1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Connecticut River

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13955651911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 6 — Connecticut River

CONNECTICUT RIVER, a stream of the New England states, U.S.A. It rises in Connecticut Lake in N. New Hampshire—several branches join in N.E. Vermont, near the Canadian line, about 2000 ft. above the sea—flows S., forming the boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire, crosses Massachusetts and Connecticut, and empties into Long Island Sound. Its course is about 345 m. and its drainage basin 11,085 sq. m. The principal tributary is the Farmington, which rises in the Green Mountains in Massachusetts, and joins the Connecticut above Hartford. From its head to the Massachusetts line the banks are wooded, the bed narrow, the valley slopes cut sharply in crystalline rocks, and the tributaries small and torrential. In the 273 m. of this upper portion of its course the average descent is 15 to 34 ft. a mile. In Massachusetts and Connecticut the river flows through a basin of weaker Triassic shales and sandstones, and the valley consequently broadens out, making the finest agricultural region of large extent in New England. Near Holyoke and at other points rugged hills of harder trap rock rise so high above the valley lowland that they are locally called mountains. From their crests there are beautiful views of the fertile Connecticut valley lowland and of the more distant enclosing hills of crystalline rocks. The river winds over this lowland, for the most part flowing over alluvial bottoms. The valley sides rise from the river channels by a series of steps or terraces. These terraces are noted for their perfection of form, being among the most perfect in the country. They have been cut by the river in its work of removing the heavy deposits of gravel, sand and clay that were laid down in this lowland during the closing stages of the Glacial Period, when great volumes of water, heavily laden with sediment, were poured into this valley from streams issuing from the receding ice front. In the course of this excavation of glacial deposits the river has here and there discovered buried spurs of rock over which the water now tumbles in rapids and falls. For example, 11 m. above Hartford are the Enfield Falls, where a descent of 31·8 ft. in low water (17·6 in highest water) is made in 5·25 m. At Middletown, Conn., the river turns abruptly S.E., leaving the belt of Triassic rocks and again entering the area of crystalline rocks which border the lowland. Therefore, from near Middletown to the sea the valley again narrows. The river valley is a great manufacturing region, especially where there is a good water-power derived from the stream, as at Wilder and Bellows Falls, Vt., at Turners Falls and Holyoke, Mass., and at Windsor Locks, Conn. Five miles below Brattleboro, Vt., a huge power dam was under construction in 1909. Efforts have been made by the United States government to open the river to Holyoke, and elaborate surveys were made in 1896–1907. At Enfield Rapids is a privately built canal with locks 80 ft. long and 18 ft. wide, handling boats with a draft of 3 ft. From Hartford seaward the Connecticut is a tidal and navigable stream. Bars form at the mouth and have had to be removed annually by dredging. From 1829–1899 the Federal government expended $585,640 on the improvement of the river. During the colonial period the Connecticut river played an important part in the settlement of New England. The rival English and Dutch fur traders found it a convenient highway, and English homeseekers were soon attracted to its valley by the fertility of the meadow lands. From the middle of the 17th century until the advent of the railway the stream was a great thoroughfare between the seaboard and the region to the north. Its valley was consequently settled with unusual rapidity, and is now a thickly populated region, with many flourishing towns and cities.

See Annual Reports of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, passim (index, 1900); E. M. Bacon’s Connecticut River and the Valley of the Connecticut (New York, 1906); G. S. Roberts’s Historic Towns of the Connecticut River Valley (Schenectady, New York, 1906); and Martha K. Genth, “Valley Towns of Connecticut,” in the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, vol. xxxix. No. 9 (New York, 1907).