The Housatonic River

Last Updated: 2/2016
General Description
          The river's name is derived from the Mohican phrase "usi-a-di-en-uk", translated as "beyond the mountain place" or "river of the mountain place". It is referred to in the deed by which a group of twelve colonists called "The Proprietors" captured the land now called Shermanand New Fairfield as "Ousetonack". It was referred to by Samuel Orcuttas "more properly the Howsatunnuck" and an early name of "Oweantinock" is also mentioned. The river was also known as the Potatuck or the "river of the falls" until the 18th century.
              The river passes through land that was formerly occupied primarily by native people of Algonquian lineage, typically living in villages of two to three hundred families housed in hide wigwams. These native inhabitants burned the forests along the Housatonic Valley in the autumn to keep the underbrush down, a practice which was customary throughout Connecticut prior to European settlement.
            One notable native was Chief Squantz of the Schaghticoke tribe, who still hold a portion of the former reservation on the west side of the Housatonic River, in what is now called the town of Kent.
              English settlement of the northern Housatonic Valley began in 1725 in Sheffield, Massachusetts.  By 1734, Mohicans established the Indian Town of Stockbridge, which grew over 15 years but then failed, with land pressures increasing.
 
 
 
 
 
 
STATISTICS

Length: 159.0 miles (169.7 including West and Southwest branches)
      The miles are numbered from the ocean to the headwaters.  There are several values given for the length of the Housatonic River.  The Housatonic Valley Association uses 149 miles.  As a result of this disparity, we carefully measured and re-measured the length of the river using the USGS Map tool TOPO developed by National Geographic and found the a length of the river being exactly 159.0 statute miles to the end of the east branch.
          It is important to note that the Housatonic River’s has three branches at its headwaters:
The East Branch 
  • Begins at Muddy Pond in the towns of Hinsdale and Washington and travel throught Dalton and Pittsfield.
  • Mile 140.0 to Mile 159.0 - 19.0 miles long.
The West Branch
  • Begins at Pontoosuc Lake in Lanesborough and Pittsfield and travels through Pittsfield.
  • Mile 141.0 to Mile 145.0 - 4.0 miles long.
The  Southwest Branch
  • Begins at Richmond Pond, Richmond and Pittsfield and travels through Pittsfield.
  • Mile 141 to Mile 146.7 - 5.7 miles long.

Access Points
        There are 58 access points and portages from Muddy Pond to the Breakwater on the Ocean.  I have carefully cataloged each access point that is publicly available.  There are many more locations that can be used but we have listed all the public access points.  Select the button below:
 ​
Muddy Pond
Pontoosuc Lake
Richmond Pond
Wikipedia
Covered Bridges and Dams
Access Points
THE REACHES
        We have broken down the river into 26 reaches numbered from the headwaters to the mouth at the ocean.  Each reach has a map with put-in and take-out positions, description, length, difficulty, and information as appropriate.
Distance
6.5
1
Muddy Pond, Washington                 to   Hinsdale Public Library, Hinsdale
7.2
2
Hinsdale Public Library, Hinsdale     to   Hubbard Avenue Bridge, Pittsfield
5.1
3
Hubbard Avenue Bridge, Pittsfield   to   Fred Garner River Park, Pittsfield
6.3
4
Fred Garner River Park, Pittsfield     to  New Lenox Road Bridge, Lenox
6.3
5
New Lenox Road Bridge, Lenox        to   Lenoxdale Footbridge, Lenox
3.6
6
Lenoxdale Footbridge, Lenox            to   Route 20 Bridge, Lee
5.9
7
Route 20 Bridge, Lee                           to   Willow Street Bridge, South Lee
6.4
8
Willow Street Bridge, South Lee       to Glendale Middle Road,  Stockbridge
4.1
9
Glendale Middle Road, Stockbridge to Rising Pond Dam, Great Barrington
5.2
10
Rising Pond Dam, Great Barrington to  Bridge St Bridge, Great Barrington
6.4
11
Bridge St Bridge, Great Barrington   to  Sheffield Covered Bridge, Sheffield
8.9
12
Sheffield Covered Bridge, Sheffield  to  Rannapo Road Bridge, Ashley Falls
8.9
13
Rannapo Road Bridge, Ashley Falls  to  Great Falls Dam, Falls Village
11.5
14
Great Falls Dam, Falls Village             to   H. Meadows State Park, Sharon
9.2
15
H. Meadows State Park, Sharon        to   Route 341 Bridge, Kent
16
Route 341 Bridge, Kent                       to   Candlewood Power Plant
6.6
17
Candlewood Power Plant  to Veterans Bridge, Route 202, New Milford
6.6
18
Veterans Bridge, Rt 202, New Milford to Lover Leap Bridge, New Milford
2.3
19
Lover Leap Bridge, New Milford to Route 133 State Launch, Bridgewater
6.5
20
Route 133 State Launch, Bridgewater to Shepaug Dam, Southbury
4.5
21
Shepaug Dam, Southbury      to  Kettletown State Park, Southbury
6.5
22
Kettletown State Park, Southbury to Stevenson Dam, Monroe
3.9
23
Stevenson Dam, Monroe to Derby Dam, Derby
6.0
24
Derby Dam, Derby  to  South Bank Park, Sheldon
4.3
25
South Bank Park, Sheldon  to  Washington Draw Bridge, Stratford
6.1
26
Washington Draw Bridge, Stratford to Mouth of the River - The Ocean
3.9
OTHER RESOURCES
 

 
 

First Light Power
Resource Phone
888-417-4837
The power company has provided this number so that you can get the latest lake levels for Candlewood Lake, Lake Lillinonah, and Zoar Lake.  Water release times for Falls Village and Stevenson power dams are also available.
Berkshire County Guide
Connecticuit Guide
Housatonic Valley Association
         The Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) brings together a wide range of people and organizations that are deeply concerned about the resources and environmental quality of the Housatonic River Valley. Together, we protect land and water throughout the entire 2,000-square-mile, tri-state Housatonic Watershed. To see an interactive map of the watershed area, please click here.

Among our many activities, we...
  • work with property owners and local governments in all 83 towns;
  • respond at a moment's notice;
  • partner with local, state and national organizations to leverage resources;
  • have in-house experts available;
  • share our expertise with organizations and people on conservation and environmental issues;
  • are volunteers in stream patrols.

For more information visit the website:
Housatonic Valley Association
The Housatonic River Initiative
         
(HRI), a non-profit coalition of Berkshire County residents, was formed in 1992 to work to reclaim the Housatonic River system from years of neglect and decades of toxic PCB contamination.
We are conservationists, sportsmen and women, scientists, and homeowners whose land has been polluted.  The more we have learned, the more we have realized what a large task we have set for ourselves, and the wider our scope of activities has become.
While we began advocating for a river, our tasks multiplied to include fighting for a comprehensive cleanup of the General Electric (GE) facility in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the closure of GE's PCB burn facility, the removal of PCBs from contaminated residential homes, businesses, schoolyards, and playgrounds, and demanding public health studies for former GE workers and members of the public whose homes were built on or near PCB-contaminated fill.

For more information visit the website:
Housatonic River Initiative