The Canal Aqueduct and Henry Mason Trail begins at a parking lot off Route 10 just south of the Avon town line, and proceeds along the former towpath for the Farmington Canal before descending to the river's edge and the site of an old aqueduct that carried the Farmington Canal across the Farmington River. From there, a short loop trial winds along the river and through woodland, passing many stands of wildflowers and a series of markers identifying various tree species. For maps and more detailed information about hike, visit the Canal Aqueduct and Henry Mason Trail.
The parcel is comprised of two donations, 3.1 acres and 2.1 acres, given in 1972 and 1975 by Jim Thomson and Grace Walker, respectively.
The 56-mile Farmington Canal was Connecticut’s super-highway of the 1830s and 18402. Begun in 1825, the canal was the largest engineering project ever attempted in New England. Inspired by the commercial success of the Erie Canal, Connecticut businessmen financed the waterway to open up an interior trade route between the port of New Haven and the towns of central Connecticut. Prior to the canal’s completion in 1829, merchandise had moved slowly in horse-drawn wagons over the region’s rough roadways.
The canal relied on the Farmington River for its main source of water. A navigable feeder canal carried water east from a dam built on the river near the present Farmington Town Hall, across today’s Devonwood Drive and Town Farm Road, to join the main canal at the aqueduct.
The canal was dug by hand by local and immigrant labor, using simple equipment – axes, shovels, picks and wheelbarrows. When completed, the canal’s 36-foot width allowed two flat-bottomed barges to pass each other. On a towpath alongside the canal, horses hauled the 75-foot freight and passenger boats at speeds up to four mph.
Although important to the economic development of towns along its route, the canal itself was a financial failure due to the high cost of maintenance. In 1848, the Farmington Canal Railroad acquired the right-of-way and converted much of the canal’s towpath to its rail bed.
Today, along Route 10 and Town Farm Road, fragments of the high berms and deep ditches of the canal can still be seen. Fortunately, this historic site of the Farmington Aqueduct and the section of the feeder canal in Devonwood will be preserved forever, thanks to generous donors to the Farmington Land Trust.