Devil's Den Nature Preserve in Weston encompasses 1,756 acres and is the Nature Conservancy's largest preserve in Connecticut. The Den provides a valuable oasis for species that require interior woodland for successful reproduction. Research has shown that such large unfragmented forest areas are vital to the health of a variety of species.
Devil's Den also represents a significant portion of the watershed of the West branch of the Saugatuck River, a habitat for many of aquatic species, including several uncommon species of mussel. Devil's Den is also of historical significance. Archaeological evidence indicates human use of the area, mostly for hunting, as long as 5,000 years ago.
The remains of an up-and-down sawmill below Godfrey Pond testify to the importance of the lumbering that dovetailed with charcoal burning. The production of charcoal was an important commercial activity in the 1800s and marks dozens of sites. The Den was created by the late Katharine Ordway through a series of donations from 1966 through 1968, beginning with an 1,100-acre purchase from the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company.
The Lucius Pond Ordway/Devil's Den Preserve is the Connecticut Chapter's largest continuous preserve and the largest tract of protected land in densely developed Fairfield County. Its patchwork of woodlands, wetlands and rock ledges and a series of north-south ridges and valleys woven with streams and swamps make the Devil's Den ideal for low-impact outdoor activities such as hiking and bird watching. My sons and I enjoyed a seven-mile, two-and-a-half hour hike through the preserve this past Saturday.
The preserve's 20-mile trail system winds past dramatic rocky crests, outcroppings, and cliffs forming high ledges partly covered with grasses, mosses, and lichens. The preserve features more than 500 types of trees and wildflowers, including the beautiful pink lady's slipper, cardinal flower, and Indian pipe. Devil's Den is home to red fox, bobcat, coyote, Eastern copperhead, wood duck, ruffed grouse, pileated woodpecker and more than 140 other bird species.
The Den was created by the late Katharine Ordway through a series of donations from 1966 through 1968, beginning with an 1,100-acre purchase from the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company.