Meet the Willimantic River
In northeastern Connecticut, the Willimantic River flows for 25 miles between the historic mill towns of Stafford Springs and Willimantic, where the river joins the Natchaug River to form the Shetucket River. The river's headwaters rise in a steep wooded valley in Stafford Springs at the confluence of Middle River and Furnace Brook. On its way south, it passes through diverse and scenic landscapes, including deep forest, rolling farmland, and historic mill villages.
Numerous public lands offer access in state forest, public parks and fishing easements. The river's tributary streams offer similar natural and historical features. Much of the river's corridor is wooded and rural, making it a popular destination for walking, fishing, and paddling canoes or kayaks down the river. The Willimantic River's 25-mile corridor was designated as a Connecticut State Greenway in 2003. The 21 mile Willimantic River Water Trail was designated by the U. S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Recreation Trail in 2012.
Brief History of the Willimantic River
Just upstream from the river's confluence with the Natchaug River in Willimantic, the river drops 90 feet in a mile. This steep stretch of the river was called "Wilimentuck" (land of swift moving waters) by Native Americans who visited the falls in the spring to catch fish. Mill owners dammed the river to create water power for mills at the Wilimentuck falls and at many other sites along the river and its tributaries. The river's water powered textile mills and other types of mills in Stafford Springs, South Willington, Merrow, Eagleville, and Willimantic.
Today, the mills have been closed or converted to other uses, but the river continues to offer opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy its natural beauty and historic sites.
Topographic Maps of the Willimantic River Valley
For an overview of the river and its valley, topographic maps offer detailed information about the lay of the land: hills, streams, roads,and towns. These maps can help you plan a visit to the river and to preview the landscape you would see along the way, such as the steep river valley between Stafford/Ellington/Tolland on the west side and Willington on the east side. >