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Tankerhoosen Wildlife Management Area

Gorge Falls

The Tankerhoosen Wildlife Management Area (WMA) was recently purchased by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). The 449-acre parcel, part of a property originally purchased by Lebbeus F. Bissell in the 1920's, has been used by the family for recreation for generations. It includes the upper Tankerhoosen River and adjoins the Belding Wildlife Management Area.

Largely undeveloped and with limited trails the area is highly valued by the CT DEEP as an ecologically intact and environmentally sensitive watershed and is their largest single purchase. DEEP Commissioner DANIEL ESTY attend the formal announcement in June to emphasize the importance of the area.

» Read about DEEP's purchase of the property.


Source: DEEP Vernon Open Space map

Extending from Walker Reservoir West near I-84, Exit 67 west to the Belding WMA and from I-84 on the north across the Tankerhoosen River valley and up the southern slope of the valley this 449-acre tract crosses parts of Reservoir Road, Baker Road and Fish and Game Road. It contains the first mile of the Tankerhoosen River with some of the best cold water trout fishing in the state, as well as a portion of the CT Forest & Park Association's Shenipsit Blue Blazed Trail system.

» See Mapquest map of the area. (Note: River is mislabeled.)

The Tankerhoosen River begins at the Walker Reservoir East dam and tumbles through woodlands, sometimes quietly and at other times over rocks and falls. One private home is along the river and a small dammed pond. It passes Fish and Game Road and is joined by Barrows Brook before passing under Reservoir Road and on to the Belding WMA.

» For an appreciation of the river see the Tankerhoosen WMA River Walk photo album and slideshow.

The Shenipsit Trail passes through the property, runs along I-84 and loops around Walker Reservoir West. It is not a particularly impressive part of the trail with its nearness to the highway, but is the only marked trail on the property.

Between the Shenipsit Trail, Baker Road and Reservoir Road is a former gravel pit, likely excavated for I-84. It has been replanted with pines creating an interesting environment.

The parcel also includes Walker Reservoir West. Although fed by a stream that passes under I-84 from a pond north of the highway, the stream is often dry. Apparently the lake is primarily spring fed.

The part of the property south of the Tankerhoosen River appears to be mostly wooded. It borders the Rockville Fish & Game Club's property.


Mson Farm

LEBBEUS F. BISSELL, a Rockville insurance agent, and his friend Frederick Belding purchased a number of properties and small farms along the Tankerhoosen River in the 1920's. At one time it included thousands of acres including the property from Route 30 to Valley Falls. The northern section was lost in the 1940's when the highway was constructed. The upper portion belonged to the Walker's, a family of farmers for whom Walker Reservoir is named.

Bissell and Belding used the properties for year-round family recreation, stocking the river with trout and the forests with pheasants and partridge. They kept three hunting and fishing cabins along the brook, maintained paths, cross-country ski trails, lumbered where necessary, and hiked throughout the property. Remnants of their stonework and bridges can be seen along the river. Bissell also raised field trial dogs in the barns across the street from the present house of Tom and Susan Mason.

While many of his family members are now scattered throughout the country, Mason said the majority voted to sell the property to the state for preservation in order to fulfill a dream held by his grandfather, Lebbeus Bissell, an insurance agent who lived in the Rockville section of town.

The Belding gave a portion of their property to the DEEP in 1981 and the DEEP purchased the Bissell section in 2011.

The formal announcement by the DEEP of the purchase took place on June 22, 2012 on the grounds of the old farm with DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty speaking as well as other officials. Tom Mason provided background and history of the property. For the announcement and links to published news stories of the event see our News story.

Source: Tom Mason

Environmental Importance

Eastern Box Turtle
Eastern Box Turtle at Valley Falls

The Tankerhoosen WMA ensures protection of much of the Tankerhoosen watershed and the entire riparian zone for over 2.5 miles of the Tankerhoosen River downstream of Walker Reservoir and is an important acquisition for Connecticut’s goal to restore and protect wildlife.

“The land we are protecting today is one of the largest and most significant open space preservations in Connecticut history, funded, in its entirety, by the state’s Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Program,” said Dan Esty, Commissioner of the CT DEEP. “The Tankerhoosen WMA supports high densities of catchable size brown and brook trout in the Tankerhoosen River and many species of birds, invertebrates, and reptiles in need of protection.”

The WMA contains a large number of species and habitats considered of Greatest Conservation Need. Purchase of the property as open space will address many of the Priority Conservation Actions set forth in Connecticut’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.

Important species that will now be protected include the eastern box turtle, cerulean warbler, and brook trout. A section of the property that was a former gravel pit will now provide protection for the brown thrasher, field sparrow and prairie warbler. This site will also provide habitat for rare invertebrates.

The Tankerhoosen River supports abundant wild brown trout and brook trout populations. This is the most plentiful wild trout population in Central Connecticut. Wild trout are environmentally sensitive indicator species that require cool water temperatures, high water quality, functioning wetlands and intact riparian areas.

The Tankerhoosen River supports a population of eastern pearlshell mussel. Statewide, the eastern pearlshell is declining, and it is listed as a species of special concern in Connecticut. This is an important acquisition for restoring and protecting native species.

Source: DEEP website.

Recreation & Education

Tankerhoosen River

The University of Connecticut plans to use the WMA for wildlife studies. It is also likely to be used as a living classroom/laboratory for students within the greater Hartford area.

The CT Forest & Park Association's Shenipsit Blue Blazed Trail passes through from the Belding WMA, across Baker Road, along I-84 and around Walker Reservoir West ending on Reservoir Road. Trailsman GEORGE ARTHUR hopes to move the trail away from the highway now that the DEEP owns the tract, but it won't follow the river.

There is a rough path along the Tankerhoosen River, but it is more for fishers than hikers. The area does provide good passive recreation for bird watchers, photographers and others who enjoy being outdoors.

This is the place to trout fish, but you can't keep them - catch and release only. See our Fishing Page for guidelines.

And beginning in the Fall of 2012 the DEEP began permitting bow hunting in the Tankerhoosen WMA. Hunting opportunities will expand in 2013. See our Hunting Page for information and map.

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