Parking: Access by water only, nearest boat launch is Kings Island Boat Launch
- Boat launch is at 49 Parsons Rd, Enfield, CT
Trail Map Trails: Informal fishing paths Rating: ★★★☆☆
Note: During periods of seasonal low-water you will likely have to walk the majority of the distance from the boat launch to the island.
I first visited Kings Island in a drought at the beginning of Fall 2020. The Connecticut River was so low in this northern section at this time that I walked my kayak out a ways beyond the boat launch, paddle over a brief deeper channel and then walked over slippery rocks through the shallows the remaining 2/3rds to the island. I stopped at the north point of the island and climbed up a steep bank to its plateau. The island has a well developed forest and a clear understory so walking cross-island was pretty easy.
I passed the AMC’s new river campsite which was built in early 2019. It is located about a quarter of the way down the island from the north on the eastern side and is easy to access from the water. There are two raised platforms for tents, a bear box, and fire pit with an outhouse a short distance away. The campsite is used on a ‘first come first served’ basis and is capable of holding up to 12 campers. I counted at least three other unofficial campsites along the eastern side which I’m sure are officially discouraged.
There are no official trails on the island though at times I came across faint paths. The island is just shy of a mile long and I was able to easily do a full circuit tromping through the woods. All the interesting points of note seem to be on the eastern side including the foundations of the Terry homestead. These are located above a swale about 1000ft from the southern tip. There was even an old horseshoe hanging from a tree. The southern point has a couple fire pits, rough benches, and a rope swing for when the water is high enough.
I hiked back north along the western side of the island through the gorgeous fall colors, but found little of note.
NU Kings Island WMA
The earliest history of the island is as a Native American fishing camp who would string nets across the river to catch shad. According to lore there are several burial grounds on the island.
The earliest documents from the colonial period date back to 1641 when a Native American woman named Quashebuck tried to sell the island to a man named John Lewis. However, a Reverend Ephraim Huit of Windsor petitioned the Connecticut General Court that Quashebuck’s father had already sold him the island. The court ruled with Huit and he became the first “official owner” of Kings Island.
Other owners included:
- 1670-???? – A Massachusetts court awarded the island to John Pynchon for his work surveying the boundary between Massachusetts and Connecticut
- 1717-???? – Reverend Ebenezer Devotion and Joshua Leavitt of Suffield
- 1764-1774 General Phinehas Lyman
- 1774-1787 – Roger Enos of Windsor
- 1787-1800? – Colonel John Ely who built a dam across the west side and operated a sawmill
- Unknown dates – King family who also owned land on the Suffield side shore and operated a ferry on the river to Enfield
- The county map of 1869 calls the island Kings Island for the first time
By far the most interesting owner of the island is a DeWitt Clinton Terry (named after the Erie canal builder?) who owned the island from 1864-1889. So interesting that the island was known for a long time as Terry’s Island. Terry was known in his time as a good farmer and a ferry operator but is remembered for being a Millerite (a sect of Adventists) who predicted the end of days. Groups of Millerites would gather on the island to celebrate before the end. The most notable of these predictions was in 1873 when it was mentioned in the New York Times.
Terry eventually sold the island in 1889 and the house he built was moved from the island to somewhere on Suffield Street in Windsor Locks by the new owner.
The most recent owner, dating at least as far back at the late 1950s, was Connecticut Light & Power (now Eversource). The company had hoped to use the island and section of the river for hydroelectric power, but nothing came of it. The company kept the park as open public land and still maintains a page describing it. An article from July 2020 about a fire that occurred on the north point quotes an official saying it was previously owned by Eversource and is now public property, but I’m unsure if it is at a town or state level.
- Myrtle Hatheway Fuller – History of Kings Island Enfield, CT (1958)
- Hayden, Jabez Haskell. Historical Sketches. The Windsor Locks Journal, 1900. pg. 120.
- Hartford Courant – Islands in the Stream (1999)
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Last updated September 28th, 2020
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