Bull's Bridge River Walk

HIGHLIGHTS: A short forest path leads you to picture perfect views of Bull's Bridge, one of two covered bridges, still open to auto traffic in Connecticut. Hike high above the Housatonic River on the Appalachian Trail to Ten Mile Gorge, then onward to the summit of Ten Mile Hill and its' sweeping pastoral panorama of the rolling Litchfield Hills.

Directions: At the junction of Rte. 341 and Rte. 7 in Kent, follow Rte. 7 south for three miles, take a right onto Bull's Bridge Road, cross the first bridge, go through the covered bridge, passing a parking area on the right. After crossing the third bridge, pull into the hiker parking on the left. White blazes mark the entrance to the Appalachian Trail.

Walking Time: 2 to 2.5 hours level: Easy to Moderate (The one mile river walk has an easy rating; the one mile climb up Ten Mile Hill is moderate).

Distance: 4 miles.

TRAIL DIRECTIONS: The trail leading to Ten Mile Gorge; Hill is part of the Appalachian Trail and is marked by white blazes. Please, keep to the trail's defined footway; travel in groups of ten or fewer, and carry out what you carry in. The entrance to Bull's Bridge Scenic Loop is between the covered bridge and the first parking area and is not blazed.

WALK DIRECTIONS: A short warm up stroll around Bull's Bridge Scenic Loop reveals dramatic views of gorges and waterfalls that swirl and tumble beneath the covered bridge. The entrance to this loop is between the covered bridge and the first parking area.

The first bridge was built here in 1760, by Issac Bull, to carry iron ore and charcoal across the river as the mining on Ore Hill developed. The first five bridges built here were not covered. Over the years, one bridge replaced another as each was washed away by high water and ice. The original covered bridge, named after its builder, Jacob Bull, was an important connecting link on the turnpike between Newburg on the Hudson and Hartford. It took eight years to complete this bridge which was finished prior to 1811. The bridge you see today was rebuilt in 1842.

In 1901, when Connecticut Light & Power built a main dam on the river, the covered bridge had to be raised twenty feet to clear the water making it eighty feet above the bed of the river.

During the Revolutionary War Kent was well known for supplying the Continental Army with iron ore, goods and soldiers. Kent was also well known for its' strategic location on the marching road between Lebanon, the Continental supply depot and Washington's New York headquarters. Kent was far enough away from the mid-Hudson area and from the coasts to provide safe provisioning posts, such as those at Bull's Bridge, yet close enough to bring up reserves in case of emergency. Bull's Bridge provided a critical link to the turnpike known as the "galloping highway" because of the great speed that could be made on horseback between Newburg on the Hudson and Hartford Connecticut.

Local history has documented that George Washington had some sort of accident at Bull's Bridge in 1781. What has happened has never been told in detail, but one thing is clear; one of his horses, perhaps his own mount, fell in the raging Housatonic River. One exciting bit of confirmation regarding this incident appears in George Washington's own expense account for March 3, 1781. The first travel expense of the day noted: "getting a horse out of Bull's Bridge Falls, $215.00." The size of the item indicates that it involved quite a rescue operation. It must have taken time and the General was on his way to make plans with the French for naval support of New York against the British. Any ordinary horse might have been allowed to stay in the river. So, it might be assumed that this was no ordinary horse, and perhaps it was Washington's own mount. Today, we can only wonder.

After exploring the Bull's Bridge Scenic Loop, retrace your steps to the hiker parking area and follow the white blazed footpath of the Appalachian Trail into the woods, keeping the river on your left. Stroll on an elevated forest trail that winds its way through a cool dense forest of mixed hardwoods and hemlocks punctuated by a soft palette of colorful wildflowers that change with the seasons.

In 15 minutes, you will reach a fork in the trail, bear left and continue following the white blazes. Walk along a narrow tree shaded path that winds its way above the mighty Housatonic River, revealing a birds eye view of boulder strewn rapids, tranquil still water and the abundant wildlife of the river. This is just a minuscule, but very scenic portion of the Appalachian Trail which encompasses a total of 2,144 miles from Maine to Georgia and has been designated as the only National Scenic Trail in the northeast.

Soon you will come to a bridge that provides a spectacular view of Ten Mile River Gorge where the waters of the Housatonic and Ten Mile River merge. Cross the bridge and turn right, passing a camping area on the left. Continue walking along this easy stretch of the white trail which follows the river back into the forest.

The trail turns to the left and begins a gradual ascent. Cross an old wood road and continue following the white blazes. The next .7 miles is a steep and steady ascent to the crest of Ten Mile Hill. The white blazes thread their way along a narrow path through a boulder strewn hemlock forest and past age old stands of hardwood that provide a continuous bower of pine scented shade. The trail, twists and turns, left then right as you ascend.

At the intersection of the white and blue blazes, continue following the white blazes for ten minutes or so to the first crest of the hill. Continue your ascent following the white blazes to reach the dramatic westward view of the Litchfield Hills from Ten Mile Hill.

Retrace your steps, following the white blazes to the hiker parking area where this walk began.

SPECIAL NOTES: Parts of this trail can be tricky in inclement weather because of steep descending traverses.

The Appalachian Trail follows the Housatonic River from the picturesque village of Kent to Cornwall Bridge making it the longest river walk on the Appalachian Trail. This walk is an easy 7.8 mile hike through stands of age-old hardwoods and hemlocks, past meadows strewn with wildflowers and by stonewalled fields that mirror the country lifestyle and landscapes that have changed little in the past 200 years. To reach the trail entrance, at the jct.of Rte. 7 and Rte. 341 in Kent take Rte. 341 west; take a right onto Skiff Mountain Rd., follow for one mile, bear right at the fork to the entrance of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Follow this dirt road for 2.5 miles to the parking area. The trail is marked with white blazes. This area closes at sunset.