UPDATE May 2016: Please note that this post was written in 2013. For 2016, park hours and parking rates remain the same. The great thing about this park is that it is FREE during the week, so check it out then if you can! Get the latest information on Stratton Brook State Park here.
So this week I’m continuing my tour of Connecticut State Parks with a visit to Stratton Brook State Park in Simsbury. As the town pools start to close for the season and the weather continues to stay hot, hot, hot, I thought some of our readers may start looking for alternative swimming options and this swimming hole in Hartford County might be just what they need (especially since it is FREE during the week).
Here is a little bit of background on the park from the Connecticut DEEP website:
The proximity of Stratton Brook to the Hartford metropolitan area has made it one of the better known small parks of the State. In 1949 it was designated as a state park. It was originally called Massacoe State Forest and was acquired to demonstrate forest fire control adjacent to railroads. The railroad tracks have been replaced by an impressive bike trail shaded by white pines and traveling over scenic brooks. In 1996, this park became Connecticut’s first state park that is completely accessible by wheelchair.
The park offers many activities including: biking, cross-country skiing, swimming fishing, hiking and picnicking. For our trip to the park, we were mainly focusing on swimming, though we would be attempting a little toddler hike as well.
As we entered the park, there was a gate stand. On weekends and holidays we would need to stop her to pay the parking fee, but on weekdays, we could just drive on by (it is FREE).
We weaved our way through the park and saw a large parking area on our left that was marked for beach parking. We only saw one car in the lot and assumed there had to be some additional parking ahead, so we continued on. We did check out the lot and realized there is a walking path that connects it directly to the beach area. It would be a great parking option on busy days.
But right down the road from this parking area, we discovered the beach area and another, much smaller parking area on the right. There were handicap parking spaces available as well. There was also a turnaround if we had wanted to drop off part of our crew and our stuff and then go park.
The walk from the parking area to the beach was fairly easy. There was also a little boardwalk that ran the length of the beach which made it easy for me to bring Sweetheart in a stroller.
The beach was nice. It had been raked that morning and was very clean. While I picked out a spot and got our stuff set up, the twins made a bee-line for the water.
Now one thing to know about this park is that there are no life guards on duty. Obviously for me this isn’t really a big deal because with non-swimming toddlers, I’m going to keep them in puddle jumpers and not let them out of my sight. But there was a benefit I noticed from having no life guards on duty. That meant there were no restrictions on what flotation devices could be brought in the water. I saw kids with floats, kickboards, etc. Not something that is usually allowed when life guards are in charge.
My kids played in the water and in the sand and had a great time exploring the small beach area.
Before I knew it, the kids started to remind me that it was lunchtime. A picnic area was located right behind us on the edge of the beach, but we opted to enjoy our picnic right in the sand.
After lunch, we headed out for a little exploring.
Right near the beach was a building that held the nature center and restrooms.
Inside the nature center was a small room with information on the park and a few critters to check out.
This is also where they host activities for the kids throughout the summer (and possibly the year). On Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week, there is a fishing seminar that meets here at 1:00 pm (it is for kids 9 and older though younger kids can participate with a parent). All the fishing gear is supplied, you just have to bring yourself. The August schedule also had a “Pond Explorers” program and other fun adventures. Definitely take a look at the schedule when you are there. They had copies available in the nature center and a current schedule hanging in the restroom.
Oh, and here are some pics of the restroom area. I didn’t see a baby changing station.
After a tour of the facilities, we took a walk over to the covered bridge and fishing area. The park actually has a lot of trails and paths for biking, hiking, walking and running. Here is a map for reference.
As we headed towards the walking trails, there was a sign with park information and trail maps available.
One thing I noticed is that the sign mentions that there is “no water quality testing”. At first this was a bit bothersome, but then I found this site that lists the current water quality status for Stratton Brook. So I am now confused and not sure if that water is tested or not. Something I need to look into (or maybe something that one of our readers already knows about!).
Anyways, here are some pictures of the area we explored.
Bruiser and Sparkles decided to take a break from our exploring to play in the pond.
We didn’t make it very far on our adventures. Just over the bridge and around the fishing area then back to the beach. It was enough to wear out the kids a bit and they found plenty of fun things to keep them entertained. I’m hoping that on a future trip we can go a little further down one of the other trails. We will see!
So that was about it. We went swimming, had lunch, checked out the nature center and went exploring. Plenty of things to keep a couple of high-energy kiddos entertained for a few hours. Perfect! I think we will be making a few future trips to Stratton Brook State Park.
Open 8 am to sunset every day
- Weekdays: FREE
- Weekends and Holidays: $9 Residents, $15 Non-Residents
- Latest rate information can be found here
- Season passes are available for purchase and allow for unlimited entry during the calendar year.
- Many libraries also have a state park pass available for check out through their museum pass program.
Tips & Things to Bring:
- If you are visiting on the weekend or a holiday, bring cash for the parking fee.
- Bring your typical beach accessories: suntan lotion, bug spray, umbrella, chairs, beach toys, etc.
- If you bring a stroller or wagon to carry the kids and cargo, there is a boardwalk that runs along the back edge of the beach that will help.
- There are no lifeguards monitoring the swimming area.
- Restrooms are located behind the nature center.
- Parking is located in a large parking lot (with a direct path to the beach area) or in spaces closer to the beach area.
- Bring walking shoes so that you can take a break and explore the walking trails.
- There are no flotation device restrictions (floats are allowed)
- Programs for the kids are available. A fishing program currently runs on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 1:00 pm. It is designed for kids 9 and older, but younger children can participate with an adult. There are also additional programs available. Check the schedule in the center.
- Beach Rules:
- No lifeguard on duty
- No water quality testing
- Swim only within buoyed area
- No diving
- Underwater hazards may exist
- Parents watch your children
- Swimming under the influence may be dangerous