West Rock Ridge

West Rock Ridge

Infobox Mountain
Name = West Rock Ridge
Photo = Ct church wrockA.jpg
Caption = "West Rock, New Haven" by Frederic Edwin Church, 1849
Elevation = convert|700|ft|abbr=on ridge high point
Location = New Haven, Hamden, Woodbridge, and Bethany, Connecticut
Range = Metacomet Ridge
Prominence =
Coordinates = coord|41|24|56|N|72|56|17|W|type:mountain to coord|41|19|57|N|72|57|41|W|type:mountain
Type = Fault-block; igneous
Age = 200 Ma
Last eruption =
First ascent =
Easiest route = Auto road
Listing =
Translation =
Language =
Pronunciation =
West Rock Ridge or West Rock of south-central Connecticut, with a high point of convert|700|ft|m|0, is a convert|7|mi long traprock mountain ridge located on the west side of New Haven. The ridge forms a continuous line of exposed cliffs visible from metropolitan New Haven and points west. West Rock Ridge is part of the narrow, linear Metacomet Ridge that extends from Long Island Sound near New Haven, north through the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts to the Vermont border.Farnsworth, Elizabeth J. [http://www.mmmtrail.org/NaturalResourcesAssessmentFinal.pdf "Metacomet-Mattabesett Trail Natural Resource Assessment."] , 2004. PDF file. Cited Nov. 20, 2007.]

A popular outdoor recreation resource, West Rock Ridge is known for its microclimate ecosystems, rare plant communities, and expansive views from cliffs that tower up to convert|500|ft|m|0 above the surrounding landscape. DeLorme Topo 6.0. Mapping Software. DeLorme, Yarmouth, Maine] The ridge is traversed by a network of hiking trails including the convert|7|mi Regicides Trail and about convert|1|mi of the convert|23|mi|adj=on Quinnipiac Trail.Connecticut Walk West. 19th Edition. The Connecticut Forest and Park Association. Rockfall, Connecticut. 2006.]


Judges Cave and the Regicides Trail (which traverses the length of the ridge), receive their names from two judges Edward Whalley and his son-in-law William Goffe, who had signed the death warrant of Charles I of England in 1649. After the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II of England in 1660, the pair of regicides fled to the area to avoid arrest and hid in a boulder cave on the crest of the ridge intermittently over the summer of that year.

Other notable historic events include the portrayal of the ridge by 19th century landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church in 1849.-

The General Assembly of the state of Connecticut established An Act Concerning West Rock Ridge State Park, which established the park when the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) purchased 600 acres of land from the city of New Haven in 1975. This act gives the DEP the right of first refusal to purchase private land sold within the West Rock Ridge conservation area. The intent of the act is to allow the state to increase the size of the park, which is about 1,600 acres. [http://www.cga.ct.gov/2003/act/Pa/2003PA-00131-R00HB-05793-PA.htm]


West Rock Ridge, located in New Haven, Hamden, Woodbridge, and Bethany, Connecticut, is convert|1|mi wide at its widest point, although steepness of the terrain make the actual square mileage much larger. Notable peaks on the ridge include the high point, alternately called High Rock or York Mountain, est. convert|700|ft|m|0, at the north terminus of the ridge; the southern prominence with a summit parking lot, picnic tables, and observation area, usually referred to as West Rock, convert|400|ft|m|0, and popularly known as the South Overlook; and several knobs in between those two points. Judges Cave is also located at the southern end of the ridge.

s on this water company property that immediately border West Rock are Lake Dawson and Lake Watrous. Konolds Pond, which is not used as a water source, is located just north of Rt. 15 in an industrial area. [http://www.rwater.com/] The main body of water inside the park is Lake Wintergreen, a 44-acre body of water, which is located east of the ridge. The lake is located on land the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection purchased from the water company. There is also a small fishing pond located near Mountain Road, and a flood control pond located at the north end of the park. [http://www.ct.gov/caes/cwp/view.asp?a=2799&q=376202] The Wilbur Cross Parkway (Route 15) passes through the south central side of the mountain in the "West Rock Tunnel," also known as the "Heroes Tunnel." A network of suburban streets abut the mountain on all sides and a seasonal paved park road climbs to the crest of the ridge and along its length. Several communications towers sprout from the ridge crest.

The Metacomet Ridge extends north from West Rock Ridge as Mad Mare Hill and Mount Sanford and northeast as Rocky Top and Sleeping Giant. East of West Rock Ridge, the Metacomet Ridge spreads out into a series of low, parallel ridges toward Saltonstall Mountain in Branford, Connecticut; the only noteworthy summit in between is East Rock which looms over New Haven from the north. The west side of West Rock Ridge drains into West River, then into Long Island Sound; the east side into Belden Brook thence to West River, and the north side into Mill River thence to New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound.DeLorme Topo 6.0. Mapping Software. DeLorme, Yarmouth, Maine]


The fault-block ridge of West Rock is composed of traprock, also known as basalt, an extrusive volcanic rock. Basalt is a dark colored rock, but the iron within it weathers to a rusty brown when exposed to the air, lending the ledges of West Rock Ridge a distinct reddish hue. The rock, which formed 200 million years ago during the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods, frequently breaks into octagonal and pentagonal columns, creating a unique "postpile" appearance. Huge slopes made of fractured basalt scree are visible beneath many of the ledges of West Rock Ridge.

The ridge is the product of a huge feeder dike which supplied several massive lava flows hundreds of feet deep that welled up in faults created by the rifting apart of North America from Eurasia and Africa over a period of 20 million years. Erosion occurring between the eruptions deposited deep layers of sediment between the lava flows and around the dike, which eventually lithified into sedimentary rock. The resulting "layer cake" of basalt and sedimentary sheets eventually faulted and tilted upward. Subsequent erosion wore away the weaker sedimentary layers a faster rate than the basalt layers, leaving the abruptly tilted edges of the basalt sheets exposed, creating the distinct linear ridge and dramatic cliff faces visible today along the Metacomet Ridge. [Raymo, Chet and Maureen E. "Written in Stone: A Geologic History of the Northeastern United States". Globe Pequot, Chester, Connecticut, 1989.]


. Talus slopes are especially rich in nutrients and support a number of calcium-loving plants uncommon in eastern Connecticut. Because the ridge generates such varied terrain, it is the home of several plant and animal species that are state-listed or globally rare. [ [http://www.connix.com/~harry/twep.htm The Traprock Wilderness Recovery Strategy] . Cited Dec. 13, 2007]

West Rock Ridge is also an important seasonal raptor migration path.

Recreation and conservation


West Rock Ridge State Park occupies most of the ridgeline as well as the undeveloped Lake Wintergreen on the east side of the mountain. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset for a variety of recreational uses, including hiking, bicycling, fishing, car-top boating, horseback riding, dog walking, picnicking, and other passive pursuits. The Park Road to the South Overlook and Judges Cave is open daily to vehicle traffic from Memorial Day through the last weekend in October. Park access is free of charge for all users.

For complete recreation information, see West Rock Ridge State Park.

The City of New Haven owns and manages the 43 acre West Rock Nature Center on the southeast side of the mountain. The center offers interpretive programs on local ecology, outdoor skills workshops, and features laboratories, gardens, interpretive trails, a visitor's center, and classroom facilities. The center has been in operation since 1946 and is listed on the State Register of Historic Places by the Connecticut Historical Commission. [ [http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/Parks/ParksInformation/westrockpark.asp West Rock Nature Center] City of New Haven. Cited Dec. 22, 2007.]

The town of Woodbridge owns and manages the Bishop Estate and Darling House Trails, a convert|160|acre|km2|sing=on property on the west flank of the ridge. The property offers a network of trails, historic buildings, gardens, and bridges over the West River. Named for Thomas Darling (1720-1789), active in the American Revolution and a friend and contemporary of Benjamin Franklin, the estate is open to passive activities such as hiking, picnicking, and bird watching. Trails on the property link up with the Regicides Trail on the ridge. [ [http://www.visitnewhaven.com/pdfs/trails/Woodbridge/TrailMapWLTDarling.pdf Bishop Estate & Darling House Trails] Town of Woodbridge. Cited Dec. 22, 2007.]

The town of Bethany [http://www.bethany-ct.com/commissions/cmsn_Conservation.asp Conservation Commission] , the [http://www.hamden.com/content/43/85/136/1266/default.aspx Town of Hamden] , the [http://www.woodbridgelandtrust.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=27&Itemid=39 Woodbridge Land Trust] , and the [http://www.bethanylandtrust.org/properties.asp Bethany Land Trust] , are also invested in the conservation of West Rock Ridge and its viewshed.

ee also

* Metacomet Ridge
* West Rock Ridge State Park
* West River (Connecticut)
* Regicide of Charles I
* New Haven, Connecticut
* Adjacent summits:



* [http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=325276&depNav_GID=1650 West Rock State Park] * http://www.rwater.com/
* [http://www.ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/stateparks/maps/westrock.pdf West Rock State Park map]
* [http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/Parks/ParksInformation/westrockpark.asp West Rock Nature Center]
* [http://www.visitnewhaven.com/pdfs/trails/Woodbridge/TrailMapWLTDarling.pdf Bishop Estate & Darling House Trails]
* [http://www.bethany-ct.com/commissions/cmsn_Conservation.asp Town of Bethany Conservation Commission]
* [http://www.bethanylandtrust.org/properties.asp Bethany Land Trust]
* [http://www.woodbridgelandtrust.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=27&Itemid=39 Woodbridge Land Trust]
* [http://www.hamden.com/content/43/85/136/1266/default.aspx Town of Hamden]
* [http://www.ctwoodlands.org/ Connecticut Forest and Park Association]
* [http://www.cga.ct.gov/2003/act/Pa/2003PA-00131-R00HB-05793-PA.htm]
* [http://www.ct.gov/caes/cwp/view.asp?a=2799&q=376202]

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