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Here’s a list of properties in the Hike & Seek Challenge. Each property has at least four targets listed in green for you to seek, photograph, and share. We offer some educational insight with the clues in order to encourage a little deeper thought about nature and the habitats on the preserve. And for further learning, see our Educational Resources.

Don’t forget to share your photographed findings on Facebook or Instagram with #avaloniahikeandseek or #avalonialandconservancy. Don’t limit yourself to the targets here…please share anything that is interesting or pretty to you!

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Groton (2)

Moore Woodlands


Groton / property details

This property can be accessed from Judson Ave. and Capstan Ave. and connects with Beebe Pond loop trail. It also can wind through wetlands that flow to the Mystic River.

SIGN: Take some time to read all the great information posted here. click for clue!

EVERGREEN:  This holly tree is unusual.  It is an evergreen, but has leaves, not needles, with spikes to prevent animals from munching on them.  Take a closer look.  How do you think the tree got here?  Hint: what creatures use the berries as a food source. click for clue!

SPLIT WHITE PINE: Look for a big white pine tree with a large area of damage. This is another evergreen. Part of this trunk seems to have been ripped away. What do you think happened? Is the tree still alive? How can you tell? click for clue!

PLANT ID SIGNS: Throughout the Moore Woodlands, look for this kind of sign on different trees, placed to help you learn to identify the many species that grow here. How many did you find? Can you find a leaf on the ground or on the tree that matches it? click for clue!

BUCK RUBS: Look for places, low on tree trunks where the bark looks rubbed way. On cedar trees the bark even shreds. These are “buck rubs”. Each year in late spring through summer, male deer grow new antlers. They are living bone, covered in soft velvet and they get itchy! So the deer rub their antlers on the trees to relieve the itch and remove the velvet. By summer the antlers look strong and clean and light tan colored. In late fall and winter, the bucks rub their antlers for another reason: to mark their territory. A way for deer to know who else is in their neighborhood.  click for clue!

A CROOKED TREE: What happened here? At some point when this tree was young and very flexible, a vine twisted around it. Most likely it was the invasive vine, Oriental bittersweet, which circles as it climbs. You can see the scars. The vine cut into the trunk of the sapling, weakening it and causing it to nearly break. Probably a good volunteer came along and cut the vine. The tree is strong, it created healing growth to cover the broken area, and will keep growing but will always bear the scars. click for clue!

Town’s End Preserve


Groton / property details

Follow the trail through the gate into a mature mixed hardwood forest giving peeks out to a tidal marsh along Beebe Cove.

SIGN: an Avalonia Sign at the entrance will suffice if there is no formal sign yet. click for clue!

TREE & ROCK:  Find the large rock that seems to be hiding under a tree trunk! Which was here first: the rock or the tree? How can the tree keep growing? click for clue!

BIG STRIPED BOULDER!: Can you find the big boulder, that looks like it was just dropped here? Walk around it and notice how there are stripes of different colored rock within it. Feel the different rock types and notice a difference in texture too. It gives a hint that millions of years ago this rock was part of a much larger formation that was created in layers. It broke apart and then tens of thousands of years ago it was dropped here by the glaciers. click for clue!

A PLACE TO STOP: Once you reach “Town’s End” you are at the edge of the woods with the marsh all out ahead. Can you find the beautiful bench? Take time to sit and really look. Can you tell if it is high or low tide? Can you see where the marsh grasses line the edge of the land out to the water? A special place. click for clue!


Ledyard (3)

Avery Preserve: West Side


Ledyard / property details

This is a two-part preserve. The east side is often wet but it is worth exploring in early July when the big evergreen rhododendrons are in bloom. Across the street on the west side the trails are easier and there is a lot to see.

SIGN: click for clue!

SHEEP WASH: This is curious. How on earth do you wash a sheep? And why? Look for a small enclosed area made of stone walls near the brook. Imagine trying to herd your sheep into this area so they can be washed in the stream waters before you cut their wool. click for clue!

FOOTBRIDGE: Over the brook and wetland areas, a boy scout did a great job creating bridges that protect the wetlands and keep you from getting wet feet. Can you find the name of the scout or someone who helped sponsor the effort? click for clue!

MUSHROOMS: The wet woodlands are perfect for hunting mushrooms in the summer and fall. They can be all colors and some funny shapes and are an important part of the life cycle on the forest floor. BUT always remember many can be very poisonous to people so only look, take a picture to remember, and DO NOT TOUCH! click for clue!

BEECH TREES: These trees are beautiful and distinguished by their smooth grey bark, which is very different from bark on other trees. Find some of these trees and run your hand on the trunk. People used to carve their initials into the bark because of this smoothness. This is not good for the tree and the scars last a very long time. See if you can find the big beech tree with letters carved into it, and feel the beautiful smooth bark. click for clue!

Barrett Preserve


Ledyard / property details

This is a small preserve with a lot going on. See if you can figure it out!

SIGN: click for clue!

“PATCH CUTS”:  These are areas in the forest where openings have been created.  Can you see these? The openings allow sunlight to get down to the forest floor and let other bushes and low plants grow. Animals love this! Can you take a picture through an open area? click for clue!

BRUSH PILES:  When the cutting was done, volunteers worked hard to pile up the trunks and branches to make brush piles with lots of hiding places for animals and birds. If you were a small animal and a big animal was chasing you, would you hide in a brush pile? click for clue!

TULIP POPLAR TREES: In this forest there is a kind of tree that grows the tallest of all here, and they go straight up into the sky. They are the tulip poplars. If you are lucky you might find a flower on the ground in the summer; it looks like a yellow and orange tulip. In the fall the seeds are enjoyed by all sorts of animals. click for clue!

THE BENCH: The Boy Scouts have been working here to create a trail, a bridge over the stream, and a place to Stop, Look and Listen. Take some time here to observe the brook. How much water is there? Listen. Does it make a sound? Maybe take a picture from this spot while you rest on the bench. click for clue!

Pine Swamp Wildlife Corridor


Ledyard / property details

This is a really big preserve which is filled with lots of wet areas, from big ponds to small puddles, swampy wetlands, and little brooks.  The main trail takes you through several of them. There are tumbles of rocks left by glaciers and beautiful trees in the forest.

SIGN: click for clue!

WETLANDS:  What kind of wetland do you like best:  a big pond, little swamp, a stream or small pool? Each one is a special kind of habitat with different animals that make their home in it.  Take a picture of your favorite. click for clue!

GROUND CEDAR: Mini Christmas trees? Along the ground in many places you can find several kinds of plants called club mosses. These look like little evergreen trees, but this is as big as they get. They stay green all year, and at certain times have spore stalks that look like candles! This one is called ground cedar. click for clue!

VERY TALL TREES:  In these woods, there is a grove of very tall straight trees that are called tulip poplar trees. Poplar trees grow very straight, and have flowers, way high up, that look a bit like tulips. Find one of these trees and look straight up. Take a picture. Pretty awesome! click for clue!

WALK THE PLANKS: Sometimes wetlands can pop up after a rain or overflow into the trail. Bridges are not just to protect our feet from getting wet, but to help protect the fragile habitats. Stop on the plank bridge and look around. Is it wet? There could be insects or even frogs if it is. Even when there is no standing water, there are special plants and mosses that don’t like to be stepped on! click for clue!

ROCK FIELDS: Parts of the trail weave in and out and around an area of tumbled boulders. This part of Ledyard has many preserved areas that are famous for this kind of landscape, a glacial moraine, the result of the glaciers pushing and moving and then dropping the rocks out of the ice. Be careful here, the rocks can be slippery. Think of all the great hiding places for animals in this rocky area. click for clue!


North Stonington (7)

Babcock Ridge


North Stonington / property details

This is one of Avalonia’s newest preserves and is part of a greenway: a series of open spaces that join together to make a larger protected area for wildlife.

SIGN: click for clue!

VERNAL POOL: During most of the year, this nice shallow pond is filled with water, just enough to invite frogs and salamanders to lay eggs and support their young. In the spring it can be noisy with calling frogs. In the winter it is a good place for them to hibernate under the mud and leaves. click for clue!

ROCK LEDGES AND CAVES: This area is just filled with rocks and ledges and outcrops and many openings of various sizes. Like small caves. What kind of animals might like to make their home in these protected caves? click for clue!

TREES AND ROCKS: This area and the ridge itself was created in the time of the glaciers. There is slid rock beneath your feet so the trees here don’t have a lot of deep soil for their roots. Look around on the ridge, and among the rocks, and you will find trees growing out of cracks in rocks and right out of the ledge areas. Their roots hold tight and go deep to find water and nutrients so they can survive. click for clue!

ROCKS AND LICHENS: Rocks are not the easiest places to live on. There is a special group of organisms called LICHEN that are part mushroom (Fungus) and part Algae and together they can hold on and survive and make food. Lichens can have many shapes and textures. Look closely on some of the rocks: during wet times, at any time of year, Lichens will feel rubbery. But during the hot dry days of summer, they will be crumbly and crispy and dry. They are not dead, just waiting for water! click for clue!

Benedict Benson Preserve


North Stonington / property details

This lovely woodland preserve was donated in 2016 and the trails were opened in 2017. A nice hike on woodland trails leads you through rocky uplands and down to a tumbling brook. Most of these targets are visible year-round, but you have to keep your eyes open!

SIGN: click for clue!

READING HISTORY IN THE TREES: As you walk the woodland trails you may find several trees that are twins or triplets! This is a clue that sometime in the history of the land this tree was cut to its base, probably for lumber or firewood. When it regrew, the strongest sprouts survived to become big trunks of trees in themselves! Most of them are oaks. click for clue!

WHO IS WATCHING YOU?: Can you find a tree that looks like, maybe, a wise old person watching over the trails? Use your imagination, keep a lookout and when you find him…greet him and take a photo! click for clue!

ROCK-SPLITTING TREES: Thousands of years ago, glaciers moved through the area, leaving behind valleys and hills and lots of rocks! This preserve has many rock piles. Over the years, water and soil get into the cracks in the rocks, ice expands, cracks get bigger, more soil gets in and then a seed takes root in the crack. After years, the strength of the roots and the effect of water and ice can actually split the rock! Check out the trees that look like they are growing out of the rocks. click for clue!

THE LITTLE STREAM: Can you feel yourself walking down, down, down the trail? When you get to the bottom you will find the path of a little brook. Depending on the time of year, there may be lovely little waterfalls to explore. Rocks will be covered with moss, and animals that like damp habitats will find their homes along the brook’s edge. Is there water here today? Is there a bridge to help you cross? click for clue!

WOODPECKERS: Woodpeckers are special birds with sharp beaks and very strong head and neck muscles. They can bang or peck into wood and not hurt themselves! Look for larger round holes in trees where they live and smaller round holes where they have pecked into the wood to find delicious bugs to eat. If you’re quiet and listen carefully, you may hear their drumming sound!  click for clue!

Erisman Preserve


North Stonington / property details

This preserve is part of a larger greenway and the trail on top of the ridge is shared with Babcock Ridge Preserve. You can walk both on the same excursion, or loop around one at a time. But when you get to the top…you just have to look for the view. (It is easiest in winter.)

SIGN: click for clue!

BABBLING BROOK: Where the trail crosses the stream, listen for the music the water makes. Unless it is a truly dry summer, there is always a little trickle that flows over the rocks and the sound changes depending on the amount of water. click for clue!

TRAIL CHOICES: Which way will you go? Take a picture of the trail signs at the top of the ridge where you will have to make a decision. click for clue!

LARCH: Finding this tree will be tricky and take good eyes. During the summer, the tall larch trees look like evergreens with needles and cones. But come fall, the needles turn a lovely yellow and then fall off. The clue to finding the larch is to look on the ground and find small cones in the leaves and needles. Look up! click for clue!

CHRISTMAS FERN: At any time of year, you can find evergreen ferns growing on the sloping hillside. This is Christmas fern, green even at Christmas. Look closely at a frond, each little leaflet along the main stem has a “toe” that makes it look like a stocking! click for clue!

Henne Memorial & Shunock Brook Preserves


North Stonington / property details

This is a very special area of several habitats, but the wetlands and big swamp are what make it the most unique. It is home to many kinds of birds and provides habitat for reptiles, amphibians, and mammals too. Take some time to stop along the way and just look and listen. There is lots to photograph. Sometimes beavers and their work can be noted, but not always.

You may see turtles sunning on the rocks and logs in the warm seasons. Birds’ nests can be found in the bushes during the winter when the leaves are off the trees.

SIGN: click for a clue!

NEST of STICKS up high over the swamp: These are the nests of great blue herons and when groups of them nest in the same area it is called a rookery. click for a clue!

HOLES IN TREES: When beavers flooded the valley, many trees died. The trees made great places for woodpeckers to make nesting holes. Several kinds of woodpeckers live here, and tree swallows use the holes that woodpeckers make too. click for a clue!

BEAVERS: Beavers are important shapers of the habitat here. When they dammed up the stream, the flooding created the marsh. Trees died to create snags for other birds to live in. The deeper water invited other wildlife like turtles, frogs, fish and different birds like ducks and geese. Look around and see if you can spot their dam and their hut or lodge out in the water. Along the trails you may see trees, even big ones, that they have chewed on with their long, sharp front teeth to cut down.
click for a clue! (beaver hut)

click for a clue! (chewed trees)

GLACIAL ESKER: You will find yourself walking up and along the top of a ridge which is a glacial deposit of gravel and small stones. This is an esker and forms part of the boundary of the entire swamp area. Take time to read the sign up here and think how the glaciers helped create this area many thousands of years ago. click for a clue!

Mitchell Preserve & Reed Woodlands


North Stonington / property details

This is a large complex made of several preserves. It is mainly a hardwood forest, a rugged terrain with many rocky outcrops, and a beautiful stream. We offer several opportunities to find targets for this preserve because you might not be able to walk the whole thing at once!

SIGN: Lots of names on this sign! It means there were many generous people who helped us preserve the land. click for clue!

STREAMSIDE: There are many places where you can get close to the brook. Take a seat. Can you hear the water music? It changes depending on how much water is running over the rocks. Listen in several areas. Take a picture of your favorite spot. click for clue!

BOULDERS: Big rocks are called boulders. There are many here. Think of the huge ice glacier that dropped them here thousands of years ago. Many have plants, moss and ferns growing on them. Some are split with deep cracks and even trees growing from inside! click for clue!

SHAGBARK HICKORY: There are several kinds of hickory trees but a favorite has to be the shagbark. You should be able to find it easily by its flaky bark. This tree is a very valuable one. People have used the wood for many purposes, but wildlife get the greatest benefit. The hickory nuts are tasty and nutritious. It takes hard, strong teeth to get through to the ‘meat’ inside. See if you can find shells on the ground. And those shaggy flaps of bark provide hiding places for bats, insects, and even small birds. click for clue!

STONE WALLS IN THE WOODS: Why would anyone want to build a wall in the middle of the woods? Well, they didn’t! Back when these walls were built, there were hardly any trees because they were cut to make way for farming or pastures. The walls were built as the land was being cleared, a good use for all the stones the farmers found in the very rocky earth. But these walls were also a way to mark their land boundaries and keep animals in or out of certain areas. click for clue!

Parke Memorial Preserve


North Stonington / property details

This is another sweet little preserve with a lot going on: great wildlife watching for the nature lover, and lots of historical artifacts for those intrigued by old machines and mills. Look at the pond and watch for birds in the shallows, birds in the trees around the edges, and turtles on logs sunning during the warm seasons. Listen to the water.

SIGN: click for clue!

OLD MACHINERY: Which piece of machinery do you like best? Take a photo. What do you think its purpose was? You might get some hints by reading the signs. click for clue!

WATER SLOW: Above the dam, the pond sits quietly. It creates a special habitat with soft edges where creatures like frogs and turtles can hide, shallow water for the herons to wade in and search for a small fish for a meal, and in the winter it likely freezes over creating a good place for reptiles and amphibians to hibernate. click for clue!

WATER FAST: As the water flows more rapidly over the dam, you can sense its energy change. Years ago, that energy was harnessed to power mills and machines. As it leaves the area the fast-running brook ultimately becomes the river that flows to the west and into the other preserved lands. It is a much different habitat with fish that like fast, fresh water and different animals will come to the river’s’s edge to search for food. click for clue!

Which way do you like the water: fast or slow?

PAINTED TURTLES: These pretty reptiles are our most commonly encountered turtles. They like quiet water and sunny logs or rocks. From their perch, they like to bask to warm up, but also keep an eye out for danger. Then they will rapidly slip into the water and swim very quickly out of sight. They come out of hibernation as early as March when the ice melts and the water warms a bit. Then they disappear again in the fall to hibernate in the mud at the bottom of the pond. click for clue!

Tefftweald at Birchenturn


North Stonington / property details

This lovely area used to be a Girl Scout camp and has pretty loop trails and a pavilion for shelter. There is history along the trails too: a very old cemetery, some root cellars, foundations, and old stone walls lined with very big trees.

SIGN: click for clue!

PUMP: The old iron pump still stands where there was once a well for drawing water.  It makes a pretty picture in the woods. click for clue!

ROCK OVERLOOK: There are many spots with rock ledges and places to look over valleys and woodlands. But one spot, in particular, is a very beautiful flat rock that is a perfect place to sit and overlook the brook.  Another great place for a photo. click for clue!

LILLY’S LEA: A lea is a poetic name for a field or a meadow. The “Gromystonington” Girls Scouts dedicated this lovely area to Lilly. I wonder who she was, don’t you? The Gro means Groton, Mys means Mystic, and Stonington stands for…Stonington! See if you can find the plaque with the dedication and spend time looking at the grassy lea.
click for clue! (meadow)

click for clue! (plaque)

THE POET’S BENCH: Off the main trail, on a path to the brook, up on a rock, you will find an aging bench. It is yet another mystery: Who was the poet? We may not know, but we can sit and imagine the lovely thoughts that poet may have had while sitting quietly on this bench by the brook. What are you thinking about here? click for clue!

Yannatos Preserve


North Stonington / property details

This is another preserve with a great deal of human history as well as natural history. Take some time to read the signs describing the usage of the land and the waterways over the last century.

SIGN: click for clue!

OLD MACHINERY:  Look at the old rusted machine parts. Can you imagine how they were used as part of a mill? click for clue!

VERY OLD CEDAR:  When old fields were abandoned, cedar trees were the first to grow in where there was plenty of sunlight.  They can live for many, many years, but over time, other trees shaded them out and they could not survive. Their wood is very hard and the trunks survived and are old, gray, and very lovely to look at. click for clue!

GRANITE BRIDGE: The large granite slabs were set so you can safely cross the stream. They are sturdy but be careful! See how square and well shaped they are? The big stones were quarried from the earth from somewhere nearby, and brought to this area to use for building during the time of the working mills. click for clue!

MOUNTAIN LAUREL: Along the trails leading to the base of the big ridge, there is a lovely old grove of mountain laurel. It is an evergreen, which is easiest to find in the winter. It is Connecticut state flower. If you are visiting in June you may be lucky to see the lovely pale pink blooms. click for clue!


Preston (1)

Preston Nature Preserve


Preston / property details

The trails wander through woods and fields with beautiful spots to stop and look.

SIGN: click for clue!

FIELDS:  Depending on the time of year you visit, the fields can be cut short to keep out larger woody plants and to let new plants grow up. Or it can be starting to grow up green with maybe some flowers, and by the end of the summer the meadow can be taller than you!   Take a picture of the meadow to show how tall it is. click for clue!

A PLACE TO STOP AND REST AND BE PEACEFUL:   There are several places along these trails where you can sit on a bench or a stone and take in the view.  Share a photo of where you chose to sit.  What do you see? click for clue!

YANKEE INGENUITY: Look around. This area has been part of a farm for a very long time. There are fields for crops like hay and fences and walls were built to keep animals in or out of the fields. Walls were made of abundant stones and the gateways were made from the cedar trees that grew in the woods. You will find several gateways and notice the special way the farmer created the barways: With old horseshoes! click for clue!

BIRDHOUSES: Many birds want to make their nests inside cavities or holes in trees. Woodpeckers can make them easily. Chickadees, wrens, bluebirds, and tree swallows need holes but cannot make their own. A great way to help them out is to put up birdhouses, which are just like holes in trees: deep, dark and safe. Take some time to watch a birdhouse in the field. Depending on the season, you may see nest-building activity, parenting or babies. In the winter, birdhouses may protect a family of mice! click for clue!


Stonington (11)

Dodge Paddock & Beal Preserve


Stonington / property details

This small area has a big history. Take some time to read the sign on the property and some of the articles on the website for this preserve. For a while, there was a pottery factory here, and then a butcher shop, and finally a lovely open green space for the Borough. In recent years, this preserve has been severely damaged by strong storms, hurricanes, and high tides. Many hundreds of hours of stewardship have helped to restore some of the area by removing invasive plants and encouraging the growth of native plants that will help protect this land in the future. Please take the time to explore this special area closely; look for clues, and read the signage too.

SIGN: click for clue!

POTTERY: There are bits of pottery scattered near the shore.  You are welcome to explore but we ask that you “take only pictures” and not remove pieces from the site.  Find an interesting piece of pottery. click for clue!

EELGRASS: The long strands of seaweed that collect along the shore grow in the ocean and are called eelgrass. It grows in large patches underwater and makes great habitat for young fish and shellfish. When it washes up on shore it may look messy, but it really helps provide protection for the sandy shores and marshes and provides great hiding places for lots of small insects and invertebrates. Find some eelgrass.  click for clue!

SEASHELLS / TIDE POOLS: When the tide is low, there are tide pools and small areas of beach that can be explored. See how many types of seashells you can find. The most common is the slipper shell, which washes up by the thousands at certain times of year. If you are careful, at low tide you can explore along the rocks and in the pools for snails and crabs.
click for clue (seashells)!

click for clue (tide pools)!

MUDFLATS: Areas of mud and shallow water may look boring to us, but many birds with long legs and long beaks, (shorebirds, sandpipers, herons, and egrets) like to use these areas to look for small fish, shrimp, and other good food items buried in the mud. Are there birds here today? Is the open area muddy or covered with water? It changes with the tides. click for clue!

MARSH GRASS: Only certain plants are able to grow in the wet, salty mud. Marsh grasses love this area. They provide homes and hiding places for many creatures and help to stabilize the marsh itself. Notice the spiky stiff grass (Spartina alterniflora) growing up in the mudflat area. click for clue!

Fennerswood Preserve


Stonington / property details

This area is made of fields and forest, wetlands and drylands.  Stony Brook, the stream that flows along the western boundary, flows along Paffard Woods too. The fields must be mowed every year to keep them from growing into forest. All these different habitats make it easy to see many kinds of plants and animals in one small place. Every season offers something new and different.

SIGN: click for clue!

BALANCING BOULDER:  Find the big boulder that seems to be balancing just above the brook.  It is a nice place to stop, rest, and listen to the water. click for clue!

TREES GROWING OUT OF ROCKS:  It seems impossible for a tree to grow out of a rock. But look closely along the ledge areas.  Look down at the roots of the tree and notice the cracks in the rocks where soil collects, water drips, and seeds grow into trees. click for clue!

MOSS:  the littlest evergreens. There are many kinds of moss, all very unique kinds of plants. They grow low to the ground and often cover rocks and old logs. Most of the mosses love shady moist areas and they remain green all through the winter. Moss is the most fun to touch! It is often very soft, sometimes even spongy. Few animals eat it though. Even in the hot, dry summer it will hold enough moisture to make a salamander happy. click for clue!

MEADOWS:  Fields, leas, meadows, glades; all are names for open areas of land that are full of sun-loving plants, grasses, and flowers. Stand on the trail where you can be at the edge of a meadow. What do you see? In the summer there will be bees and butterflies, in the fall, tall brown stalks with seed pods. In the winter the meadow is cut down to help new plants grow in the spring. click for clue!

Hoffman Evergreen Preserve


Stonington / property details

This big, beautiful, and much-loved preserve is called “evergreen” for a reason: the original owner planted his land with many different kinds of evergreens, which provided great sheltered areas for lots of different wildlife. In between the stands of evergreens, grew deciduous forests of beech and oak. Over the decades, the forests have matured, providing a true forest experience as you walk along the trails. With its old snags, dead trees still standing, and logs on the ground, the area is a great home for many kinds of deep forest life that depend on old wood. Changes in elevation allow streams to form and tumble down the hillsides to small ponds, wetlands, and Whitford Brook on the western edge.

SIGN: click for clue!

EVERGREENS:  Evergreens are usually taller trees with needles, rather than true leaves. They keep their needles through the winter.  Pines, hemlocks, and spruce are found here.  Mountain laurel, another evergreen plant which has more traditional leaves and is not as big, blossoms in June and is our state flower. Find some evergreens.  click for clue!

MUSHROOMS:  These are also known as fungi. With all the old and decaying wood on the ground, this preserve hosts some of the greatest variety of mushrooms to be found anywhere. Mushrooms come in many colors, except true green. They are to be enjoyed from a distance and never picked as many of them can be poisonous. How many colors can you find? click for clue!

BENNETT YARD:  Many historic properties have small family cemeteries within them. The old headstones are interesting to read when we stop and pay our respects.  Which headstone is the oldest? click for clue!

STONEWORK:  Throughout this preserve, we find signs of hard work. Stone walls crisscrossed the woods when this area was more open and the roadways were lined with walls. You can find other structures made of stone from more than a century ago, mostly along the orange trail. They are interesting to look at, and think about, but please do not climb on them. click for clue!

Knox Family Farm


Stonington / property details

Follow the right-of-way path until you get to the entrance sign at the end of the big field. (Please be respectful of the privacy of the owners here.)  The main trail into the preserve is part of a historic pathway with big stone walls on both sides of the lane. There are several habitats here and it is a good place to visit the water’s edge. It is also a good place to think about how the glaciers impacted our landscape thousands of years ago!

SIGN: click for clue!

CEDAR GROVE:  Cedar trees grew in many years ago when agricultural fields were abandoned.  They form dense, dark groves which are good habitat for many birds, even owls. Find a cedar grove.  click for clue!

ANOTHER ENTRY: This preserve borders Quiambaug Cove.  If you happen to be kayaking in the cove, you could tie it up here and take a walk on the trails.  Can you find the kayak landing and go down to the water?  Where would you tie it up? click for clue!

SIGNS OF GLACIERS: Many centuries ago, during the Ice Age, this whole area was covered with thousands of feet of ice that moved slowly over the land toward Long Island Sound. As they moved, and later melted, they changed the face of the landscape by scouring out big depressions called kettle holes, and covered the land with rocks of all sizes, leaving giant boulders in very odd places. In the center of this property, there is a kettle hole that often holds water year-round. Can you see how the ground has been scraped out? Follow the extended loop trail to the north and find the balancing boulder! click for clue!

WOODPECKERS: As you walk through the woods, keep looking up into the trees to find signs of woodpeckers. The trunks of old, dead, or dying trees may have areas of lighter colored wood where the bark has been pecked away. Holes of varying sizes were created by woodpeckers looking for insects to eat or to make nesting places. Check for woodchips on the ground below these trees. The pileated woodpecker, the largest of the woodpecker family (almost the size of a crow!), lives here and the signs of its activity are the most obvious. click for clue!

Knox Preserve


Stonington / property details

This preserve may not be large in size but it’s huge in variety and interesting things to see and explore. With easy looping paths, it is easy to experience several different habitats and even overlook the shoreline. Along the trails there are informational signs that describe what you can see. Take some time to read these and get to know this special place.

View Updated Knox Clues

SIGN: click for clue!

HABITATS:   A habitat is the combination of plants, soil, sun, water and even weather conditions that make it a perfect place for certain types of animals to live.

THICKET: Think about a thicket. If you were a small animal or a bird, why would a thicket be a good place to call home. Would you want to walk through a thicket? Take the trail to the highest part of the preserve: the rocky outcrop up in the middle. Be careful! It overlooks the dense thicket where so many creatures live. What can you see? click for clue!

While you are up there, look carefully for the circular metal marker installed on the rock ledge. It is a National Geodetic Survey marker. A very cool discovery! Check it out. click for clue!

MEADOW: A large portion of this preserve is preserved as open sunny fields. The grasses and flowers provide home and food for the littlest creatures: insects! During the summer season you can see butterflies, bugs and bees. On the ground you can find crickets and grasshoppers. Can you spot any? But during this time the fields are closed to people and dogs, to protect the birds that live in the grass and the birdhouses. Spend some time watching the birdhouses. click for clue!

SHORELINE: Walk the trail along the shore, notice how the water level is changing all the time with the tides. Can you see a lot of rocks and sand or is the water covering everything? When the tide is low it is easy for birds with long legs, like egrets and herons, to explore the shallows for fish to eat. It is also easy for you to get down close to the water at a little sandy beach, to look for snails and shells and different seaweeds. click for clue!

OSPREY NEST:  Ospreys are hawks who eat fish as their main diet.  Look for one of the osprey nests that can be seen from different areas on this preserve. Why is this site a perfect place for an osprey nest? click for clue!

OYSTERS: At low tide, you can walk along the shoreline of the Knox Preserve. The body of water here is the Quiambaug Cove and before the railroad came the cove was open to the flow of clean salt water. Oysters have lived in this cove for hundreds if not thousands of years and were an important food source for Native Americans as well as early colonial settlers. Today they are “farmed” offshore in the cleaner waters. Because of their importance to the history of the people in Connecticut, they have been named the state shellfish. Can you find any empty oyster shells along the shore? click for clue!

Paffard Woods


Stonington / property details

This is a lovely, rolling woodland preserve with a stream, wetlands, uplands, stone walls, and rock ledges. Lots to see and much of it was formed by glaciers thousands of years ago.

SIGN: click for clue!

BIG STANDING BOULDER:  This big rock has attracted people for maybe hundreds of years, maybe more. How did it get here? There are other big boulders on the property, but this is the biggest. click for clue!

STREAMSIDE POOL:  The pretty stream, called Stony Brook, forms the western boundary. There are several places where you can get close to the stream and listen to the water as it tumbles over the rocks. Can you find a quiet, deeper pool?  What animals might enjoy the pool too? click for clue!

TREE DAMAGE: In a forest, there is a definite cycle of life for the trees. This woodland has many very large old trees. In the last decade, several severe winter storms and hurricanes have caused many trees to break or uproot and fall. While it may look “messy” to some, it is a good stewardship practice to clear the trails but leave the fallen trees on the ground where they provide shelter for many creatures. Some of the older trunks are hollow and you can see where carpenter ants were at work. Gradually the wood decays with the help of good bacteria and fungi and is returned to the earth to enrich the soil for future trees. click for clue!

HOLES IN TREES: Even trees that are still alive and standing may be hollow on the inside. Look around as you walk. You’ll see holes high and low! Some are big and may offer shelter to an owl or raccoon; others are smaller for a squirrel to enjoy. Down near the ground you can often find piles of nuts or acorns falling out of a hollow trunk, a sure sign that some little creature like a chipmunk may have stashed his supply inside!  click for clue!

Pequotsepos Brook Preserve


Stonington / property details

The lovely Pequotsepos Brook runs through this property and for centuries farmers have tended their fields and their flocks along this steam.  Of course, crossings were necessary for foot travel as well as for wagons, carts, and animals so bridges were made.

SIGN: click for clue!

STONE BRIDGE: There are several stone bridges over the stream that are made out of huge stones carefully placed to cross the running water but not block the water’s flow. Some may be hard to find. click for clue!

WOODEN BRIDGE: In more recent times, wooden bridges were created for wetland crossings because they were a lot easier to make! Find the wooden bridge and stairway that makes it so much easier to get onto the trail and over the wetlands. click for clue!

HIDDEN FOUNDATIONS: Many more signs of history can be found on this preserve. Off one of the yellow spurs going to Pequotsepos Center Rd., this old foundation was cleared of vegetation recently so you can see it. Now the mystery is: Who built this house? click for clue!

BIG OLD TREES: Back in the day when this land was farmed, and the main trail was a horse-drawn cart road, there were only a few trees on the property located along the roadways and walls. The trees could have one of several names: they might be called wolf trees because they stood alone, or “nooner trees” or “nooning trees” because when farmers took a break from their work to eat lunch at noon and rest, they would do so under these big old trees that provided shade for themselves and their animals. There are several big old nooners along the main trail. Many of them are white oak, Connecticut’s state tree. click for clue!

AMERICAN ROBIN: As you walk down this trail through the woods, you may hear the sharp call or lovely song of the American robin, our state bird. Very adaptable birds, they make their nests in trees and shrubs, in woods, at the edges of fields, and even very close to human homes. We think of them as a sign of spring as they pull fat, juicy worms out of the ground. But they also eat berries and for that reason, they can even be found here during the winter. It will be a bonus if you spot one! click for clue!

Perry Natural Area


Stonington / property details

There is a lot to discover along the trails here. Beautiful nature, very old trees, but also a lot of human history to think about: walls, old foundations, wells, a cemetery and mysterious stone piles. As you walk the trails, keep your eyes open!

SIGN: click for clue!

STANDING STONE:  Find the big standing stone that is like a gate post at the opening in the wall. click for a clue!

UPROOTED TREE:  This area has weathered many big storms over the years.  A number of trees have broken or fallen over.  When they uproot, the roots pull right out of the ground so the tree falls over. You can examine the roots and the hole it came out of. click for clue!

ROCKS & FOUNDATIONS: One of the founding families in the area lived on this land and there are many signs of their presence: the old foundation and wells and many stone walls, which represents tons of labor over decades, in configurations that hint they may have held in animals. The foundation was recently cleared and is easy to view. click for clue!

CEMETERY: The Brown Family lived on this land and were buried here as well. See if you can read the stories the headstones tell. click for clue!

Simmons Preserve

Simmons Preserve Stonington CT

Stonington / property details

This cove-side preserve allows visitors to get right up close to the water and get a glimpse of the marsh.  As a historic property, there are some old plantings on the site. Read here about the history of the Simmons Preserve for some interesting background.  The view of the water changes daily.  What do you see today?

SIGN: click for clue!

BIG HOLE IN TREE:  This large tree is quite old and getting hollow inside. What might live in the big hole in the tree?  click for clue!

STONE GATE POSTS:  Many Avalonia properties have an interesting history.  See if you can find some old stone gate posts that still have metal hardware attached. click for clue!

A FLEETING GARDEN: Years ago, this property was more like a garden than a nature preserve. Many of the plants are not native but ornamental, planted for people to enjoy. If you are here in spring and early summer you may find the ground carpeted with the green leaves of lily of the valley. Look closely to find the little white bell flowers in late spring. Lean even closer and smell their beautiful fragrance.  click for clue!

SOME VERY OLD PLANTS: Some of the plants here have been in this place for decades.Very old blueberry bushes have grown curled and twisted with age. In the spring, they too will have bell-like flowers followed by blueberries! More than likely the birds will get to them first.  click for clue!

Wequetequock Cove Preserve


Stonington / property details

The main purpose of this area is to preserve the grasslands.  During the summer there are several species of birds that need these grasslands to nest.   The path goes around the edges so people do not enter the fields while the birds are using them.

SIGN: click for clue!

GRASSLAND: These fields are preserved mainly for their grasses. In the spring the grasses green up quickly and provide food for insects like grasshoppers and small mammals, like rabbits, to nibble. As the season goes to summer, the grasses grow tall. They can even be as tall as a small person! Grasses make flowers and seeds in the fall that are enjoyed by birds. Take a picture along the trail of the tallest grasses you can find. click for clue!

MILKWEED: The fields are also filled with many kinds of flowers. All are great for bees, bugs, butterflies, and other pollinators that are attracted to the flowers for their sweet nectar. While sipping nectar they also spread pollen from one flower to another. Milkweed is a special flower. There are patches of it along the trails and in the hedgerows. If you break one leaf, it will leak milky sap that tastes terrible! Look carefully at the delicate flowers if they are present. In the fall the seed pods form and will open to spread their seeds to blow in the wind on silken parachutes. click for clue!

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES: Butterflies enjoy the fields from spring through fall and they come in many sizes and colors. But everyone’s favorite seems to be the monarch. Beautiful bright orange and black butterflies come to this field especially for the milkweed. It finds nectar from the flowers, but it is the leaves that are most important. The female will lay her eggs only on the leaves of milkweed plants. That milky white sap that tastes so terrible is just what the young caterpillars need to feed on as soon as they hatch! The caterpillars are black, white and greenish yellow striped, so different from the adult butterfly! click for clue!

HEDGEROWS: Along the walls, the plants get to grow taller because they are not mowed often. Shrubs, vines, and trees can grow up making great hiding and nesting places for many small animals and birds. Our Connecticut state insect, the praying mantis, likes to hang out here waiting for food: another, smaller, insect for him to catch and eat. Berry plants of many kinds grow in the hedgerow and those berries provide great food for them too. Can you tell the difference between hedgerow and field plants? click for clue!

White Cedar Swamp and Deans Mill Farm Preserve


Stonington / property details

These two preserves connect and form a beautiful path along a high, rocky ridge overlooking the reservoir. For such a small area, there’s a lot to see.

SIGN: click for clue!

STONE BENCH: Can you find the stone bench that overlooks the swampy pond? Take the little side trail on the left.  Take some time to sit quietly here and watch the water.  Depending on the time of year it may be mossy and green, with frogs along the edges. A very large snapping turtle is known to make its home here, too. click for clue!

REINDEER LICHEN:  On the exposed, rocky outcrops, a funny, mossy-looking plant grows. It is light greenish in color and appears to grow right off the rocks. When it is dry, it is crispy and crumbly; after a rain, it is soft and rubbery. This is reindeer lichen, the same lichen that grows way up in the arctic tundra or on the tops of mountains, and is food for the reindeer! click for clue!

TREE WITH SEVERAL TRUNKS!:  As you walk up into the woods, you see more signs of history on the land. There are several very big trees up here, that seem to have several trunks coming up from the base of the tree near the ground. An odd way for a tree to grow. But what this tells us is that this tree grew tall and straight more than 100 years ago and was cut for lumber. The remaining stump re-sprouted and the hardiest, strongest sprouts grew new strong trunks, sometimes three or four per tree! click for clue!

SWAMP THINGS: During most of the year, the swamp holds water. Even during dry spells, there is enough water to keep the moss and mud wet. Many visitors to this preserve have seen the big snapping turtle that makes her home here. They can live to be over 50 years old! We know this turtle is a female because each year she walks out of the swamp to dig a hole for her nest in a sunny, sandy area. Unfortunately, one year she dug her nest alongside the road. Luckily she changed her mind and went back into the swamp. Sit quietly and watch for her…but never get close! click for clue!

Woodlot Sanctuary


Stonington / property details

This piece of land was destined to be house lots but through the donors’ great generosity, it was preserved so all may enjoy.  It is dedicated to the special women in the families that made it possible. The two loops are fairly level and easy walking. Some unmarked side trails lead to wetland over views. A peaceful place.  A Sanctuary for sure.

What’s in a Name?  The parcels making up this preserve once served as woodlots for local families who cut their winter wood here. See if you can find some of the clues that this was a woodlot.

SIGN: click for clue!

CUT STUMPS: When trees were cut with a saw, most of the wood was hauled away but the stumps that were left are flat on top. There are many of these in the woods. Sometimes chipmunks leave acorn or nut shells on the top making it look like a picnic table. Sometimes you can almost see the growth rings in the wood that give you a hint of the age of the tree when it was cut. click for clue!

DOUBLE & TRIPLE TREES: Sometimes when a tree was cut, the stump sprouted and new trunks grew up. Many years later these trees, usually oaks, have double or triple trunks growing straight and tall. click for clue!

EVERGREENS: Most of the trees in this preserve are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the fall. However, there are several big evergreens (white pine, hemlock, spruce) scattered in the forest. They have needles that stay green all year long. Find the evergreens, look at the needles, and also look up into the trees. There are wonderful barred owls that live in these woods and they often like to stay hidden in the evergreens. Maybe you will be lucky and see one. Shhh! click for clue!

GLACIAL ERRATICS: Like so many other areas in southeastern Connecticut, this preserve was shaped by the glaciers. They created the sloping sides that are now low wetlands, and the higher rocky center parts of the preserve. They also left behind big boulders that seem totally out of place. There are two erratics on the property. One of these boulders is very special as it holds the memorial dedication plaque. click for clue!

FERNS: The forest floor is home to many kinds of different ferns throughout the preserve. Some live in wetlands, some in the drier areas. Most of these are not visible in the winter. Some grow right off the rocks and will stay green all year long. Look on the rocky outcrops on the orange loop for these special ferns. click for clue!

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