EXPLORING THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE LOWER CONNECTICUT RIVER
Update - This course is full. Please call (860) 685-3005 if you would like to have your name placed on a wait list.
Our full day on the Connecticut River will include ample commentary on the history and ecology of the river, aboard the Riverquest cruiser. We will depart from Route 82 parking lot on the west side of the Goodspeed bridge. The trip will include visits to Selden Island and Gillette Castle. We will have a picnic lunch (provided) on the grounds of Gillette Castle.
Staff includes Captain Mark Yuknat and his wife, Mindy Yuknat, experts on the natural history of the river, who own and operate the Riverquest. Our guide for the geology of the river valley is Jelle DeBoer, an authority on the geological history of the river. Here is a description he has written to give you the flavor of the commentary you can expect:
The Connecticut River was the artery through which Connecticut’s agricultural and geologic riches were exported to cities on the Eastern seaboard and the Caribbean. While the forests, once stripped from the hills, have regrown, quarrying scars in the land are still plentiful.
The principle rocks in this section are white pegmatites and grey gneisses—clays and sands deposited in a former ocean that were first buried (and metamorphosed) then squeezed up when Africa collided with North America. These layered rocks paved the muddy streets in cities up and down the Eastern seaboard, all the way to New Orleans. The pegmatites—igneous rocks that intruded into the gneiss—are the queens of the rock world. They can hold more than 100 uncommon minerals, among them tourmalines and beryls. Emeralds and aquamarines have been fashioned from the latter. Tiffany’s and J. P. Morgan had one of the quarries worked for years in search of colorful tourmalines.
The trip will lead us across Avalon, a sliver of crust that drifted north from the southern hemisphere in the Paleozoic era and docked against America, to Gillette Castle that sits on and was built using the metamorphosed sediments from the long-gone Iapetus ocean.
Jelle Zeilinga de Boer
9:30–10 A.M. Sign in: Riverquest dock in Haddam
FROM THE WEST: Route 9 to Exit 7 (Route 82 East). Follow signs for Route 82 east through Tylerville Center. Park entrance will be on your right just after the railroad tracks and before the swing bridge.
FROM THE EAST: From East Haddam, cross the Connecticut River on Route 82 over the swing bridge. Park entrance will be on your left before the train tracks.
10 A.M.–NOON Cruise, with stops at Selden Island allowing time to walk and Gillette Castle
NOON–2 P.M. Walking at Gillette Castle State Park and lunch (provided) at the picnic area of the Park.
A van for transportation up the hill from the riverfront to the picnic area will be provided for those who do not wish to walk. The view at the lunch area is delightful!
2–4 P.M. Cruise and commentary
4 P.M. Disembark
JELLE ZEILINGA DE BOER is Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science emeritus. He was raised in Indonesia, studied in the Netherlands, and taught earth science at Wesleyan from 1965 to 2005. Lately, he has focused on the role geologic phenomena played in Greek mythology, specifically at the Oracle site at Delphi and Apollo temples in southern Anatolia. He has published Volcanoes in Human History (2002) and Earthquakes in Human History (2005), both with Donald Sanders ’52. Stories in Stone appeared in 2009 and deals with the influence geology has had on Connecticut’s history.