Description - *This information was provided by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection*
Nipmuck State Forest and Bigelow Hollow State Park in the town of Union lie within one of the largest unbroken forest areas in Eastern Connecticut. Nipmuck is the second oldest state forest in Connecticut. The first parcel was acquired in 1905. Additional lands in the towns of Stafford, Ashford, Willington, and Woodstock have been added to the forest over the years. Today Nipmuck State Forest and Bigelow Hollow total over 9,000 acres. The recreation area in Bigelow Hollow was established in 1949 by the State Park and Forest Commission.
The name "Bigelow" is a mystery since no person of that name seems to have been associated with this area. According to older residents of Union, the name is derived from "Big Low" in reference to the deep hollow in which the 18-acre pond of that name is located. The word "Mashapaug" is the Nipmuck Indian word for "Great Pond". The present lake of 300 acres was originally about half the size. In the mid-1880's, two different parties attempted to draw the water from this natural pond. One party ditched to the north and the other to the south. The latter party was forced to give up the battle when they ran into a ledge and later joined forces with their rivals to create the present lake. Two other smaller ponds, Breakneck and Griggs, lie to the north and east of Mashapaug in Nipmuck State Forest.
The contrast of rock, water, and mixed deciduous/evergreen woodland provide ample beauty to the many visitors this park receives.
- Bigelow Hollow State Park & Nipmuck State Forest Union offer a boat launch ramp, picnic tables and pit toilets.
Marked trails lead from Bigelow Hollow to the Breakneck area, but no trail in this area is a loop trail. Hikers should be prepared to walk at least 6 miles to complete a loop around Breakneck. There are no marked trails to Briggs pond. For hikers desiring trails that start and end in the same place, the trails west of the park road both form loops and cover less of a distance than the trails leading to Breakneck.
Recreation - Visitors to this are can go boating, hiking, hunting, picnicking, fishing, and scuba diving in the summer, and during the winter months, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are also good activities.
Climate - The climate of this state involves a moderate amount of humidity, heat and cold. Summer highs reach 90 degrees F with low temperatures near 65 degrees. Evenings near the water can become cool and light jackets and sweaters are recommended. Winter temperatures average in the mid thirties during the day and in the teens at night. Rarely do temperatures dip to zero, especially in the southern portion of the state, where the water influences the more temperate weather.
Bigelow Hollow State Park is located on Route 171 and can be reached via I-84. Take Exit 73 or 74, then follow Route 190 north to Route 171 east to the park entrance.
Nipmuck State Forest Mountain Laurel Sanctuary
Eastbound on I-84: take Exit 72. Follow Route 89 north to the intersection of Route 89 and Route 190. Go west onto Route 190. The sanctuary entrance is a short distance from the intersection and is well marked. Take Exit 73 to visit another area of Nipmuck State Forest.