You can’t get to Seldon Neck State Park without a boat, unless you are a heck of a swimmer. When John Seldon bought his property in 1695, between Deep River and Lyme, Connecticut, the land was indeed a neck of the mainland. A freshet following severe weather in the 1850’s cut a sizeable channel through it and, since then, Seldon Neck has been the largest island rising from the Connecticut River. The island is one and a half miles long and a half mile wide. Its 600+ uninhabited acres are thickly wooded but, thanks to the island’s history as a quarry, studded by rock cliffs 600 million years old, from which the views up and down river are spectacular.
Seldon Neck State Park is for those looking for short, rustic stays in relative wilderness, yet still within easy reach of civilization. Save for a couple of centuries of family farming, and the granite schist quarries that supplied New York and Philadelphia with cobblestone in the 1890’s, little has happened here that wasn’t orchestrated by Mother Nature. For roughly 70 years, Seldon Neck has been owned and protected by the State.
Activities at Seldon Neck State Park
Anyone looking for niceties such as tennis courts, carousels or golf links in Seldon Neck State Park is cruising toward the wrong island. If your tastes run more towards fishing, hiking, pit fireplaces and primitive campgrounds along unspoiled shoreline teeming with mute swan, yellow-bellied flycatcher, bald eagle and osprey, your boat has come in.
Hiking and Swimming
Five miles of trail lead from the southernmost campsite, Quarry Knob, south to the ruins of the quarry operations and outcroppings of granite, gneiss, schist and pegmatite, including a 230 foot cliff; from the quarry, the main trail winds northwest to the ruins of the old Seldon family farm. The main trail is well marked; spur trials are marked haphazardly.
Swimming is permitted, but is entirely at your own risk. The park has no lifeguards.
Birding is among the main draws to the island. The Connecticut Audubon Society leads 3-hour excursions to Seldon Neck State Park from the Connecticut River Museum in Essex. The Audubon tours, which include boat passage and a hike, are lead by historians and naturalists. Seldon Neck provides safe haven for mute swans, blue heron, bald eagles, egrets, osprey, cormorants, bunting, gulls and terns, tanagers, thrush, wren, chickadees, kingfishers and hawks, warblers and orioles…just for openers.
One night stays in the campgrounds are permitted. Although picnic tables are scattered about, the sites are considered primitive, with pit toilets and fireplaces. Seldon Neck lacks water supply, electricity, and landline phone service. Reservations are required, two weeks in advance. Last year’s fees were $4 per person. The island has 4 campsites; between them, less than 50 campers are permitted each night. Prepare for a peaceful night, punctuated by the sound of waterfowl.
Day trips to the park are free, making Seldon Neck an interesting to target via kayak and other small craft. Many do just that, launching from the Salmon River State Boat Launch five miles to the north.
Fishing and Hunting
Fishing in Seldon Creek is outstanding, but make sure everyone 16 or older is properly licensed. Trout, northern pike, pickerel, small and largemouth bass, white perch are plentiful. Hunting is restricted to waterfowl and requires a permit.
Some visitors choose to spend just half a day at Seldon Neck State Park, and move on to the numerous outdoor attractions nearby. Many, for example, will split their trip between Seldon Neck and East Haddam, either at The Devil’s Hopyard, which offers camping, hiking and stream fishing, in addition to a great 60-foot natural waterfall, where pure stream water flows over step after step of Scotland Schist; or at Gillette Castle State Park, for a tour of the medieval styled estate.
Seldon Neck State Park provides a nearly pristine experience of the Connecticut River Tidelands, designated by The Nature Conservancy as one of the “Last Great Places” on Earth.
Selden Neck State Park
c/o Gillette Castle State Park
67 River Road
East Haddam, CT 06423