Letter from the Publisher:
estuary...A Magazine about Life of the Connecticut River

We elected to call our magazine estuary, not to focus on the estuary but because the estuary reflects the entire River and in fact its entire watershed, ecologically, historically, and recreationally.

There is an increased sense of community among those who share the same watershed, or valley, those areas that drain downward from a geological divider of some sort through lakes, rivers, and tributaries into something close to, say, sea level. Folks upstream realize that the way they live has an impact on those downstream, and those downstream are more respectful of how those who live upstream care for their stretch of the River.

One generally small fraction of any watershed, where it drains into the sea, is its estuary. The waters of estuaries are brackish, being a mixture of fresh water from upstream, and salt-water from the sea. Estuaries are home to unique plants and animals with many benefits to mankind. In the case of the Connecticut River, the estuary extends from Old Saybrook, Connecticut, where the River enters Long Island Sound, north for a distance of a mere 20 of the River’s 410 miles.

 On a calm day, the estuary may also appear calm, but looks are deceiving. Underneath, with a rising tide, a massive salt-water wedge forces its way, with considerable unseen turbulence, along the bottom, with the less dense fresh water on top. Scientists know a great deal about these wedges, their chemical and biological makeup, and their impact, economic as well as ecological, on the estuary…and they want to know more.

Estuaries are important because of the unique plant and animal life they support. Water flows downstream carrying organic deposits from the entire watershed out into the sea (or Long Island Sound). Many of those deposits are subsequently returned upriver a relatively short distance by the next rising tide, thus providing the estuary with the lion’s share of the water-borne organic matter from the total watershed. Connecticut River’s estuary is a prime beneficiary of this phenomenon.

 The Connecticut River estuary has adapted to a historic sea level rise of one tenth of an inch per year. To compensate, the estuary builds up its own shoreline with the large “clots” of organic matter that return upstream and are dispersed sideways into the marshes, with each tidal cycle. The increased rate of sea level rise to two tenths of an inch per year, which is what we are told is the rate today, may become too much for the estuary, and wetlands and salt marshes may not be able to keep their “heads above water.”

James O’Donnell, a scientist with the University of Connecticut’s Marine Sciences Department, has estimated that the sea level along Connecticut’s eastern shoreline may rise by as much as 20 inches by 2050. This means an average rate of half an inch per year, more than twice the two-tenths of an inch that is estimated to be the rate today. This could become a large problem for the estuary and for the many thousands of people who live in flood plains along the estuary.

And this is just one of the challenges facing the Connecticut River that we intend to cover in Estuary. The magazine will bring to our readers a wide range of topics about the “life and health of the River” covering not only science and conservation, but also recreation, birds and other wildlife, people, lifestyle, and history.

We at estuary can never know as much as we would like about the Connecticut River and its watershed. We can’t wait, however, to kayak down the Ottauquechee River in Vermont, traverse the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail around Mount Tom near Holyoke, Massachusetts, or cast a dry fly upon the Farmington River. We are excited as we observe, step by step, what scientists are doing to understand, preserve, and restore important features and attributes of the River.

We have thoroughly enjoyed these past few months just beginning to satisfy our curiosity about this region. We hope many of you will paddle along with us to learn much, much more about this amazing place we are fortunate to call home.

-Dick Shriver, Publisher

Letter from the Editor:

An invitation to submit stories

If you are reading this, there is an excellent chance you love the River as much as we do. The more we speak with readers like you, the more we hear new and interesting stories about the River. This is an invitation to submit those stories to us so that we might share them with other readers. We have a process for doing this. Go to estuarymagazine.com/submissions and read the detailed instructions on how to submit story ideas. You can also submit letters to the editor.

In every issue, we have six areas of interest for story submissions:

People. We’re interested in special people you know who have left their mark on the River, like famous artists, inventors, and engineers; interesting people behind current efforts to preserve the River and their work to enhance our watershed experience.

Recreation. Tell us about your joys of River recreation such as special fly-fishing spots, frostbite sailing in the winter, your kayak or canoe trips, and riverside bicycle tours or camping.

Science and Conservation. We want to know about special efforts to improve the quality of the River waters, fish ladders, dam removal, invasive plants, restoring habitat, even the geology of the River
from ancient times to today.

Wildlife. Tell us about your River birding adventures, and “Wildlife Wonders” like black bears, beaver, the osprey success story, and more.

Lifestyle and Culture. We’re interested in real people you know living on the River, their lives, their homes, their avocations; what they have contributed to the culture of the River through their art, their photography, and their poetry.

History. We’re interested in the rich history of the Connecticut River; stories of early colonial settlers, native Indian tribes, their art and culture, the history of River steamboats, shipbuilding, covered bridges, and more.

Estuary magazine has an editorial focus for each issue. This inaugural issue focuses on Science and Conservation. Our June issue will feature stories on Summer River Recreation. In September, we will feature stories about Migratory Birds and Wildlife, and in December, you will read aboutHistory, Winter Ice, and Waterfowl.

One thing I’ve learned as this project developed is that the River defines us as her own Community. Whether Upriver at the origin near Canada, or Mid-river through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, or where I live in Old Saybrook on the estuary, we, the River’s people, share a bond of love, respect, and care. I look forward to meeting many of you through Estuary, and hope you enjoy our articles and the extraordinary photographs that bring them to life.

 –Lisa LeMonte, Managing Editor

Send Us Your Best

This dramatic photo was taken by Frank Dinardi an amateur wildlife photographer from Connecticut. If you have a passion for nature and the art of photography, you can help estuary magazine document the variety of birds and animals in their natural habitat along the Connecticut River and its tributaries. We would also like to see action sports and landscapes. Share your work with us and our readers. We will select and present the best we see in our future quarterly issues and on our website. You’ll be compensated beyond bragging rights.

Submit online at estuarymagazine.com/submissions

An Editorial

When people wore gas masks to protect from the man-made stench of the Connecticut River

A few venturous folks have travelled from the source of the Connecticut River, Fourth Connecticut Lake near Pittsburg, New Hampshire, all the way to its mouth into Long Island Sound at Old Saybrook. None have done it with more panache than Dr. Joseph P. Davidson, former head of the Connecticut River Watershed Council, predecessor of today’s Connecticut River Conservancy. Davidson and his wife and an entourage of varying sizes depending upon the location, spent seven noncontiguous days travelling from the River’s source to the sea in 1959 (the documentary of which can be found on YouTube, “From Source to Sea - A Connecticut River Journey”).

Davidson engaged a fleet of different watercraft including canoe, rowboat, classic motorboats, a motor yacht, and a sea skiff. Dignitaries, including the governor of one of the four watershed states, met the travelers at various ports, boat clubs, and marinas along the way. Superb media coverage was a tribute to Davidson’s When people wore gas masks to protect from the man-made stench of the Connecticut River An Editorial promotional instincts. Prior to reaching the tidal waters below Enfield, Connecticut, the group travelled most of the way in extensive lakes formed by large dams, dams for flood and pollution control as well as hydroelectric power plants.

It is interesting to note that Dr. Davidson envisioned in 1959 that the River would be managed (dredged, charted, etc.) to handle more commercial, industrial traffic; as it happens, the reverse is true.

While extolling the natural beauty all along this memorable trip, on more than one leg of the journey, the group was forced to don gas masks to pass over raw sewage infesting the water. Look what has transpired in the intervening years—the Connecticut River today is a living, beautiful, relatively odorless, testimony to how people, government, and institutions can work together to resolve what might otherwise be contentious, even what may at first appear to be irreconcilable, economic, and conservation matters.

A Room With a View

By Rita Christopher
Photography by Jody Dole

Tom Rose does not live on the Connecticut River, but he lives surrounded by a panoramic River view. His view is not obstructed by buildings, by trees or by traffic-laden roads because he created it himself.

Rose, an artist, painted a large mural of the River along a wall of his antique shop, Black Whale Antiques at Rattleberry Farm in Hadlyme, CT. The mural depicts the River as it might have looked in the mid-19th century at the site of the Chester Ferry. The ferry landing itself is just over a mile from Rose’s shop. The mural includes boats, both steam and sail, among them the most famous steamboat on the Connecticut River in the 19th century, The City of Hartford. It came into service in 1852, though it is best known for a spectacular accident in 1876. On a run from Hartford to New York City, the steamboat plowed into a railroad drawbridge at Middletown. The City of Hartford remained immobilized for four days while wreckers separated the steamboat from the debris of the bridge but it was not the end of the City of Hartford. Renamed Capitol City, the steamboat continued travelling the River for ten years after the accident until 1886.

Rose painted the mural about a year and a half ago, and since then has done at least ten more for various clients, sometimes including boats belonging to the people who commissioned the painting.

“I like what a mural does to a room,” Rose said. “It adds depth of interest.”

Rose, who displays his own paintings along with the antiques in his shop, also does maritime scenes, which he describes as done in the manner of 19th century English artist James Buttersworth, who lived for many years in the United States. Some of his most famous works, in fact, are of early America’s Cup races.

Rose said his own maritime scenes are larger than Buttersworth’s. “I paint in Buttersworth’s style, but I blow him up,” Rose said. Size is not the only difference between the two artists. “Buttersworth will cost you a couple of hundred thousand dollars, at least. You can get mine for a lot less,” Rose said.

Rose’s art encompasses another completely different genre, humanized animals that combine realism and whimsy to notable effect. The first animal portrait he did was a Jack Russell terrier dressed in a naval uniform; the dog is now known as Admiral Jack. Another of Rose’s creations is a clumber spaniel, a breed with a sturdy and substantial build, dressed as a solidly respectable English gentleman.

Rose sometimes paints animals as canine versions of famous portraits. John Singer Sargent’s well-known portrait of Madame X, a long-necked beauty in a black dress, is transformed into the graceful lines of a whippet shown in the very same black evening gown, and a snub-nosed pug with a pearl in its ear is the canine version of Vermeer’s famous Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Rose sometimes works from pictures taken by the pets’ owners. “I tell them to get down to the dog’s level and photograph eye to eye,” he explained. Because Rose has done the anthropomorphic canines for so many years, he has had time to observe both the pets and their owners. “It’s amazing how much dogs can look like people,” he said.

When Rose bought Rattleberry Farm for his shop and studio, friends advised against it. “They told me it was the middle of nowhere, but I bit the bullet and it has worked out well for me,” he said. Now, however, the complex is for sale, and Rose would like to move back to the Farmington area where he grew up. But he doesn’t have to abandon his view of the Connecticut River. He can always paint the mural again on another wall.

Rita Christopher is a free-lance writer who has lived in Connecticut near the mouth of the Connecticut River for 40 years.

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