River Bend near Bridge
Riverview Trail Park
Take a scenic walk through pine woods and flood plain at this 30-acre Coventry park. The half-mile riverside trail offers excellent wildlife and bird watching opportunities. The Willimantic River Greenway Midriver Trail passes through this park, linking south to Merrow Meadow Park in Mansfield across the Merrow Road bridge, and north to King Riverside Conservation Area in Tolland. Note that Riverview Trail may not be accessible during high water.
From Route 195 in Mansfield, go south on Route 32 for eight-tenths mile. Turn right onto Merrow Road and cross the Willimantic River bridge into Coventry. Turn right immediately onto Riverview Drive and park in the lot on the right.
See Midriver Map
Riverview Trail begins behind the park sign and leads down to the river's edge. Turn left to follow the white-blazed trail upstream through a floodplain forest of red maple and graceful, arching hornbeam trees, which shade a bench overlooking the river. Across the river, the bank rises steeply to the site of the former Merrow mill, which began as a gunpowder mill in 1811.
White Pine Terrace
As you walk upstream, you can hear water tumbling over rocks where the river bends away toward the east side of the valley. Soon the trail enters a sandy terrace where majestic white pines tower over hickory and oak trees. Mountain laurel and blueberry bushes line the trail. A bench under the pines offers a peaceful spot to sit and listen to the wind rustling in the trees. (The numbered posts will be used with a future interpretative brochure.)
The valley is wider here, and the main river channel is on the far (east) side of the valley. The trail now leads through ferns alongside a narrow overflow channel cutting through a wet floodplain. Where the trail nears Riverview Drive, the Midriver Trail turns left to climb up the bank and continue on to Tolland. To stay on the park trail, turn right onto a footbridge over a water channel from Riverview Drive, which is depositing road sand on the bottom.
Pools and Riffles
Beyond the footbridge, the main river channel bends back to the west side of the valley, and the trail again follows its bank. At a bench under the maple trees, there is a scenic view up the river, where you may see ducks feeding or a great blue heron fly by. You can also see the river at work, as it gradually wears away the bank by the bench to expose tree roots on the outside of the bend. At the same time, the river deposits sand and gravel (carried from upstream) onto the bank across the river on the inside of the bend. As the bank you are sitting on gives way and the opposite bank advances, the river is slowly carving its way toward the west side of the valley floor.
By this bench, the river runs noisily over cobble-sized rocks. Just upstream is a smooth-as-glass pool over a deeper bottom, then another rocky riffle beyond. This is the river's natural sequence of pool, riffle, pool, riffle. Trout prefer such a habitat, where agitation in the riffles adds oxygen to the water, and pools offer a cool hide-out on warm summer days. If you enjoy trout fishing, this is a good spot to try.
Around the Bend
The trail continues upstream through ferns along the bank. Watch for animal tunnels underfoot and signs of former beaver activity. After the trail crosses a second bridge, it enters a dry, piney terrace, where another bench offers a scenic view of the next bend. Continue through wet woods to the last bench, which is shaded by tall hemlocks. The land beyond this bench is private property, so turn back along the trail to return to the parking lot.
Thanks to Eric Thomas and Eric Trott for their assistance.
Top photo: E. Trott; bottom photo: E. Thomas.
This Willimantic River Greenway Parks and Trails Guide was produced by the Willimantic River Alliance and WINCOG. Information in this guide reflects conditions and features as of Spring, 2008. Since conditions change over time, the Alliance is not responsible for changes at this site. This guide was funded with support from the The Last Green Valley (formerly known as the Quinebaug-Shetucket Heritage Corridor, Inc.).