In the heart of Fairfield County, Connecticut’s most populated corner, lie the Saugatuck Forest Lands, a remarkable remnant of coastal forest that once stretched along the eastern seaboard from Virginia to Central Maine. This natural cloister encompasses 60,000 acres of pristine waters and woodlands including, at its core, a 24-square-mile continuous forest centered on the Saugatuck and Aspetuck reservoirs.
Bobcat, mink, fox and a host of interior forest nesting bird species thrive in this landscape marked by maturity, ecological integrity and a relative scarcity of harmful invasive plants and animals. Rare plants such as pink lady’s slipper, cardinal flower and Indian pipe color the forest floor, while the region’s clear streams host native brook trout.
Decades ago, The Bridgeport Hydraulic Company, now Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut, Inc., purchased land here protecting this forested watershed from the march of development in the New York metro area.
Over the years, the company sold some of this land to The Nature Conservancy (e.g., Devil’s Den Preserve) and other conservation organizations (e.g. Trout Brook Valley to Aspetuck Land Trust with significant support from the Conservancy).
More recently, The Nature Conservancy joined with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the Aquarion Water Company to protect 15,000 acres, which are now managed for conservation purposes as “Centennial Watershed State Forest” by the three parties.
The Conservancy continues to work cooperatively with landowners, municipalities, conservation groups and others to protect the watershed. Thanks to these efforts, nearly half of this forested landscape is under conservation ownership today.
Several Conservancy preserves are found in the Saugatuck Forest Lands, including natural lands donated by noted Conservancy philanthropist Katharine Ordway. Spanning more than 1,700 acres, Devil’s Den Preserve is the largest privately owned tract of protected land in Fairfield County. Additional natural areas include the Centennial Watershed State Forest, Huntington State Park, Trout Brook Valley and protected land owned by local land trusts and municipalities.
The Conservancy established and leads the Saugatuck River Watershed Partnership to protect and enhance the health of the watershed.
Contact Saugatuck Forest Lands Office Coordinator Cynthia Fowx at (203) 226-4991.