Location: Chestnut Woods Road, Redding
Directions: FROM I-95: Take Exit 24, take right off exit and left at the first light. Follow signs to toward Route 58 North (Black Rock Turnpike) Follow from ** below.
FROM MERRITT PARKWAY: Take Exit 44. From northbound: turn left off ramp onto Congress St, then left at light onto Route 58 North. From southbound: turn left at the first light, right at the second light onto Route 58 North. Follow from ** below.
FROM I-84/Route 7: Take Exit 5 to Route 53. Follow south approx. 10 miles and take right onto Umpawaug Rd (if you come to the junction with Route 107, you’ve gone too far.)
Follow from **.
** On Umpawaug Rd, proceed 0.5 miles. Turn right onto Marchant Rd and go 0.8 miles to Chestnut Woods Rd. Turn left and go 0.5 miles. Look for a break in the stone wall that marks the beginning of the property and entrance to Huckleberry Swamp Boardwalk Trail.
Habitat: Swamp, upland forest, wetlands
Size: Approximately 54 acres
Description and species: The Edward Steichen Memorial Wildlife Preserve is informally and affectionately known as “Huckleberry Swamp.” This site was the location of a prolonged and far-reaching ecological study by Connecticut Audubon Society and the Yale school of Forestry and Environmental Studies in the late 1970s. Follow-up studies and an updated adaptive management plan are planned for the near future.
The sensitive wetlands in the Edward Steichen Memorial Wildlife Preserve are currently maintained as wildlife habitat with very limited access. The boardwalk system and trails that were once in place have been discontinued and the best views of the sanctuary are to be had from Chestnut Woods Road, which is one of the property boundaries.
During the 1970s, the sanctuary’s small upland area was shrub and scrub habitat, but it has since grown into deciduous forest. During the summer, Eastern Phoebe, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Tufted Titmouse, Willow Flycatcher, Veery, Broad-winged Hawk, Warbling Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher, and a variety of woodpeckers breed in the wooded areas around the swamp.
Gazing over the murky waters allows one to see breeding Tree Swallow and multitudes of Wood Duck young born in boxes erected in the swamp itself. In both spring and fall migration visitors can expect to find many warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and more, since the wet yet wooded and isolated property forms an ideal migratory stopover site. Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Rusty Blackbirds would all be attracted to the swamp and its edge habitat in any season. American Woodcock, which may breed in the preserve, also find these spots useful especially during seasonal transitions.
The wetlands of the Edward Steichen Memorial Wildlife Preserve are a haven for amphibians and reptiles. Bullfrogs, Green Frogs, Spring Peepers, and American Toads are abundant here and many other species may inhabit the swamp and nearby vernal pool habitats. You can see Eastern Painted Turtles in many areas of the swamp as well. Be careful when you are driving down Chestnut Woods Road, as they may be crossing the street in front of your car! These turtles and the impressive Common Snapping Turtle seasonally migrate in and out of the swamp to hibernate and lay eggs in nearby uplands.
Future studies in the preserve will address screening for amphibian disease as well as additional Breeding Bird Surveys. We will be evaluating the sanctuary’s potential for education and outreach programs in the context of our best habitat management practices at the site and hopefully address some of the access issues.
If you encounter anything noteworthy on your visit to this sanctuary, please let us know about it or consider joining one of the citizen science initiatives that help gather data to better protect our wildlife and their habitats.
Huckleberry Swamp photo © Scott Kruitbosch; Green Frog © Twan Leenders