Rock to Rock is one of the annual events which makes New Haven special. Beginning on the morning of Saturday, April 24th, it’s an Earth Day Ride that originally began as riding your bike from West Rock to East Rock while raising money for charity. This year, there are 25 nonprofits trying to raise money and every single one of them is working towards a noble goal, often inspired by the environment.
Although the event is called “Rock to Rock” (get it?), there are several different routes or activities you can choose. The scope of the event has expanded far beyond the originally West-to-East-Rock bike ride.
The Family Friendly Ride, which is going to take place in Edgewood Park this year, is designed for families and is a safe option for young or inexperienced riders. Another route is the 20 mile ride, which travels from West Rock to Sleeping Giant, and to East Rock. If you are a super serious cyclist then you can go for the Metric Century route (that’s 100km for our American readers).
A new option for this year is a nature walk in East Rock Park. Instead of riding your bike you can do some birding. You can walk and still contribute to some amazing nonprofits. Now when someone asks if you did Rock to Rock you can say “Yeah and I saw all kinds of bluejays and cardinals” and they can stare at you like there’s something wrong!
Any of these nonprofits are a great choice for donation or raising money. Common Ground and Solar Youth run environmental education programming for young people, educating all ages on the importance of environmental preservation. Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) is committed to getting people from minority groups outside and enjoying nature. The Urban Resources Iniative (URI) plants trees in New Haven for free and gives people a “green” job, or a job that helps the planet.
Outside of strictly environmental issues, Columbus House provides shelter serving the unhoused community in New Haven, and Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) also serves meals to the hungry in New Haven.
Rock to Rock, being an Earth Day Event, does tend to focus on environmental issues that connect us all. A number of these nonprofits focus on the relationship between our community and the environment. Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, Citizens Campaign Fund for the Environment and Save the Sound are organizations that focus on environmental activism, fighting to change laws that affect the environment.
During your typical, non-pandemic year, a large crowd of people block off the streets and bikes stream past in an endless parade: The one day of the year there are more bikes on the road than cars.
This year, it’ll be more like a trickle than a stream, but getting on a bike and enjoying the beautiful New Haven spring will just have to make do as any other year’s gigantic ride.
Even in a typical year, nonprofits struggle with money, and in this year, it’s harder than ever. All of these nonprofits have missions that make our city, and the lives of people around us, better. So now, more than ever, it’s important to participate in a way that gives back to our community.
This year, I’ll be riding for Common Ground. What nonprofit are you going to ride for?
(MSM is the “MainStream Media” which is us real woke people call it. We get our news from the Dark Web.)
Now, your initial reaction to this pizza news might be correct: a shrug. Okay? Sure. I love New Haven pizza. And uh, sure, there’s a few standout pies around the state. I guess our state food could be that or lobster rolls (not those cold-ass lobster salad rolls, Maine) or steamed cheeseburger (no).
Okay. Fine. Whatever. I don’t even see how it matters. Surely not something to get worked up about, right?
Yeah, this definitely seems like something important enough for the governor of New Jersey to weigh in on.
But even Stephen Colbert felt compelled to weigh in on it, telling Connecticut to “come off it.”
First of all, hilarious qiup about Connecticut country clubs! So rich. Like Stephen Colbert. And probably the two towns in Connecticut he’s been to. I get it. If you only leave New York to go to dinner parties in Greenwich, that’s probably what you think Connecticut is.
But we’re so much more than boat shoes. Like pizza and quaint old-timey shoreline towns and passive-aggressive emails and self-loathing.
New Yorkers are mean to your face. In Connecticut, you’ll hear from our lawyer.
Does This Matter
I’m sorry, is there some rule that only one state can have pizza as a state food? Did we call dibs and now suddenly Jersey is like hold on guys we were about to call dibs but we all have to buy Jeeps cause Bruce told us so.
Literally none of this matters. If you really think your pizza is that great, fine. You can also be pizza friends. There is nothing stopping you except your own self-respect.
And once you get rid of that, you can truly fly.
New York State of Mind
New York, I understand. They have every right to call themselves the capital of the pizza world. You can get a dollar slice at any strange-looking nameless pizza place and there’s a pretty good chance you’re gonna get a very good slice. That’s remarkable.
But you have so much, New York. You have the I <3 New York thing. You have Madison Square Garden and the Statue of Liberty. You have Broadway and that cool building everyone on Tinder takes a picture in front of. You have an iconic skyline and outrageous rents. You have the very best rats.
Are you really gonna jump down our throat for this? Oh, we can’t have nice things because fuck us, that’s why? No, you have to have pizza, too.
The “Empire State”? I’m sorry, I thought this was A DEMOCRACY.
I get it. You’re so special, New York. You’re where dreams are made of. No, not my miraculous BRAIN but New York.
We can’t have the Whalers, we can’t have pizza, we just have to pick the Yankees or Red Sox and get on with our lives while you come over here and buy our houses to “get away from it all.”
Calm Down, New Jersey
There’s no need to get your fists pumping over this, New Jersey.
Listen. New York I get. But really, Jersey? You think your pizza is oh-so-much-better than ours?
If we were talking about bagels, I would give it to you. Connecticut bagels are trash and it is an absolute source of shame that we should never live down. At least once a week I just start screaming about how bad Connecticut bagels are.
Let’s see. Oh, No. 1. Who is that? Frank Pepe’s? In New Haven, CONNECTICUT?
Huh. What about two? Oh, a Chicago pizza. Yikes. Let’s see. Number 3, New York. Number 4 oh there you are! Razza Pizza Artigianale. In Jersey City (clever name for a city btw).
Wow, Number Four! What’s below bronze? Nothing?
Let’s see more of this list… New York, New York, Connecticut, Michigan?!, Boston…
Yikes, New Jersey. There’s two more Boston pies better than anything in New Jersey? Did you just get out-pizza’ed by BOSTON MASSACHUSETTS?
But hey won’t worry the pizza at Star Tavern is only slightly worse than the pizza in… *checks notes*… Nashville, Tennessee?
Also, maybe learn to pump your own gas before you go worrying about pizza? It’s pretty complicated. You might want to give yourself some time to figure that out before you fret over pizza.
Also, pork rolls? Really?
We invented “steamed cheeseburgers” and you’re being gross.
This Means War
Listen. I didn’t start caring about this. When I first saw this news story, I just thought it was silly. I live in New Haven and I love our pizza. Modern Apizza makes me feel things. (And I refuse to say “ah-beetz.”)
I also grew up worshipping Pizza Hut so maybe we don’t need to weigh my opinion too heavily on this stuff.
But also who cares? Is this really a valuable use of legislative time? When we should be legalizing weed like all the cool kids?
Unfortunately, all of your fanatically proud New Yorkers and Jerseysians have once again picked a fight with us. Well enough is enough. We’re tired of getting kicked around. We’re tired of being the state without an identity. Are we part of the tri-state? Are we New England?
We don’t know and we’re angry about it.
Why Stop at Pizza?
Really, why should we stop at declaring pizza Connecticut’s state food? Why not really mess with New York and New Jersey?
You know what? Our state musician is Bruce Springsteen now. What are you gonna do about it? Travel here and then quarantine for 14 days and then pick a fight? Good luck holding onto that rage for 14 days.
We’ll make our own Sculpture of Freedom, and she’ll be almost TOO green. Weirdly green. Maybe it’ll even freak Philadelphia out.
France, you don’t have anything going on, right? You can help us out with this.
Behold! We are Pizza now. You will be assimilated.
Guess what, everyone! Not only is there a new podcast episode out today with Dr. Richard Volkman, Chairman of Philosophy of SCSU, but it’s available on YouTube! Now you can see our (beautiful??) faces as well as listen to our dulcet tones. Listen in the usual places (Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, etc.) or find us on our YouTube Channel!
I know it’s been awhile. It’s been hard to find the motivation. The words. The ideas.
In fact, I haven’t written anything in… months. Feels longer. But hey does time even exist anymore? It’s hard to say sometimes. It’s 2021? I’ll take your word for it.
While 2020 will certainly be written about in the history books, like many great historical events, it has not been a pleasure to live through. So many things have been put in hold. So many lives have been lost or permanently altered.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have found 2020 to be extremely difficult, creatively-speaking (and really in all ways). What is there to say about New Haven right now? Hey, have you tried that new bar? No, you haven’t. Nobody has because we aren’t allowed to have bars anymore.
I suppose I could do a “best places to get takeout” blog. That would be a thing right?
But I’m not exactly in need of finding new and interesting ways to gain more pandemic weight. That’s some Married People Shit, right there. I still gotta trick someone into loving me.
Yet like many people, my motivation is… tricky. So much of my energy is spent just holding on. And that is truly the story of 2020. A year of holding on. Of doing whatever it takes to survive. However we can.
For some, though, it has been time to move on.
Goodbye to Some New Haven Treasures
Indeed, not every New Haven Institution has survived the pandemic.
Yet most of us continue on, trying to make sense of this strange new world. Attempting to find new ways to survive and thrive. Just kidding. What kind of lunatic is thriving right now. Delete that person from your life.
For restaurants and bars, that might mean moving to a takeout model. Or make even more difficult choices, as Trinity and Three Sheets have done — closing entirely for the holiday season. Sometimes it’s cheaper to just turn off the lights for a little while. Slow down.
Therein has been the fate of Between Two Rocks. Dormant, but not dead. Quietly breathing. I managed to release…. one podcast. And like, two articles.
Not my most prolific year.
Yet we must learn to forgive ourselves. It’s okay to feel demotivated. It’s okay to watch Netflix all day. You’re a hero, okay?
I tried to update the blog. You probably noticed. It looks more… modern? Fancier? Less broken, I hope?
Yep, that’s right. I did that.
By purchasing a new WordPress theme. Am I a computer genius? Some say so.
The Best Laid Plans
Early in 2020, I had a plan formulating in my mind. I was going to spend about a month in New York City, trying the comedy thing. A sort of demo. After all, New York is the epicenter of American Comedy, and my job was remote, so why not try? After all, I was almost 40, try it now before it’s too late.
(It’s probably already too late.)
I even agreed to rent a room from a friend. The future had an idea. A dream, maybe. Or at least a sort of aspiration.
Then coronavirus hit. New York City went into lockdown. Comedy? There is no comedy.
Sure, you can find a few open mics run by random bars who I absolutely do not trust to follow any kind of safety guidelines, standing near semi-masked comics who drink Dubra-brand vodka on Wednesday evenings. I haven’t always valued my life all that much, but I refuse to go out that way.
The Depths of Depression
For many of us, our struggles with mental health have reached terrible new heights. Loneliness, anxiety, depression. Even in a good year my mental health can be very difficult to manage. And this has not been a good year.
Trigger Warning: I am going to describe some things I felt this year that, if you are sensitive, you might want to skip down to the next heading.
In November, I turned 40 years old. This is not how I imagined a milestone birthday. Alone, in my house.
I drew a bath. I sat in the warm water, and reflected upon everything that had changed. And everything that had not.
In that moment, alone, in the tepid water, I considered taking my own life.
It would be so easy. Who knows how long it would take to find me. All my troubles, my struggles, finally over.
The thoughts were fleeting, but they were there. In spite of everything I’d done. Everything I had changed about my life, and all the ways I had grown and changed and become a person surrounded with love and affection.
I wanted it to be over. I just wanted to stop struggling to feel a tiny shred of joy. It felt so unfair.
I knew something had to change. I knew I could not go on this way.
I told my therapist I wanted to try a medication. I knew I could no longer rely on my own routines and habits to carry on. I needed help.
I scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist whom my therapist recommended. I discussed past medications I’d taken (Lexapro, Wellbutrin). I discussed my past struggles with depression. I got my prescription. I started taking Cymbalta.
People said I might notice changes right away, but I did not. But about a month later, I noticed it. My mood had begun to lift. Something had changed. I couldn’t explain it. I just felt… lighter. I was able to sleep again without fear from my own thoughts.
The relief… it is palpable.
It feels so silly. Just some minor chemical changes in my neurons firing is the difference between life and death. Despair and hope. It doesn’t feel fair. Yet we are all at the mercy of our own minds.
What Is To Come
While 2020 may be gone, the coronavirus is still here. Several vaccines have been approved by the FDA, but rollouts will certainly be difficult. We are not through the storm, though we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Myself? I hope my own darkest moments are behind me. I hope I never have to walk down that path again.
It’s probably too much to ask. But for today, I feel okay. And I am thankful for that.
And as I begin to wade out of the darkness, it is my hope, that I can begin to write again. To create more podcasts. To write more hilarious, sad vegetarian entries in my @sad_vegetarian_bachelor Instagram account. Maybe write sketches. Maybe learn piano. I don’t know.
In April, I will have lived in New Haven for ten years. And the city has changed me. It has connected me to so many people. People who have helped me hold on when nothing else could. A community I feel connected to, and care about.
Like-minded souls wandering through the darkness.
I hope I can keep bringing you this blog, and maybe, you know… a few more jokes, a few less terrifying revelations.
But I appreciate you, Dear Reader. You have given me something I can never repay. Without your ear, I have no voice. And my voice gives me meaning. These words give me purpose.
And, uh, sorry to be so grandiose. I usually try to be a bit more irreverent. But here we are.
So in order to track down the Actually Best Dishes in New Haven, I did what any sensible person with way too many Facebook friends would do:
I asked them.
Below is a crowdsourced, completely scientific list of the absolute best dishes you can order in New Haven. I did not include restaurants which are now closed because we don’t have all day. I mean, we do. But I’m not writing it.
Also, there’s no pizza from the Big 3/4. You know they’re great. You don’t need me to tell you that. Go eat them.
Honeypot — Nolo x Da Legna
People love DaLegna. Like, they really love it. I enjoy it, but I have never quite boarded the hype train. Maybe I’m in the wrong boarding section, I don’t know.
But the most popular suggestion, by far, was The Honeypot, includes San Marzano Tomato, Sliced Hot Pepper, Onion, Mozzarella, Soppressata (Dried Cured Meat), and Truffle Honey.
Love that they explain what Soppressata is. We’re not all fancy Italians or whatever.
Also, it’s pronounced “Duh-lane-yuh”. You sound ridiculous when you say “Duh-leg-nuh.” Respect yourself.
Honorable Mention: The Wimpy, with Sliced Tomato, Meatball, Bacon, Mozzarella, American Cheese.
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad — Harvest Wine Bar
A brussel sprout salad?! Surely you jest, Josh!
Actually, while I am quite a joker, thank you for noticing, this is no joke!
Harvest calls itself a wine bar but is low-key one of the best restaurants in New Haven and the Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad is one of the hidden gems on their awesome menu.
The Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad, with its Parmesan Risotto Cake and Truffle Vinaigrette is one of those things that sounds interesting, but I assure you, if you order it, the only regret will be that you have to share it with someone else.
Smoked Duck Nachos — Zinc
One time when I was a good son I brought my parents to Zinc for their anniversary. Or maybe it was someone’s birthday?
Anyway, the Smoked Duck Nachos were so good they almost made up for parts of Junior Year in high school. Nobody makes good enough food to undo Senior Year.
While I try to avoid eating meat, the Smoked Duck Nachos remain one of my weaknesses and listen of course ducks are cute but they are also apparently delicious.
Sometimes a dish is good enough that it kind of makes you a bad person.
Buffalo Wings — Archie Moore’s
Sometimes the simplest thing is the best thing. Cold beer. The sunshine on your face. High-quality wings drenched in buffalo sauce.
Since 1982, Archie Moore’s has been slinging wings on Willow Street and nobody does it better. You can even buy their wing sauce yourself, but why not just leave it to the professionals.
If you eat enough wings and watch enough football in front of empty stadiums, you might almost feel normal again?
Jerk Tofu — Ninth Square Caribbean Style
I don’t know what kind of experimental science or dark magicks are involved in turning tofu into the Jerk Tofu over at the small vegan-restaurant-hole-in-the-wall Ninth Square Caribbean Style, but holy cow. Making tofu this good is a crime in most Southern states.
Plus, their food is comically cheap! You can order like 2-3 main dishes for under 10 bucks it’s insane. And they really need the business. So please order all the jerk tofu ok?
Gobi Pakora and Okra Fries — Sherkaan
When Thali Too closed due to the overexpansion of Oaxaca Kitchen and Thali, it was a huge bummer. Thali Too was an amazing Indian restaurant and seemed impossible to replace.
and while Sherkaan is hardly a like-for-like Indian food replacement, it is amazing in such a different way it’s hard to believe. Specializing in Indian “street food,” the menu is definitely non-traditional and includes some awesome, comically large options.
My friends recommended the Gobi Pakora and Okra Fries specifically, but you cannot go wrong with the menu.
Grilled Hangar Steak w/Truffle Mashed Potatos — South Bay
As I’ve said previously, I mostly try to avoid meat, unless it’s a special occasion, or I feel like it.
But my buddy Dan? Dan loves meat. Dan is a Meat Guy. He tooks steaks on the grill and they look just like the fancy steaks in the restaurants.
So when Dan says the best meal in New Haven is the Grilled Hangar Steak with Truffle Mashed Potatos, I trust Dan. He isn’t messing around.
Plus, South Bay is brought to you by the lovely folks at Harvest, and y’all know they aren’t messing around. So try it. Let me know if I’m wrong so I can make fun of Dan.
Sushi Salaaam — Miya’s Sushi
Okay, so one closing/closed restaurant. If only because Miya’s Sushi is legendary. Miya’s recently reported they will be closing at the end of 2020. So you have very little time to get this.
Miya’s is such a strange mixed bag. They have some of the best sushi I’ve ever had, and they also have sushi that costs like 30 dollars. But they also have the late night special. And the firecracker sake is like a million dollars also.
So many emotions!
But the Sushi Salaam, and my personal fave, the Ooh La La Mitzvah, are great rolls and you should try them before it’s too late and they’re gone FOREVER.
Everything — Soul de Cuba
Finally, Soul de Cuba. I got so many replies giving specific dishes, but no consistency! Some folks loved the Ropa Vieja, or the Platano Relleno, or the Oxtails.
But everyone agrees: Soul de Cuba rules.
There is really nothing bad on the menu, so go check it out. Or maybe, you know. Order take out cause that place is very small and we live in strange times.
But do it up. It’s quite good.
Did I miss anything? Great. Why don’t you write me a very hurtful comment on reddit so I know you read this.
When you say the word, the rest of America sneers. Those people? With their boats and their Vineyard Vines and their white picket fences? Psht.
There’s no such thing as Connecticut pride. People here are like, “Well I guess this is fine.” The trip to any comment section of any Connecticut publication is a hellscape of insane hatred towards the state and off-topic racism.
Every few months, the state’s flagship newspaper, Hartford Courant, publishes an op-ed from some wealthy couple who are so very very tired of having to pay taxes so poor people can go to school, even though their children have already benefitted from the world-class education system here so off to Florida!
Yet in the blink of an eye, the whole world changed. COVID-19 spread across the planet — and especially the United States. It especially devastated New York.
Suddenly, after years of urbanization in America and elsewhere, people were fleeting the populous cities, looking for space. Air to breathe. A yard in which to play. A state in which people the Governor didn’t seem totally determined to ignore scientific evidence.
Put that right on the ol’ tourism web page, I say. Still Revolutionary? Psht. Let’s try Slow Disease Growth. That’ll get ’em.
Of course, they have to quarantine for 14 days, but you don’t make a COVID omelette without breaking some eggs.
Unsurprisingly, the boring things Connecticut is good at — education, health care, per-capita-income — also apparently produces a population who listens to science?? We wear masks. We wash our hands. We avoid having giant motorcycle rallies.
It’s boring, but it works.
You can use that for free, Ned. I’m available future tourism requests.
CT Tries to Hold Police Accountable
Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement has grown in breadth and scope, as protests were unleashed all across the country in response to the death of George Floyd. And others. So many others.
Yet what good are protests without action? If we chant that Black Lives Matter, but the government does nothing, what have we achieved?
You can check out the ACLU’s response to the Police Accountability Act here, but to summarize:
Police union contracts cannot supercede Open Information Laws
“Use of force standard” has improved, though not enough
Decertification of the police is still enforced by the police themselves and not good enough
Inspector General gives true independence towards investigation police-caused deaths
Slight improvements to qualified immunity, though the current situation is terrible
As a summary, the ACLU said:
The state of the law on policing is abysmal, and this bill includes some important pieces to begin changing the status quo.
Yet every single Republican voted against it and the police are against it, so it’s absolutely a step in the right direction. We need to do more, but kudos to Connecticut for doing something. I give us a B-. Which by Josh standards, is like an A+ for regular people.
We must continue to fight, but at least our fights so far have not been without victories.
Welcome, New Yorkers?
As the world moved towards urbanization, no state seemed to lose more than Connecticut. Especially surrounded by two of America’s largest metropolitan areas, Connecticut could not change itself. We had abandoned our cities and invested in suburbs, and the investments had soured. Countless articles from the Times and Wall Street Journal told the story about Connecticut the failed state.
Anecdotally, I can confirm that Tinder has seen quite an increase of attractive New Yorkers who will probably eventually be willing to lower their standards. Just playing the waiting game.
A Shift in Attitudes
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of browsing the Connecticut subreddit or come across a “Connecticuck” meme, you’ll know that Connecticut’s chief exports are aerospace, insurance, and self-loathing.
Obviously Connecticut is a terrible place. There’s taxes! And there’s nothing to do! and sometimes I’m cold!
Yet suddenly, I’m starting to see… dare I say… positivity?! The other day I think I saw a person on reddit post about how much they like living in Connecticut on purpose?????
I don’t know who gave these kids such dangerous ideas, but we have to do something before it’s too late. I won’t have my future children growing up in a place where people are “happy” or “doing okay.”
A Long Way To Go
Someone recently asked me if Connecticut is my favorite place, which I had no idea how to answer. Also I’ve only been to like 30 places? I feel like there’s at least 30 more I need to check out.
It is not a perfect place. We still have two enormous problems:
Billions of dollars in unfunded pensions which will continue to wipe out tax revenues going forward
Enormous wealth disparities between affluent suburbs and impoverished cities
The first problem is an accounting one: You need to pay your bills. We’re just gonna have to suffer for like… two decades.
The second problem, however, requires legislative remedies. We can no longer allow towns to refuse affordable housing in fear of “changing the character of the neighborhoods.” As long as we force low-income residents into cities, the cities will struggle with all of the associated problems with poverty: crime, drug use, poor educational attainment, etc.
We have to find a way to invest in our cities and the people who live in them. You can tell a lot about a society by how it treats its poorest members.
I am proud of Connecticut. I think we’ve done a good job, and this state has reaped the benefits of making smart, informed decisions about its future. We have listened to science and reason and the valid concerns of protestors and the concerns about affordable housing.
As the quarantine almost enter its fifth month, I felt really down and cabin fever was starting to get to me. So I decided to dust off my inflatable kayak and headed off to East Rock park. After my afternoon in the sun, paddling on the glistening water among cranes, turtles, and the occasional fisher-persons, I came back home relaxed (but slightly burned) and ready for another five months of lock down!
Kayaking is the solution to our pandemic, people! It’s the perfect social distance activity: your oar is at least 6-foot long so if you come too close to me, that’s a paddlin’!I wanted to share with you my four favorite spots to go kayaking in New Haven, ranked by level of difficulty. Obviously, this difficulty level is objective, but you should always do the following:
Never go on your own (always bring a buddy, it’s more fun and safer)
Wear a life jacket
Check weather and tide forecast before going out
New Haven Park and Rec website has great resources likes maps and advice, and runs clinics for people wanting to learn how to canoe or kayak. They are obviously on hold for now, but they will eventually start again. Probably? I hope?
Kayaking is a fairly accessible sport, and commitment is minimal. You can rent kayaks or canoes by the hour from the Quinnipiac River Marina, or get an annual membership to Canal Dock Boathouse to access their fleet of sea kayaks, canoes, and standing paddle board. If you are ready for it, you can buy an inflatable kayak for less than $100 as long as there isn’t any sort of global pandemic going on. Otherwise, you might be gouged for like $300+ (mine is on its 3rd year, still going strong!). Once done with it, you can deflate and shove it into a closet until next time! The smell is not that bad!
Last thing before we start with the fun, my lawyers would tell me to disclaim this information is for reference only. Between Two Rocks cannot be held responsible if you are attacked by a duck… or something along these lines, if I could afford a lawyer.
Down the Mill River – East Rock Park
Length: 3 miles
Access: Orange St Canoe Launch, before the bridge
Map and guide
Want to enjoy a lazy river vibe without going all the way to Six Flags? The Mill river is perfect for you! With a slow current, this is the perfect river to kayak for the first time, or for an easy ride. The river is shallow almost everywhere and the banks are easily reachable.
From the bridge of Orange Street, you can go up river to explore East Rock park, row under people hiking and running on bridges, and reach almost all the way to Lake Whitney falls when the water level is high. Going down river, you can visit the outskirts of the Rice field in Fair Haven and reach the interstate highway bridge. Beware of the tidal gates, do not go any further.
If you are lucky, you can spot some adorable water turtles warming up on the sun on top of their favorite branch floating on the river.
Around the Lake Wintergreen – West Rock Park
Length: 1.3 mile
Access: West Rock State Park - Lake Wintergreen Parking Area
Map and guide
Perfect for a late afternoon outing (I love to go there after work), this cute lake in West Rock Park is ideal for a gentle paddle, or even a swim during the warm days of summer! (Editor’s note: I don’t think you’re supposed to go swimming in Lake Wintergreen, but Florian is French and doesn’t respect our American rules.)
The launch is located in the narrow section of the lake, particularly appreciated by fisher-persons. After about a quarter of a mile, the lake opens up before you, let you enter a gorgeous landscape. The beach on the other side of the lake is an ideal point to take a break before heading back to the launch. Stay away from the overflow dam. It probably won’t kill you, but might badly scratch you, or worst, puncture your inflatable kayak!
Morris Creek and the lighthouses – Lighthouse Point Park
Current: Tide and Waves
Length: 1 mile
Access: Lighthouse Point Park at the bus turnaround
Map and guide
Bored with fresh water? Let’s add some salt! The tidal creek Morris Creek is a nice stretch of salt water within a bird sanctuary. While you row in the marsh, you can spot, among the 260 birds species which regularly stop there during their migrations, egrets, cormorants, and kingfishers.
If you are looking for a more challenging outing, paddle all the way down the creek to reach the Long Island Sound and follow the shoreline to reach Morgan Point to the East, or Lighthouse Point to the West. If you stay close to the shore, the waves should not bother you too much, and you can always land on the beach in case of emergency. The beach attendants do not really like boats landing on the beach, but if you look stressed enough, they will let you go through.
And for a very tough but rewarding challenge (reserved to experienced kayakers), row all the way to the New Haven Breakwater Lighthouse at the end of the South West Ledge, one mile away from the shore. Be extremely vigilant of the strong current, waves, and the sea traffic.
Quinnipiac River and the Oyster road – Fair Haven
Current: Strong tide, frequent wakes from oyster boats, barges, and tugboats
Length: 6 miles
Access: Dover Beach Park
Map and guide
My favorite (and also the most challenging due to the strong current and tides) spot to be on the water in New Haven is the Quinnipiac River. I row there several times a week on a variation of boats with the Yale Grad Crew and regardless of time of day, the scenery is gorgeous, with a mix of nature preserves and industrial complexes.
Launch at Dover Beach (or the Quinnipiac River Marina for a small fee) to explore the Quinnipiac Meadows directly across the river and row above oyster cages waiting to be harvested a few feet below in the water. Just north of the Meadow entrance, at high tide, you can explore the very long and dark tunnels running under the railroad (avoid going under the I-91 bridge, the currents can be very strong and you might get stuck).
For those looking for a good cardio workout, go check out the old English Station on Ball Island (6 miles round trip). Paddle down river under the Grand Avenue and the Chapel Street bridges, and turn right at the wind turbine to enter the Mill River. You can paddle around the island and approach the massive disaffected power plant.
The Quinnipiac river is an active water way with a tone of traffic. Pay attention to boats and their wakes. It’s not a rule, but from experience, small oyster boats and tugboats tend to be very nice with small crafts and will wave at you, while leisure boats will ignore you and pass you at full speed causing monster wakes. Paddle directly into the wake to avoid capsizing.
And if you see the “Jeanne Christine”, a 60-ton black shell boat, rushing your way, it’s time to panic!
JEANNE CHRISTINE WILL MESS YOU UP!
Drunk on oysters and power, her wakes are legendary, and she does not stop for anyone. We once saw the crew of Jeanne Christine use the boat crane to dangle a full size SUV above the Quinnipiac river and then proceeded to leave for sea, leaving the poor SUV for dead… You’ve been warned!