14-mile (23 km) section from Prospect Place in New Haven (41°18′49″N 72°55′30″W / 41.3137°N 72.9251°W / 41.3137; -72.9251) through the length of Hamden to Cornwall Avenue in Cheshire (41°29′55″N 72°54′52″W / 41.4985°N 72.9144°W / 41.4985; -72.9144). In August 2006, Yale University announced it would contribute towards the completion of the final two blocks of the trail through downtown New Haven, from Hillhouse Avenue to the Audubon Arts District. The southern 2-mile (3.2 km) section in the town of Southington was completed in 2010. The last gap is the northern section through Plainville.[3][4]

East Coast Greenway

Farmington Canal State Park Trail[edit]

Farmington Canal State Park Trail is forms a portion of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in the towns of Cheshire and Hamden. The site of the greenway was originally used by the native Quinnipiac tribes as a path prior to its expansion as a road by the colonists.[5] A canal construction project began on July 4, 1825, with the first sections opening in 1828. On June 22, 1836, the Farmington and Hampshire companies were in severe debt and transferred their ownership to New Haven-Northampton Company, resulting in a loss of more than $1 million in investor capital. In 1847, investors in the company petitioned the state for the right to build a railroad. The approved railroad was constructed in one year on the banks of the canal for a total cost of $186,000.33.[6] Rail service lasted until the 1980s, when Guilford discontinued service. The Farmington Valley Trails Council was founded in 1992 to preserve the canal by converting it into a park.[7] Part of the Farmington Canal State Park trail was dedicated May 22, 1994.[7] Located on North Brooksvale road is Lock 12 Historical Park, a restored canal lock and museum dubbed the "best-preserved relic of Connecticut's canal era."[5][8]

The developed section within state park boundaries runs 5.5 miles (8.9 km) south from Cornwall Street in Cheshire to Todd Street in Hamden and includes the Farmington Canal's restored Lock 12, located south of Brooksvale Road in Cheshire.[9]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and Farmington River Trail Guide, FVTC, Tariffville, CT: 2009
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^,0,2613652.story
  5. ^ a b Leary, Joseph (2004). A Shared Landscape: A Guide & History of Connecticut's State Parks & Forests. Friends of the Connecticut State Parks, Inc. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0974662909. 
  6. ^ G. M. Guignino. "The Farmington Canal 1822-1847: An Attempt At Internal Improvement". Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Farmington Valley Trails Council - History". Farmington Valley Trails Council. 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "Cheshire Land Trust". Cheshire Land Trust. June 25, 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "Farmington Canal State Park Trail". State Parks and Forests. Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Retrieved 2013-02-05.