View from Merrow Bridge
Merrow Meadow Park
This Mansfield park offers an amazing diversity in its 33 acres: a meadow mix of shrubs, grasses and flowers, along with a variety of wetland and woodland habitats. The half-mile-long, figure-eight path has a paved surface on the first loop and gravel surface on the second. The Willimantic River Greenway Midriver Trail passes along the park's riverside trail and connects south to the Spring Manor Farm Trail and north across the Merrow Road bridge to Riverview Trail Park in Coventry. Note that Merrow Meadow trails may be flooded in high water.
A canoe/kayak launch site is by the bridge. Check the Canoe and Kayak Map for details about the river's hazards, features and launch sites. This section of the river is classed as quick-water, which is appropriate for experienced river paddlers.
From Route 195 in Mansfield, go south on Route 32 for eight-tenths mile. Turn right onto Merrow Road and go one-tenth mile. Park entrance is on the left by the bridge.
See Midriver Map
From the parking lot, follow the paved path to the right, passing the canoe/kayak launch and a popular fishing spot under riverside trees. The large trees along the path are favored by migrating birds. In spring you can hear their songs, as well as frogs calling from the wetlands across the meadow. A paved fishing area and bench offer a great place to sit and watch the river go by.
Into the Woods
Where the paved path meets a gravel path, continue along the river on the gravel path. (The paved path curves left to go around the edge of the meadow and back to the parking lot.) Along the gravel path, watch for a heron to fly up from fishing in the river. After crossing two footbridges over small streams, the path reaches a wooded hill and begins to curve left. (Here you can enter a narrow trail heading downriver and up a hemlock-shaded hillside to connect to the trail on the University of Connecticut's Spring Manor Farm.) To complete the park tour, follow the curving gravel path along the base of the hill, as it passes a shrub meadow on the right and a piney hillside on the right.
Out to the Meadow
When you reach the paved loop trail, turn right to walk along the edge of the meadow. Against the hillside on the right, a seasonal stream flows through a series of small wetlands, each one a unique habitat: grassy marsh, red maple swamp, and seasonal pool. Boardwalks allow a close look at these fertile places. Wood frogs and spring peepers call in these wetlands in early spring. The meadow changes character with the passing seasons: early spring wildflowers, then many butterflies in summer, then a show of goldenrods and asters in fall. The meadow plants are not cut until late autumn to allow seeds to develop for the next year. Look for meadow and wetland plants and wildlife as you return along the path to the parking lot.
The Merrow family donated this park to the Town in 1990. The meadow provided hay for the family farm, which extended along the south side of Merrow Road up to the former farm's house and barn on Route 32. The north side of Merrow Road was developed as a mill village. The former Merrow mill was upstream on a bluff above the river. This mill began as a gunpowder mill in 1811. After several explosions, the Merrows turned to a safer product in 1832 - knitted underwear. Although the mill was destroyed by fire in 1887, and a subsequent sawmill was also destroyed, the village still remains. Look for the former boarding house by the railroad tracks, a former home and store (converted to a restaurant), and more mill houses as you drive back to Route 32.
Numbered signs along the path are linked to a park brochure containing a trail map and interpretive notes. This is available at the Mansfield Parks and Recreation Department (Note that these guides take a long time to download on a dial-up connection.)
Thanks to the Mansfield Parks Advisory Committee and the Mansfield Historical Society.
Top photo: V. Wetherell; bottom photo: P. Vertefeuille
This Willimantic River Greenway Parks and Trails Guide was produced by the Willimantic River Alliance and WINCOG. Information in this guide reflects conditions and features as of Spring, 2008. Since conditions change over time, the Alliance is not responsible for changes at this site. This guide was funded with support from the The Last Green Valley (formerly known as the Quinebaug-Shetucket Heritage Corridor, Inc.).