Farmington River

Farmington River

The Farmington River is a river located in northwest Connecticut and southwest Massachusetts. Its length is 81 miles (130 km) via its longest branch, and its watershed covers 609 square miles (1,577 km²). The river historically played an important role in small-scale manufacturing in towns alongside it, but it is now mainly used for recreation and drinking water. The Farmington River Watershed Association [] is a non-profit organization for conservation and preservation of this river.

Its two main branches start in southwestern Massachusetts. The West Branch starts in Becket, Massachusetts and flows southeasterly to Otis, Massachusetts. A 14-mile (23 km) portion of the western branch has been designated a National Wild and Scenic River. The eastern branch is now mostly covered by the Barkhamsted Reservoir. The two branches join in New Hartford, Connecticut. The upper reaches of the river flow mostly southward, but the river turns northward in Farmington, Connecticut and then runs mostly north and east until it flows into the Connecticut River near the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut.


There are several whitewater sections ( [] and [] ). One of these, the so-called "Upper Farmington" section of the West Branch in New Boston, Massachusetts, is about 7 miles (11 km) long. It is Class 2 through farm and woods scenery to an iron bridge, where kayak and canoe slalom races are held. Below the bridge the river becomes Class 3-4, very technical at low water, and technical and pushy at higher water, with a short gorge with several abrupt drops. The biggest of these is about four feet at Decoration Rock. Below, the river continues fast and technical with many rocks and constant maneuvering required. The river is continuously rapid, leading through larger drops at Battering Ram rapid and Corkscrew. Eventually it flattens to Class 2 until a final, ledge rapid at Bear's Den, just above the reservoir. The Upper Farmington is barely runnable (very scratchy with many exposed rocks and pinning possibilities) during fall dam releases, and is a much better run at levels of about 600 cubic feet per second (16,990 l/s), or about 5 feet (1.5 m) on the internet gauge for that section.

A second whitewater section is found in Tariffville, Connecticut, one mile (1.6 km) of technical Class 3 water which is runnable all year round. The river is normally paddled at levels between 1.5 and 2.75 feet (45-75 cm) on the internet gauge [,00060] ; above 2.5 feet (75 cm) it becomes significantly heavier and more dangerous. This section includes the famous T-ville Hole, where kayakers can practice hole surfing and freestyle moves above a flat pool. Below the Hole is a broken dam, where the river funnels through an abrupt four foot drop into a large wave. This area is popular with swimmers in summer, and it is risky due to heavy currents and undercut rocks. There have been at least three fatal drownings in the Tariffville Gorge section, primarily people who were not properly prepared or trained for the heavy rapids and pinning obstacles in the gorge. Paddlers without helmets, lifejackets and Class 3 whitewater skills should end downriver trips at Tariffville Park, just above the start of the gorge.

Other whitewater areas include Satan's Kingdom in Riverton, Connecticut, which is popular with tubers, and the Collinsville section in Collinsville and Unionville, Connecticut, which is about four miles of Class 2 training water with a bicycle and pedestrian path on the right side of the river. Entrance to the park is free. A service will also pick tubers up and drop them off at certain points.

Dams and power generation

The west branch of the river includes two hydroelectric dams in West Hartland and Colebrook, run by Connecticut's Metropolitan District Commission.

The largest dam on the east branch is the Saville Dam, which impounds the Barkhamsted Reservoir.

The Rainbow Dam, a 68-foot dam with a hydroelectric generator and a fish ladder, dams the river at Windsor, a few miles before the river flows into the Connecticut River.

A number of other dams have been built on the river since European settlement, usually to power mills and other industry. A few, such as in Collinsville, are still mostly intact.

Water released from or flowing over the Otis Reservoir dam enters the Farmington River just North of Reservoir Road in Otis, Ma. Significant quantities of water are released during the fall in order to drop the reservoir water level for the winter.


In both October 2005 and May 2006, heavy rains deluged the Farmington River Valley and the Farmington rose to flood numerous forests and fields near the towns of Simsbury and East Granby. The river was so high in October 2005, that the river flowed over an old broken dam on the East Granby-Tariffville border.

External links

* [ Farmington River Watershed Association]
* [ USGS site]
* [ Farmington River Paddling Maps]

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