Springlike weather is finally here! The forecast is for a warm and sunny weekend. May we suggest that your first spring outing be on one of the trails of the Steep Rock Association? Finally, we can leave winter behind and head out for a hike at one of our many nature preserves, which boast some incredible scenery and panoramic views of Washington’s beautiful natural surroundings. To celebrate spring and show our LOVE for the Steep Rock Association, we have put together our list of five fast facts!
1. History of Land Preservation
The Steep Rock Association finds its beginnings in 1889 when the famous architect Ehrick Rossiter purchased 100 acres of land in the Shepaug River Valley in order to save it from being torn down by a timber company. Rossiter owned this section of land for 36 years, but in 1925 he donated it to a group of trustees to ensure its lasting preservation. These trustees quickly established a public land trust with Rossiter’s 100 acres and began acquiring more land. In 1961, the trustees created the Steep Rock Association as their holdings were recognized as an official land trust. With the recognition, the Association was then able to add more acres under its protection. Through several land donations from Washington families, the Steep Rock Association has grown to own over 2,700 acres of the town’s natural surroundings.
2. Three Preserves In One
The land of the Steep Rock Association can be broken down into three nature preserves: Steep Rock, Hidden Valley, and Macricostas. The Steep Rock Preserve encompasses Ehrick Rossiter original 100 acres as well as 898 acres of the Shepaug River Valley. It is the largest preserve of the Association and it offers breathtaking views of the hillsides and rocky high tops surrounding the river. The Hidden Valley Preserve is located northeast of Washington Depot and contains 727 acres of land. It is best characterized by its wooded hillsides and small meadows which are all accessible by hiking trails. Lastly, the Macricostas Preserve sits just north of Route 202 and has 238 acres of beautiful farmland, meadows, and rocky ridges.
3. Land Trust
The Steep Rock Association is a land trust that works to conserve Washington’s natural surroundings for public benefit. Its mission is to not only maintain the land under its preservation, but also to protect the native flora and fauna as well as to support sustainable agriculture. Also, the Steep Rock Association strives to enhance its community’s connection with nature and raise awareness of environmental issues on the local and national level. As a land trust, the Steep Rock Association is a non-profit that is funded by donations and run by dedicated volunteers.
4. Hiking Gems on the Trails
As you venture out and explore some of Steep Rock’s trails, be sure to check out these hidden gems:
Railroad Tunnel – Originally a part of the Shepaug Valley Railroad, this tunnel is located in the Steep Rock Preserve and provides visitors with not only a place to rest, but also a peak into Washington’s past.
The Thoreau Bridge – Spanning across the Shepaug River, the Thoreau Footbridge is a must for any visitor to the Hidden Valley Preserve as it provides incredible views of the flora and fauna around the riverbed.
Waramaug’s Rock– At an elevation of 1,250 feet, Waramaug’s Rock in the Macricostas Preserves overlooks the majestic Lake Waramaug and offers panomatic vistas of the rustling waters below as well as the surrounding countryside.
5. Special Spring Events
In the coming weeks, the Steep Rock Association has special events planned to help get the community outdoors and explore the trails. In addition to a family workshop on the eccentric timberdoodle bird, Steep Rock is hosting Washington’s Earth Day 5K on April 21st. Runners will be able to meander along the Shepaug River and take in some beautiful scenery all while supporting the Steep Rock Association and the Washington Environmental Council.
To find more about the preserves and the hiking trails, check out the Steep Rock Association’s website. We also want to encourage you to support Steep Rock and their efforts to preserve Washington’s natural surrounding by volunteering your time or making a donation.