by Rob McWilliams
The Little River is almost entirely a Redding river. Its furthest headwaters, north of Putnam Memorial State Park, sneak into Bethel; but otherwise the river occupies a valley between Redding ridges. We see this valley most spectacularly on the steep down-up drive from Redding Center to Redding Ridge on Cross Highway. The Newtown and Black Rock turnpikes also touch the Little River, but elsewhere its short, hurried course to Saugatuck Reservoir passes through remarkably undeveloped land. Protection is provided by state forest and park; a Town of Redding preserve; Redding Land Trust parcels; and private land generously opened for a trail. Early this month, feeling not exactly as Lewis and Clark may have at the mouth of the great Missouri, I set out to explore the Little River.
I planned to walk upstream, first through Samuel E. Hill Little River Preserve. “The Book of Trails” (Redding’s guide to its open lands) advertises this preserve nicely – “it has more than a little of a lot of good things.” On my drive to these good things, I stopped beside Newtown Turnpike to take a first look at the Little River from the footbridge that takes the Saugatuck Trail across it. It was pretty as well as little, a stream of rocks and riffles, its peace barely disturbed by the turnpike’s morning traffic. From here, the river has only a quarter-mile to run. But since the Saugatuck Trail does not keep it company to the reservoir, I returned to my car and set out to find the Little River farther north.