The Farmington River – Currents Through Time: A Bus Tour

Crag Mill Granby

Crag Mill, Granby, powered by the East Branch of Salmon Brook.

Historic Sites of Connecticut’s Farmington Valley is pleased to present “The Farmington River: Currents through Time.” Join fellow tourgoers on a comfortable bus ride Sunday, May 7, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm, visiting historic sites along the Farmington River in Avon, Simsbury and Granby. At each site and in commentary along the way, you will learn about the history and archaeology of the river, the region’s indigenous communities and their relationship to the river, and the river’s impact on these communities. Between tour stops, enjoy an al fresco lunch on the grounds of the Simsbury Historical Society. Admission is $45 per person and includes the bus tour, lunch and informative talks at each location, as well as a pre-tour talk on Thursday, May 4th with Liz Lacy of the National Park Service. Tour reservations are required. Call the Farmington Valley Visitors Association at 860.676.8878 by April 30th to reserve your spot.


Your historic journey along the Farmington River begins even before the bus tour, with a compelling presentation by Liz Lacy of the National Park Service on Thursday, May 4th at 7:00 pm at the Simsbury Historical Society’s Ellsworth Center, 800 Hopmeadow Street. Ms. Lacy will discuss Protecting the Outstanding Natural, Recreational, and Historical Resources of the Farmington River. The lecture is open to the public; admission is $5 per person for those not joining the bus tour May 7.


For over 15 years, Liz Lacy has been the director of The Farmington River Coordinating Committee (FRCC) and has worked as a community planner/river manager for the National Park Service Wild & Scenic Rivers Program. The FRCC was established in 1994 when 14 miles of the upper Farmington River (west branch) were designated as a National Wild & Scenic River. The FRCC embodies an important partnership among the riverfront and other towns to provide stewardship of the Farmington River and its upper watershed. Ms. Lacy’s pre-tour lecture will include a discussion of the benefits of the Wild and Scenic designation and the outstanding values of the Farmington River.


Inspired by Ms. Lacy’s discussion, we will gather with fellow tourgoers on Sunday, May 7th at 9:15 AM at Iron Horse Boulevard, in the Commuter Parking Lot behind Drake Hill Mall, Simsbury. The bus will depart promptly at 9:30 AM for its first stop, Alsop Meadows in Avon.


The Alsop Meadows Conservation Area includes woods, open fields, trails and significant frontage along the Farmington River. Many Native American spear and arrow points have been found in its vicinity. At a high point overlooking the river, Eileen Fielding, Director of the Farmington River Watershed, will talk about the history and archaeology of the river and its importance throughout the history of Avon.


From Avon, the bus will proceed to the famous Pinchot Sycamore tree, the largest tree in Connecticut and the largest sycamore in New England, located on the east bank of the Farmington River in Simsbury. After a brief discussion here, participants will proceed to the Simsbury Historical Society to see the popular exhibit on “Innovations in Sticks: Fishing the Farmington,” and hear a talk on early fishing pole and fishing accessory design by Joe Buda, the Society’s president. After all that talk of fishing, everyone will certainly have a hearty appetite for an al fresco lunch on the grounds of the Simsbury Historical Society.


After lunch, the bus will make its way to the Tariffville Gorge, where archaeologist Marc Banks will discuss early Native American fishing techniques against the backdrop of the area’s spectacular views. From here we will proceed to Granby, where the east and west branches of Salmon Brook flow into the Farmington River. Participants will learn about grist mills, an example of industrial use of waterways in the Farmington Valley, one of which was powered by the east branch of Salmon Brook. A walk around Salmon Brook Historical Society, with accompanying commentary on the property’s buildings and exhibits of 18th– and 19th-century life, will round out the day’s activities.


After a refreshing day of camaraderie and history, participants will be dropped off back at their cars at Iron Horse Boulevard. Throughout the day, participants will be treated to historical tidbits with the trip’s on-bus tour guide, Mike Day, author on 19th-century education and Curator of The Barkhamsted Historical Society’s One Room Schoolhouse.


Proceeds from the tour benefit Historic Sites of Connecticut’s Farmington Valley, whose mission is to enhance appreciation of the Farmington Valley’s rich history by promoting communication among heritage groups and offering unique programs. Historic Sites is part of the Farmington Valley Visitors Association, a non-profit corporation, whose mission is to serve as a resource for residents, and to promote the Farmington Valley to individuals and businesses wishing to relocate to the area, and tourists wishing to experience all that the Farmington Valley has to offer.