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History of Watch Rock

Below is a little bit of history and some pictures from the beautiful place we call Watch Rock Park.

In late 1986, by a stroke of luck, one of the Trustees of the Old Lyme Conservation Trust was in Town Hall and heard that the Watch Rock property was for sale. This twenty-five acre waterfront parcel had been on the wish lists of both the Town of Old LYme and the Trust for years. Immediately, the OLCT Board of Trustees met and voted to borrow $500,000 to buy the property and launch a campaign to pay off the loan. This ambitious plan was completed in just over a year.

Watch Rock has been inhabited for 4500 years. The Bliss site, in nearby Old Lyme Estates, was dug extensively in 1981 by local archaeologist John Pfeiffer. The artifacts found there dated from 2700 B.C. to 2400 B.C. Adjacent to the Bliss site, the Griffin site had been excavated in 1975. Artifacts recovered from this site dated from 1500 to 1200 B.C. In 1981 Pfeiffer dug test spots on Watch Rock which indicated that whereas the Bliss and Griffin sites were ceremonial, Watch Rock was residential for this early period. There are signs of continuous habitation from 2500 B.C. to Contact (between Europeans and Native Americans). 

Watch Rock was an important spot in the Contact period. From this vantage point, the local Indians could look North, South, and also West toward Saybrook. Hostile Indians could not approach unseen. The Indians weren't the only ones watching. Oral tradition has it that the Colonials up on Meetinghouse Hill (Johnnycake Hill) could watch the Indians!

The site was used by the Indians in the summer when they fished the surrounding waters and feasted on the native shell-fish. After the Indians were dispossessed, the land was farmed by the white settlers. In more recent times, it was owned by Evelyn MacCurdy Salisbury, one of Old Lyme's noted benefactors. In 1970 the property was bought from Katherine Brodeur by the Locktite Corporation. Locktite considered Watch Rock as a possible site for their corporate headquarters. As it is situated next to the railroad tracks, it had been zoned for light industry. Hence the urgency which the Trust felt to purchase Watch Rock as a nature preserve.

The Watch Rock campaign proceeded well. After a slow start, momentum began to build. Benefits were held, the newspapers, especially "The Gazette", got behind the project, and donations poured in. All in all, 1000 donors, both local and from as far away as Alaska, contributed money to help save Watch Rock. The crowning touch was the purchase of the development rights by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This happy event was the result of protracted negotiations between the State, the Connecticut River Gateway Commission and John Lohmann, one of the original organizers of the Old Lyme Conservation Trust. This purchase ensures that Watch Rock will remain forever in a natural and undeveloped state.

Watch Rock has remained open to all. It remains one of the jewels in our crown, a marvelous place to enjoy our varied shoreline, and a quite haven where one can reap the benefits of the undisturbed outdoors.














Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.

Visitor Rules

The following applies to all properties owned and managed by OLCT:

  • No littering, always carry out what you carry in, please bring a bag to put your garbage in.

  • No ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles).
    Trails get beat up and might be dangerous for anyone else to use.
    More info...

  • All dogs/pets under your control at all times.

  • Stay on the trails and do not trespass on adjacent land.

  • Do not mark trees, start fires, camp or collect plants or mineral.

For more information please see our General Information A-Z section.

Let's take care of what we have got so we can enjoy it for a long time to come!

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