On Wednesday, May 4, the North Branford Land Conservation Trust will conduct a bus tour around Lake Gaillard and a tour of the nearby Tilcon quarry from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The tour starts at the St. Augustine Church parking lot on Caputo Road.
The morning portion of the tour will be at Lake Gaillard where there will be stops along the reservoir road for short presentations by RWA officials as well as scientists from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. This will be an opportunity to learn more about operation of the reservoir as a source of drinking water for the region, invasive plant and shrub species, ticks and efforts to control them, as well as information about the natural landscape.
Lunch, weather permitting, will be at a site overlooking the reservoir. During the afternoon portion of the tour, a Tilcon official will explain the quarry operations.
The cost of the tour is $35 per person and includes a box lunch. Reservation forms on fliers announcing the trip are available at the Atwater and the Smith libraries. In case you cannot find a reservation form, send a check made out to NBLCT to P.O. Box 378, North Branford, CT 06471. Seating on the bus is limited and the deadline for reservations is April 30. Please include a phone number or e-mail address where you can be reached in case of last-minute changes or overbooking. Checks will be returned if the bus has filled.
Lake Gaillard is the largest of the Regional Water Authority’s system of reservoirs that supply drinking water to many communities of the region. It is also the second-largest drinking water reservoir in the state.
The driving force for its development as a source of public drinking water by the New Haven Water Company (predecessor of the Regional Water Authority) was the great expansion of industry in New Haven preceding and during World War I—and drought.
During this period, the company’s directors vacillated on committing the necessary financial resources to construct the dam that would create the reservoir, including tunnels, conduits and smaller diversion dams that would bring water to the reservoir from distant watersheds. But a severe drought that nearly depleted the company’s existing water resources following the end of World War I forced the company to take action.
Land acquisition began in 1922. By 1926, the main dam had been constructed; by 1930, all of the tunnels and conduits bringing water from Guilford and Northford were in use. The reservoir finally filled in 1932.
Farmland not submerged by the reservoir was planted with seedling pine trees. Woodlots were brought under forest management; the farmland planted with pine seedlings and woodlots were added to the Eli Whitney Forest, all of the company’s land within the region that had been brought under forest management administered by the Yale School of Forestry.
The trap rock quarry began production in 1914 as the New Haven Trap Rock Company, predecessor in chain of ownership to Tilcon. The quarry supplies aggregate for concrete and asphalt not only to the region, but also for construction projects outside of the state.
The Branford Steam Railroad, a part of the quarry operation, plays a major role in reducing the number of trucks on local roads and highways by transporting large amounts of quarried stone to the Pine Orchard docks in Branford where the stone is loaded on barges and shipped to several ports on Long Island Sound.