This is the cumulative distance of the walking trails within the Wharton Brook Natural Area Preserve, which constitutes the eastern half of the park.
Destination Distance From Downtown
1 of 5 diamonds
The park is flat and trails are wide open.
Time To Complete
There's less than a mile of trails here, but you can easily spend all day fishing, swimming, or picnicking.
On Leash Only
Pets on a leash are permitted in picnic areas.
There is a weekend parking fee: $9 for CT residents ($5 after 4pm); $15 non-residents ($6 after 4pm). This may be a seasonal fee: when I visited on a weekend in late September, the toll booth was unmanned.
This is three parks in one. Near the parking lots are open lawns dotted with picnic tables and charcoal barbecue pits, perfect for large family get-togethers or company picnics.
At the center of the park is a small lake which is kept stocked with trout, ideal for fishermen who want to be almost guaranteed a successful catch. The eastern edge of the lake is a beach, where swimming is permitted.
And east of the lake lies the Wharton Brook Natural Area Preserve, a rare pitch pine barrens habitat with nearly a mile of walking trails.
What Makes It Great
Pine barrens are rare and seldom seen. They occur on sandy soils and depend on fires to clear away deciduous tree species and their leaf litter. The Preserve is the largest and least-disturbed remaining portion of what was once a large sand plain. Unfortunately, because it has been undisturbed by fire for so long, hardwood trees have begun to take hold. The hardwoods are being cleared to restore the pine barrens to their natural state.
In addition to offering a glimpse of an endangered habitat, Wharton Brook provides a space that caters to large groups who want to spend time together outdoors. There are many picnic areas, tons of parking, and room for the various members of a group outing to participate in different activities: grandpa can go fishing, the kids can play on the beach, the teenagers can play frisbee in an open field, and then everyone can regroup for lunch.
Who is Going to Love It
Families, company picnic planners, fishermen, lake swimmers, and anyone who has never had the opportunity to visit a pine barrens.
There are three parking lots, all accessible from the same entrance on Route 5. The lower lot is closest to the lake and trails.
Swimming is permitted in designated area only. Lifeguards are typically on duty daily from 10am to 6pm during the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day). See the DEEP website for full regulations and info on water quality.