BULL'S BRIDGE

Litchfield County, Connecticut


Directions:

Can reach it off Rt. 7 in Connecticut.

Or can reach it from New York. Just north of the Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center Rt. 22 and Rt. 55 diverge. Rt. 55 goes off to the right. You pass Thomas Boyce park. Turn right onto Rt. 55. Go .9 of a mile and turn left onto Dog Tail Corners Road. This is a very pretty drive. At 1.3 miles the road bears right. After another .6 of a mile the road becomes Bull's Bridge Road. At the intersection of Bull's Bridge Road and Shagticoke Road, one can see the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail. Another .3 of a mile brings you to the parking lot on the left just before the wooden covered bridge.


Geology:

This is a very interesting area. It is an absolutely beautiful place with the wooden covered bridge over the river. There are lots of potholes along the river.


History:

Here there is a beautiful covered bridge over the Housatonic River. The first five bridges built here were not covered.

1760 -- a bridge built here by Issac Bull to carry iron ore and charcoal across the river to connect with mining operations on Ore Hill, as well as serving as an important connecting link on the the turnpike known as the "galloping highway" (because of the great speed that could be made on horseback between Newburg on the Hudson and Hartford, Connecticut).

Revolutionary War -- the town of Kent supplied the Continental Army with iron ore and other goods. Kent was strategically located on the road between Lebanon, the Continental supply depot and Washington's New York headquarters. At Bull's Bridge area was a supply post during the war.

At one time there were some 200 men employed in Bullís Bridge. "It was a common sight to see 21 ox teams in a procession as they plodded their way through the covered bridge into New York State." (See Hopson)

1781 -- one of George Washington's horses, perhaps his own personal horse, falls into the Housatonic River at Bull's Bridge.

c. 1803-1811 -- eight years of work completes the covered bridge here.

1826 -- Bullís Falls Furnace was put into blast, erected on the east bank of the Housatonic River about 300 feet south of Bullís Bridge. A dam below the falls diverted water to the high stone race and water wheel to operate the blowing mechanism.

1842 -- the bridge is rebuilt.

1902 -- Connecticut Light & Power builds a main dam on the river and has the covered bridge raised twenty feet to clear the water (for a total of eighty feet above the bed of the river).

In the 1930s Bull's Bridge was dominated by the hydro-electric plant of the Connecticut Light and Power Company (built 1902-03, and built another in 1928) on the Housatonic River.

In the 1930s hikers on the AT had to watch out for rattlesnakes. So bad was the problem that trail authorities kept first-aid stations at certain points along the hiking trail. (WPA, 1938: 454)

The Rocky River Plant of the Connecticut Light and Power Company uses 60-inch pipeline through which it pumps the waters of the Housatonic River to Lake Candlewood where it is stored to supply power when the river is low. Constructed in 1928.

 

They took their iron ore from New York because their market was in Poughkeepsie on the Hudson River. Pig iron was carted daily by hore and wagon to the shipping port. On the return trip the teamsters stopped at the Pawling mine for a load of iron ore. From there the ore was taken the remaining ten miles to Bullís Falls.

To find the old furnace site, walk over the canal bridge and follow the broad path to the south along the canal. At the third utility pole, turn right and follow the small trail through the brush. Continue west toward the Housatonic River, then to the top of the charging wall of Bullís Falls Furnace stack. After viewing the remains of the furnace stack, walk down to the gound level and observe the furnace remains.

South of the furnace, part of the foundation of the casting house remains. To the west, by the river, a section of the race wall still stands. Also near the river, both charcoal and anthracite slag can be found.

1844 -- the owners rebuilt the furnace in order to increase production. The stack increased from 30 to 40 feet high. For the next 13 years, production was very inconsistent because the stack size was too great for the power generated by the blowing mechanism.

1857 -- the oversized furnace rebuilt again. The stack height reduced to 34 feet. They decided to use anthractie, shipped from Pennsylvania. It was unloaded at the station in South Kent and carted the two miles to the ironworks. It became the only blast furnace in CT to operate using 100% anthracite.


Historical Story:

There was an old timer named Henry Harris who was one of the last full blooded Indians of the Schagticoke Tribe in Kent. He really loved the taste of apple cider. Knowing there was plenty of apple cider in the cellar at the home of John Chamberlin, the Indian Agent for the state of Connecticut at Bullís Bridge, he, carrying an empty pail, paid a visit to the agent one fine day. Chamberlin said that he would give Harris his desired apple cider if Harris brought him a basket to fill to the top with cider. Of course, the agent figured that it was impossible to fill a basket with apple cider, so he would never have to actually fulfill his offer to Harris. Chamberlin gleefully told everyone around him the joke about the "basketful of apple cider and the old Indian."

But then one day the Indian agent saw Harris approaching his place with a basket filled with water in tow. Chamberlin was flabbergasted as Harris emptied the basket and asked for it to be filled with apple cider, which Chamberlin did. Harris went away a happy man.

Chamberlin had not counted on the ingenuity on the native people. Harris had used black ash to make his basket. Black ash was hard to find because the Indians of the area used this species in their basket work. They often had to travel long distances to find this uncommon tree. In fact, the farmers of the area even acknowledged the rights of the native people to any black ash found in the area. Harris had made his basket carefully with tightly overlapping black ash splints; loaded the basket down with rocks; and submerged the basket in the Housatonic River. The wood splints expanded and tightened as they swelled from the uptake of water and, thereby, created a water-tight seal. Harris kept the basket filled with water so that the wood splints would not dry out and separate. Thus was he able to one-up the Indian agent.

(Source: Spooner)


History of Bull's Furnace: (source, Kirby, Ed)

1826 -- Bullís Falls Furnace was put into blast, erected on the east bank of the Housatonic River about 300 feet south of Bullís Bridge. A dam below the falls diverted water to the high stone race and water wheel to operate the blowing mechanism.

They took their iron ore from New York because their market was in Poughkeepsie on the Hudson River. Pig iron was carted daily by horse and wagon to the shipping port. On the return trip the teamsters stopped at the Pawling mine for a load of iron ore. From there the ore was taken the remaining ten miles to Bullís Falls.

To find the old furnace site, walk over the canal bridge and follow the broad path to the south along the canal. At the third utility pole, turn right and follow the small trail through the brush. Continue west toward the Housatonic River, then to the top of the charging wall of Bullís Falls Furnace stack. After viewing the remains of the furnace stack, walk down to the ground level and observe the furnace remains.

South of the furnace, part of the foundation of the casting house remains. To the west, by the river, a section of the race wall still stands. Also near the river, both charcoal and anthracite slag can be found.


Trails:

You can walk along the river north and south. You can also walk up the hill that goes through a hemlock area mixed with oaks. This is a short walk as it is a small island. You shortly reach the river no matter which way you go.

Walking west on Bull's Bridge Road to Shagticoke Road, the hiker can pick up the Appalachian Trail.

7/03/04.  Went on a Torrey Botanical Society/Connecticut Botanical Society field trip led by Eleanor Saulys.  She took us to a part of the Bull's Island area that I had not investigated.  We found a great many new species, especially ferns.  From the parking lot at Bull's Bridges we walked west a little ways and then went south along the western bank of the Housatonic River.  It was in part a hemlock forest.  We walked on part of the Appalachian Trail. We investigated cliffs along the trail and went down to the river bank to investigate other cliffs.  Lunch time was spent down along the river.  Here the trip leader found a mystery plant that later turned out to be garden loosestrife. 

After lunch we walked a little ways farther south to the power cut.  You could hear the electrical lines just popping away.  From here we turned around and head back. 

Total attendance:  I did not count the participants, but I am guessing around 25 or so.  Thanks to the leader Eleanor Saulys for finding and identifying so many different plants for the botanical groups. 

Some of the current or former Torrey Botanical Society members I recognized were:  Joan Coffey, Patrick Cooney, Rosemary Cooney, Ed Emerson, Yirka Emerson, Joyce Hyon, Augie Matzdorf, Pat O'Malley, Kate Peyser, Sarah-David Rosenbaum, and Margie Shore.  Dr. Patrick L. Cooney.


PLANT LIST:

Eleanor Saulys/Dr. Patrick L. Cooney

dates = dates plants found in bloom; trips on 8/31/97 and 4/19/04; Cooney

TBS trip = 7/3/04 with Eleanor Saulys


Trees:
Acer negundo (box elder maple)
Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple) 4/19/04
Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven)
Amelanchier arborea (shadbush) 4/19/04 soon
Betula lenta (black birch)
Betula papyrifera (white birch)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Ostrya virginiana (eastern hop hornbeam)
Picea abies (Norway spruce)
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Populus deltoides (cottonwood)
Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Taxus sp. (yew)
Tilia americana (American basswood)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)
Ulmus americana (American elm)

Shrubs:
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea) 7/03/04
Chimaphila maculata (striped wintergreen)
Cornus amomum (swamp dogwood)
Cornus racemosa (gray dogwood)
Cornus sericea (red-osier dogwood)
Diervilla lonicera (bush honeysuckle)
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
Forsythia sp. (golden bells)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Kerria japonica (Japanese rose) 5/15/04
Ligustrum sp. (privet)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush) 4/19/04
Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle) 5/15/04
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Pachysandra terminalis (pachysandra)
Potentilla fruticosa (shrubby cinquefoil) 7/03/04
Rhamnus cathartica (common buckthorn)
Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)
Ribes sp. (currant)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus occidentalis (black raspberry)
Rubus sp. (dewberry)
Salix sp. (willow)
Sambucus canadensis (common elderberry) 7/03/04
Spiraea alba var. latifolia (meadowsweet)
Staphylea trifolia (bladdernut)
Syringa vulgaris (white lilac) *
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)
Viburnum lentago (nannyberry viburnum)

Vines:
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (porcelainberry)
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Clematis sp. (clematis)
Echinocystis lobata (wild balsam apple)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis sp. (grape vine)
Wisteria sp. (wisteria)

Herbs:
Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) 7/03/04
Actaea alba (white baneberry; doll's eyes)
Actaea alba (red baneberry)
Alisma sp. (water plantain) 8/31/97
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) 5/15/04 7/03/04
Allium tricoccum (wild leek)
Allium vineale (field garlic)
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed)
Amphicarpaea bracteata (hog peanut)
Anemone quinquefolia (wood anemone)
Anemone virginiana (thimbleweed) * and in fruit
Anemonella thalictroides (rue anemone)
Antennaria sp. (pussytoes)
Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp) 7/03/04
Arabis glabra (tower mustard)
Arabis lyrata (lyre-leaved rockcress) 4/19/04
Aralia hispida (bristly sarsaparilla)
Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)
Arctium sp. (burdock)
Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the pulpit)
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Asarum canadense (wild ginger) 4/19/04
Aster novi-belgii (New York aster) 8/31/97?
Aster prenanthoides (zig-zag aster)
Barbarea vulgaris (common wintercress) 5/15/04
Bidens frondosa (devil's beggar ticks) 8/31/97
Boehmeria cylindrica (false nettle)
Campanula rotundifolia (harebell) 7/03/04
Cardamine impatiens (narrow-leaved bittercress)
Caulophyllum thalictroides (blue cohosh)
Cerastium vulgatum (mouse-ear chickweed)
Chelidonium majus (celandine) 5/15/04
Chelone glabra (white turtlehead) 8/31/97
Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (ox-eye daisy) 7/03/04
Cichorium intybus (chicory) 7/03/04 8/31/97
Circaea lutetiana (enchanter's nightshade) 7/03/04
Collinsonia canadensis (horsebalm)
Conyza canadensis (horseweed)
Cypripedium calceolus (yellow lady's slipper)
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace) 7/03/04 8/31/97
Desmodium glutinosum (pointed-leaved tick trefoil) 7/03/04
Dianthus armeria (Deptford pink) 7/03/04
Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchmanís breeches) 4/14/04
Epipactis helleborine (helleborine orchid)
Erigeron annuus (daisy fleabane) 8/31/97
Eupatorium fistulosum (trumpetweed) 8/31/97
Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset) 8/31/97
Eupatorium purpureum (sweet-scented Joe-Pye weed) 7/03/04 soon
Eupatorium rugosum (white snakeroot)
Eupatorium sp. (Joe-Pye-weed) 8/31/97
Fragaria sp. (wild strawberry)
Gallium aparine (cleavers)
Galium circaezens (wild licorice)
Galium lanceolatum (lance-leaved wild licorice) 7/03/04
Gallium mollugo (wild madder) 7/03/04
Galium verum (yellow bedstraw)
Geranium maculatum (wild geranium)
Geranium robertianum (herb Robert) 8/31/97
Geum canadense (white avens) 7/03/04
Helianthus divaricatus (woodland sunflower) 7/03/04 soon
Helianthus strumosus (pale-leaved sunflower) 8/31/97
Hemerocallis fulva (tawny day lily) 7/03/04
Hepatica americana (round-leaved hepatic) 4/19/04
Hesperis matronalis (dame's rocket) 5/15/04)
Hieracium caespitosum (field hawkweed) 7/03/04
Hieracium sp. (hawkweed) 8/31/97
Hypericum perforatum (common St. Johnswort) 7/03/04
Hypericum punctatum (spotted St. Johnswort) 8/31/97
Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed) 8/31/97
Impatiens pallida (yellow jewelweed) 7/03/04
Iris sp. (blue or yellow flag)
Lactuca canadensis (wild lettuce)
Lemna sp. (duckweed)
Leonurus cardiaca (motherwort) 7/03/04
Lespedeza sp. (bush clover)
Lilium tigrinum (tiger lily)
Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower)
Lobelia siphilitica (great lobelia) 8/31/97
Lobelia spicata (spiked lobelia) 7/03/04
Lotus corniculatus (birdfoot trefoil) 7/03/04 8/31/97
Lycopus sp. (bugleweed) 8/31/97
Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) 7/03/04 8/31/97
Lysimachia ciliata (fringed loosestrife)
Lysimachia vulgaris (garden loosestrife) 7/03/04
Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
Medicago lupulina (black medick) 7/03/04
Melilotus alba (white sweet clover) 7/03/04
Mitella diphylla (mitrewort)
Monarda sp. 8/31/97
Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe)
Nepeta cataria (catnip)?
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose) 7/03/04 8/31/97
Orobanche uniflora (one-flower cancerroot)
Osmorhiza longistylis (aniseroot)
Oxalis sp. (yellow wood sorrel) 7/03/04 8/31/97
Parnassia sp. (grass-of-Parnassus)
Pedicularis canadensis (wood betony)
Pilea pumila (clearweed)
Plantago lanceolata (English plantain) 7/03/04 8/31/97
Plantago major (common plantain)
Polygala paucifolia (fringed milkwort)
Polygala senega (Seneca milkwort)
Polygonatum biflorum (smooth Solomon's seal)
Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed) 8/31/97
Polygonum sp. (tearthumb) 8/31/97
Potamogeton sp. (pondweed)
Prenanthes spp. (lettuce)
Prunella vulgaris (self-heal) 7/03/04 8/31/97
Pyrola elliptica (shinleaf) 7/03/04
Ranunculus abortivus (kidney-leaved crowfoot) 5/15/04
Ranunculus acris (tall buttercup) 5/15/04 7/03/04
Rudbeckia hirta var. pulcherrima (black-eyed Susan) 8/31/97
Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)
Sanicula marilandica (black snakeroot)
Saponaria officinalis (soapwort) 7/03/04 8/31/97
Satureja vulgaris (wild basil) 7/03/04
Saxifraga virginiensis (early saxifrage) 4/14/04
Scutellaria lateriflora (mad-dog skullcap) 7/03/04
Sedum sp. (sedum)
Smilacina racemosa (false Solomon's seal)
Smilacina stellata (star-flowered false Solomon's seal)
Solanum carolinense (horse nettle) 7/03/04
Solanum dulcamara (bittersweet nightshade) 7/03/04
Solidago caesia (blue-stem goldenrod) 8/31/97
Solidago spp. (goldenrods)
Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage)
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) 4/14/04 5/15/04 7/03/04 8/31/97
Thalictrum pubescens (tall meadowrue)
Trifolium pratense (red clover) 7/03/04 8/31/97
Trifolium repens (white clover) 7/03/04
Tussilago farfara (colts foot)
Uvularia perfoliata (perfoliate-leaved bellwort)
Verbascum thapsus (common mullein)
Verbena hastata (blue vervain) 8/31/97
Veronica officinalis (common speedwell)
Viola conspersa (dog violet)
Viola palmata (palmate-leaved violet)
Viola sororia (confederate violet) 5/15/04
Xanthium sp. (clotbur)
Zizia aurea (golden alexanders)


Rushes::
Juncus sp. (rush)
Juncus tenuis (path rush)

Sedges:
Carex laxiflora type (loose-flowered sedge type)
Carex lurida (sallow sedge)
Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) 4/19/04
Carex vulpinoidea (fox sedge)
Eleocharis sp. (spikerush)
Scirpus atrovirens (dark-green bulrush)

Grasses:
Cinna arundinacea (wood reedgrass)
Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass)
Digitaria sp. (crab grass)
Echinochloa sp. (barnyard grass)
Elymus hystrix (bottle brush grass)
Elymus sp. (wild rye grass)
Elytrigia repens (quack grass)
Leersia virginica (white grass)
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Panicum clandestinum (deer-tongue grass)
Phalaris arundinacea (reed canary grass)
Phleum pratense (Timothy grass)
Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)
Poa annua (annual bluegrass) 5/15/04
Poa compressa (Canada bluegrass)
Setaria sp. (foxtail grass)
Tridens flavus (purple top grass)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Equisetum arvense (field horsetail)
Equisetum hyemale (common scouring rush)
Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern)
Asplenium platyneuron (ebony spleenwort)
Asplenium rhizophyllum (walking fern)
Asplenium trichomanes (maidenhair spleenwort)
Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern)
Botrychium sp. (rattlesnake fern)
Cystopteris bulbifera (bulblet fern)
Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern)
Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Pellaea atropurpurea (purple cliff brake)
Polypodium sp. (rock cap fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Pteridium aquilinum (bracken fern)
Thelypteris palustris (marsh fern)

Others:
liverworts


BULL'S BRIDGE

Plenty of drizzling rain sprinkled the members as they left the Wingdale station and headed for Route 22. By 11 o'clock the sun came out and chased all the gray mists away and left only a blue sky and domes of woolly clouds.

The party stopped at a wet field near Bull's Bridge and was treated to a spectacle of hundreds of Castilleja coccinea, the Scarlet Painted Cup, in full bloom. Surrounding several boulders the drier turf disclosed small companies of Heuchera americana, the Common Alum Root, in bloom. Accompanying these was the Seneca Snakeroot, Polygala senega, several fine plants being noticed. In an adjoining field was a grove of Larix laricina, the American Larch, the most of the trees appearing about 50 years old.

At Bull's Bridge the gorge was entirely disclosed since the recent dry spell did not allow any surplus water to spill over the dam a quarter of a mile upstream. The whole limestone bed of the river is pitted and pick marked by hundreds of potholes sometimes as much as ten feet across and about as deep. Many, having filled with rain water, contained hundreds of mosquito wrigglers. The sight of all these embryo disturbers of humanity filled us with great respect for the region. Various entomostraceans were also abundant in the water and it would appear that the Microscopical Society could get with little trouble many interesting specimens from these water-filled potholes and set up apparatus on the rocks nearby where there is plenty of light and room.

The banks of the one time seething gorge were carpeted in many places by Taxus Canadensis, the Canadian Yew. Patches thirty feet across were not uncommon. Another plant, Cystopteris bulbifera, the Bladder fern was a common as Polypody is in the Ramapos. Along the cool, moist, shaded banks it flourished in long continuous patches, The party followed an old wood road north of the covered bridge on the west bank of the gorge. One single specimen of Polygonatum commutatum, the Great Solomon; Seal, was found just ready to bloom. It stood about six feet tall and was one of the finds of the trip. Near the dam a one Juniperus communis, the Common Juniper, spread over an area thirty feet in diameter. One of the branches which grew at least twelve feet high was about five inches in diameter. Hemlocks and Cherry Birch were crowding the shrub and it seemed that the immediate vicinity had been drier and more open when the shrub commenced growing.

Tilia americana, the linden, was very abundant indicating that this region might be a good bee country when the trees are in bloom. They seemed to be more common than in most localities of the local area.

The party flushed a mother partridge with chicks about a week old.

On the south side of Bull's Bridge and on the east bank the party scrambled over the ruins of an old iron furnace which stood right on the shore of the river gorge. It was completely overgrown by grasses and a scramble of Vitis labrusca, the Northern Fox Grape. From here downstream the potholes were fewer and soon disappeared, but the intermittent pools looked inviting so some of the party went swimming in fairly warm water. In a crack on a ledge nearby a single specimen of Spiranthes lucida had just opened its first blossom. One of the non-swimmers, rambling further downstream shouted "Dirca palustris." Only a single specimen was located. Last year on the leader's trip to the Seven Wells region three of these infrequent shrubs had been located.

On the way home on Route 7 the party stopped a few miles below the dam and cut nice clean swathes through a huge patch of Radicula nasturtium-aquaticum. Cautious individuals who had saved lunch bags felt very happy at this opportunity.

A list of other plants:
Adiantum pedatum
Aquilegia canadensis
Aralia nudicaulis
Asclepias quadrifolia
Asplenium platyneuron
Asplenium trichomanes
Betula alba var. papyrifera
Campanula rotundifolia
Celastrus scandens
Chelidonium majus
Chrysanthemum leucanthemum
Diervilla lonicera
Equisetum hyemale
Erigeron pulchellus
Galium verum
Geranium maculatum
Geum rivale
Helianthemum canadense
Hieracium aurantiacum
Hieracium venosum
Hieracium pratense
Hypoxis hirsuta
Iris pseudacorus
Iris versicolor
Lychnis alba
Pellaea atropurpurea
Ranunculus bulbosus
Robinia pseudoacacia
Rubus villosus
Senecio aureus
Sisyrinchium angustifolium
Smilacina racemosa
Smilacina stellata
Solanum dulcamara
Viburnum prunifolium
Viburnum acerifolium
Woodsia ilvensis
Zizia aurea

Trip leader, George F. Dillman.

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