Mansfield Hollow State Park is a 251-acre piece of land adjacent to the 500-acre Mansfield Hollow Lake and encompassed by the more than 2,000-acre Mansfield Hollow Wildlife Area. Throughout this recreational trilogy, there are miles of trails, public boating ramps, scenic lookouts, picnic tables, game fields, some places for seasonal small-game hunting, and a several mile-long flood control levees. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DeeP) maintains a MAP with all of the trails and recreational features.
Like most of Connecticut’s state parks, it is open from 8:00 a.m. to sunset. Pets are permitted in picnic areas and on hiking trails, but they must remain on a leash. There is parking at the Commuter Parking Lot on U.S. Route 6, near the athletic field, at the dam site, and on State Route 89 next to the Southeast Park Baseball field. Visitors are welcome year round, and the there is no entrance fee.
The Nipmunk Trail extends almost 8 miles from the north end to the south end of the park. It represents a small section of this 34.5-mile blue-blazed trail system that traverses forests and parks throughout Northeast Connecticut. A yellow-blazed trail circles around the northern part of Mansfield Hollow Lake. There are also the Red and White trails, each about a mile long, which are located in the heart of the main park. Cross-country skiers are especially fond of this system of interconnected trails in the winter.
The Mansfield Hollow Dam on Mansfield Hollow Road offers an excellent scenic display of mankind’s creation. It spans the Natchaug River, and visitors are welcome to picnic on the lawn downstream as well as on the lake side of the dam. It is part of the Flood Control Levy, a 12,420-foot-long earth-filled mound with a stone slope protection, and it is capped with a paved footpath. Built between the years of 1949 and 1952 by the United State Army Corps of Engineers, the project was designed to substantially reduce flooding along the Quinebaug, Shetucket, and Thames rivers. The result is a recreational water body and a reservoir for local towns.
Swimming is not allowed, but sailboats, canoes, and small powerboats are all welcomed on the lake. The boating ramp is just south of the Bassett Bridge on Bassetts Bridge Road, where there is a lot of space for parking. Fishermen are likely to find trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, horned pout, and perch. There are also black crappie, pumpkinseed, and bluegill sunfish, yellow perch, brown bullhead, chain pickerel, white sucker, American eel, golden shiner, carp, and rainbow, brook, and brown trout. Northern pike, originally from Europe, were stocked here in 1992 and occasionally exceed 20 pounds.
The park, lake, and wildlife area attract more than a half-million visitors per year. It is a designated State Historic District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns 2,472 acres, of which approximately 2,300 are leased to DeeP. As well as managing the park, DeeP also monitors key marshes and water levels to help maintain ideal fish habitats.