Jackson Lake State Park is a public recreation area located in the town of East Haddam, Connecticut. The state park occupies more than 1,000 acres (400ha) surrounding an artificial lake created on the Naugatuck River and offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, cross-country skiing, bicycling, picnicking, and camping. It is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Jackson Lake State Park features two lodges:
- Lodge #1 contains 60 guest rooms and 10 cabins, all facing a central grassy common area. There are also four full bathrooms and a conference room. The main entrance to the park is across the street (County Route 611) from the post office, lending its name to the aptly named Post Office Loop Trail.
- Lodge #2 contains 40 guest rooms and eight cabins, three full bathrooms, and a conference room. This lodge is situated along the shoreline near the boat launch and provides views of both the river and Sleeping Giant Mountain. Other amenities include picnic areas, playgrounds, playing fields, and equestrian paths. Parking fees are in effect at Jackson Lake State Park from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
Daily rates are $20 per car and $10 for each additional person in the vehicle. Annual passes can be obtained at the park offices. Camping is allowed throughout the entire season with a permit available at the park offices. The campground opens on Memorial Day weekend and closes Columbus day weekend. Single site costs are $15 per night per vehicle.
Additional sites may be added at a cost of $5 per night per vehicle. Group tenting is permitted in the campground and up to 50 persons may stay in a site at one time. No pets are allowed inside the campsite. Accessibility for the disabled was assessed by WestHadden & Associates using the standards set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act. All of the trails at JLSP are accessible to the disabled. The lakeside path from Lodge 2 to the boat dock is particularly well suited for the physically disabled. An alternate route around the lake via railroad tracks formerly used by freight trains is also available. These routes have been improved to make them suitable for walking, biking, and horseback riding.
The park’s seven miles (11km) of hiking trails feature varying degrees of difficulty.
- The 0.75-mile (1.21km) long “Easy” trail starts at the parking lot and makes its way past the swimming beach, stopping just short of steep hillsides and narrow valleys.
- The 1.8-mile (2.9km) moderate Long Trail climbs moderately steep hills before descending into a valley.
- The 2.6-mile (4.2km) difficult Long Trail descends even steeper slopes, crossing railroad tracks twice and passing under a highway bridge before climbing back to the top of the hill.
- The 4.2-mile (6.7km) moderate Mountain Bike Trail uses smooth terrain to ride down a gentle slope toward the lake.
- The 7.3-mile (12.1km) rugged Cross Country Ski Trail follows a section of the Appalachian Trail north of the JLSP. The ski trail includes a 300-foot (91m) elevation change.
- The 5.5-mile (8.9km) moderate Snowmobile Trail allows access to unguarded sections of track for snowmobiling. Biking is prohibited on the paved portion of the trail.
Hunting is allowed in about 600 acres (240ha) of the park. Hunters must follow the rules and regulations of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The hunting of groundhogs is prohibited.
The park hosts numerous races annually, including multiple triathlons and duathlons. The inaugural Triathlon/Duathlon race series started in 2008 and continues every summer. In 2009, the CT State Parks Foundation became the presenting sponsor of the event, which now bears their name. Entrants receive a T-shirt, bike jersey, and a finisher’s medal. Approximately 12,000 spectators typically attend the races. The park receives nearly 640,000 visitors annually.
The park has six tennis courts, a basketball court, and a disc golf course. Tennis courts are open May through September. Half of the courts are reserved, the other half are open on a first come, first served basis. Basketball courts are open June through mid-September. Disc Golf is available year round.
The park has 282 spaces for overnight accommodations, many equipped with fire rings and picnic tables. Two modern bathhouses provide showers and restrooms facilities. Picnic tables are scattered throughout the park in open areas. Three pavilions may be reserved for group functions and outdoor weddings. Reservations are accepted beginning Friday, April 26 and ending Wednesday, August 16. Pavilions rent for $25 per hour, plus 14% tax. Unreserved picnic table seating capacity is 200, reservable picnic table capacity is 350. Tent camping is accommodated in a separate area, away from the main part of the park.
In the early years following its creation in 1873, plans were made to dam the Naugatuck River as a source of water power for the Manchester Manufacturing Company. A small steamboat brought stone from Stonington quarries to New London where it was used to construct a 150 foot high headstart dike which failed during a heavy rainstorm. The failure led to the collapse of the startehead dike and scuttled any further attempts at water power generation. Instead of being destroyed, the dikes were rebuilt and converted into a recreational facility that would become known as “Cedar Glen”. At first, the facility catered primarily to local residents who could not afford the high admission fees charged by the MMCO. Later, as tourism increased, so did attendance at Cedar Glen.
By 1914, over 100,000 people per year were attending events held at the park. Following the death of Colonel Henry Lee III in 1918, his family began making efforts to turn the property into a golf course, but their efforts were interrupted by World War II. After the war, attention returned to the park with plans to build a new lodge, expand parking facilities, and add additional trails. Groundbreaking took place in 1956; however, due to poor weather conditions, work on the lodge stopped until February 1960 when only the foundation walls had been built. Once again, poor weather forced workers to halt construction in March 1961, this time because there was not enough money in the budget. However, once summer arrived, the lodge was completed and opened for guests.
On October 29, 1965, an agreement was reached between the state and the Litchfield Automobile Club for the transfer of ownership of approximately 700 acres including the then undeveloped portion of Jackson Lake to the state for use as a state park. Although little documentation exists today, it appears that automobile club members continued to operate the park through 1970.
During that time, dues were collected from members and approximately 3,500 annual passes were issued. As of 2002, no official pass holder organization operates or maintains the park. Prior to the signing of the deed, the state acquired certain easements required for future development, one of which included an option to purchase 400 acres within five years. To date, the state has purchased 450 of those 500 acres, leaving behind 150 still owned by the Lee family. Despite these facts, some locals continue to refer to the park as “The Litchfield Automobile Club State Park”, fully crediting themselves with creating the park while omitting mention of the fact that the state owns less than half of it.
- mountain biking
- cross country skiing
The common game species are:
- white-tailed deer