One of the nicest things about living in Enfield is our proximity to the Scantic River in the Hazardville section of our town. We have spent many enjoyable hours walking or snowshoeing along the banks of the river.
The Scantic River runs through an area known as Powder Hollow, so named because Loomis, Denslow and Company produced gunpowder, saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal there. In 1837 Colonel Augustus Hazard bought into the company and was instrumental in building it into a major producer of gunpowder. At its peak there were 125 buildings spread over one and a half miles along the river and among these were twenty-five water-powered wheels, three hydraulic presses and three steam engines. From 1843 to 1876 the Hazard Powder Company provided gunpowder for many endeavors including the war with Mexico in 1846, the 1849 Gold Rush, the 1854 Crimean War (where they supplied both Britain and Russia with gunpowder), and to the Union forces during the American Civil War. After the Civil War the demand for gunpowder declined and the business began to fail. There were many explosions over the years and in 1871 much of the plant was destroyed. There are still several sites along the river where the old stone foundations and blast walls can still be seen. The former horse barn on South Maple Street is still in use today as a venue for special events.
Today, The Scantic River State Park runs through Enfield, East Windsor, and Somers with many areas that are suitable for hiking, fishing, canoeing or kayaking. Each season brings new ways to enjoy the outdoors. Every spring the Scantic Spring Splash canoe and kayak race is held. People come from all over the East Coast to participate in this fun event.
Late March is also a great time to walk along the river as the ice breaks up and the river flows quickly by. There are many places were beaver lodges and dams can be seen as well as trees that have been felled by these natural engineers. New plants are emerging and fern and skunk cabbage abound. I always think that the brownish-purple spathe of the newly emerging skunk cabbage looks as if it was transported from an alien planet.
An October hike is an adventure for the both the eyes and the ears as all the shades of autumn in New England are overhead and underfoot. The remaining stone foundations of the Hazard Powder Company become prominent as the foliage drops. Our children always loved to climb around the ruins during these walks.
In January or February a good snowfall followed by a 40 degree day provides the perfect setting to set out on snowshoes. The sun reflecting off of the ice and snow on the river is a beautiful sight and it is so quiet and peaceful. The Scantic River is a one of those wonderful gifts that nature offers to us and I highly recommend a visit to see it any time of the year.