Cotton Hollow Preserve
83 acres in Glastonbury, CT
- Main Area: Medium sized lot for near 501 Hopewell Road Glastonbury, CT
- Western Area: Small lot behind the restaurant at 840 Main St, South Glastonbury, CT
Trail Map Trails: 1.2 miles Rating: ★★★★☆
Cotton Hollow is one of those spots that you know will be great as soon as you start down the trail. It is incredibly popular as swimming hole in the summer and as a hiking spot for locals the rest of the year.
- The main entrance near the Grange Pool is the trailhead for the 0.7 mile North Trail which follows Roaring Brook downstream through hemlock and black birch. The trail is well worn but filled with rocks and roots and portions follow the steep bank of the river. There is a great series of cascades and a picturesque swimming hole (ask me about the time I saved a dog stuck on a ledge at the swimming hole in November). The area is similar to Natchaug State Forest and is a great place to set up a hammock or just sit in the sun on the wide rocks along the river.
- The trails on this side pass the easily hidden history of Hunt’s Forge and farther downstream are the impressive foundations for the dam that used to power the cotton mill here.
- The second trail at Cotton Hollow is the 0.4 mile Tree Trail behind the restaurant near 841 CT Rt. 17. Named for the varieties of trees along the trail, many are marked for identification. From the trail map, “It is hard to imagine that the area crossed by this trail was once a busy recreational park, popular with trolley passengers from Hartford.” The end of this trail provides the best view (but only from across the river) of the ruins of the Hartford Manufacturing Company.
Cotton Hollow is a popular spot for locals for swimming and low cliff jumping. There is one main swimming hole and plenty of spots to lounge along the river in either direction.
Next to the river (and right next to private property) are the ruins of the Hartford Manufacturing Co. cotton mill part of the industrial corridor at Cotton Hollow. From the town’s site, “During the 18th and 19th centuries, the area was home to several gristmills, sawmills, iron foundries and a cotton mill. The imposing ruins of the cotton mill built in 1814 are still visible today. ” The mill closed in 1920.
From the Autumn article below, “One of the best-known mills in town was Pratt’s Forge, which once existed within the present-day preserve. Also known as South Glastonbury Iron Works, the company forged 3,900-pound anchors for oceangoing vessels out of New York City and for shipyards in Portland and Essex. In 1960, one of Pratt’s descendants, Amy Pratt, would be the first to donate land for the preserve.”
Just past the swimming hole is the original site of Hunt’s Forge which mainly produced small equipment such as farm hand tools. When the Hartford Manufacturing built their dam, the forge was forced upstream to the just behind where the Grange is now.
In January 2020, Amy Rio the new property owner started demolishing the site without official permits until the town stepped in and halted operations. Locals quickly petitioned that the ruins be preserved setting up websites, facebook groups, and raising funds. The town purchased the one-acre site that houses the ruin for $225,000 in late 2020. Today a large modern McMansion sits directly next to the ruins and fundraising to better preserve them continues.
Hartford Courant (Marteka?) – Autumn in South Glastonbury’s Cotton Hollow
Peter Marteka – Glastonbury Aims to Preserve Storied History of Cotton Hollow (2015)
Waterfalls of New England – Cotton Hollow Cascades
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Last updated April 2nd, 2023
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