Location: Madison, CT
Anchor Site(s): Hammonasset Beach State Park and Natural Area Preserve
About the Site: With almost two million visitors each year, Hammonasset Beach State Park is the most visited park in Connecticut. Within its 1,000 acres of beach and marshland, visitors are welcome to explore one of the longest expanses of beach in the State. Visitors to the park can also take advantage of its 558 campsites, miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, bathing beach, and cycling paths, including a section of the Shoreline Greenway Trail. About half of the park is designated a ‘Natural Area Preserve’ dedicated to scientific research and protecting important wildlife habitat. This Stewardship Area is designated by the National Audubon Society as a Globally Significant Bird Area due to the presence of rare birds, including piping plovers, least terns, American oystercatchers, and large concentrations of northern harrier and saltmarsh sparrow. Visitors can learn more about this special place at the Meigs Point Nature Center, open year-round with programs and activities for all ages.
• Audubon has designated Hammonasset a Globally Important Bird Area. It provides vital resting and feeding areas for migrating land birds, shorebirds, and raptors.
• The park has the second highest banding total of northern harriers in North America.
• Since 1985, mosquito ditches in the park’s saltmarshes are no longer maintained resulting in the restoration of shallow open water pools that provide habitat for wading and shorebirds.
• Hammonasset supports the largest colony of purple martins in Connecticut.
• It is the site of thousands of annually migrating monarch butterflies.
• The park’s marshland and upland areas provide habitat for a variety of regionally rare flora including starry campion (Silene stellata), sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus), and bayonet grass (Bolboschoenus maritimus ssp. paludosus).
• It is the site of several successful saltmarsh restoration projects accomplished by restoring tidal flow to previously impounded marsh systems and removing dredge sediments.
• Stroll nearly two miles of beach, the longest stretch of naturally occurring sandy beach in Connecticut.
• Camp, hike, cycle, swim, picnic, fish, and birdwatch in Connecticut’s most visited State park.
• Cycle along a stretch of the expanding Shoreline Greenway Trail, a coastal area trail that will ultimately stretch 25 miles from Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven to Hammonassett.
• Learn about the area’s coastal ecology at the Meigs Point Nature Center, a state-of-the-art environmental education center. Meigs Point offers classes linked to state curriculum standards and has staff available to visit schools and host programs on request.
• Grassy campsites are available to tent and RV campers while a few highly popular cabin rentals are available to those planning their stay well in advance.