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The Breathtaking Enders Falls

West Granby's famous natural geological feature once helped power the early American economy.

In the history of technology, waterpower has a surprisingly long career. It was developed in Rome by Vitruvius, an engineer of the Augustan Age (31 BC - 14 AD), who composed a 10-volume discourse on all aspects of Roman engineering. However, with the fall of the Roman Empire, this knowledge was not put to use worldwide for centuries. During the Middle Ages, the water wheel became the main source of power and remained so until the 19th century, when it was replaced by the steam engine.

West Granby, CT, a major manufacturing center in the 18th century, contains the West Branch of Salmon Brook. This powerful body of water played a significant role in the 18th and 19th century economic life of the village because of the mills that harnessed its waterpower.

The Salmon Brook narrows into the rocky Huggins Gorge just north of the site of West Granby's first water-powered grist mill, which was built in 1742. Eventually, according to early town records, as many as 19 unique water-powered mills operated in this section of town.  Here grist mills ground flour, trip-hammer mills (used by blacksmiths) used water power to raise a heavy hammers with a cam that when released fell under the powerful force of gravity. “Up and down” sawmills turned out posts, beams and boards while carding mills were converting raw sheep’s wool into battens and rolls or silvers for spinning.

The early American knew the most valuable source for water power came from those streams which had a reliable year round flow and that originated from a higher elevation. In West Granby that fount was what we know today as Enders Falls. With well over 400 hundred feet of grade drop in just a short distance, this dramatic geological phenomenon was just what Connecticut colonist was looking for.

Enders State Forest, known formally as John Ostrom Enders and Harriet Whitmore Enders State Forest, was a gift to the State of Connecticut by their  children in 1970. One writer decribes the Falls in this way:

The falls include a magnificent series of five diverse waterfalls, several with popular swimming pools. The first set of falls is a 6-foot cascade—commendable, but not a valid indication of what lies downstream. An easy jaunt further along the trail brings you to the level of the river where the second falls can be partially seen upstream. The second falls, which is best seen by crossing the steam, is a 30-foot horsetail and plunge combination that fans widely down between rugged overhanging gorge walls. Fishing is popular in the pool below these falls, which are surrounded on all sides by hemlock trees and thick moss. The third falls, probably the most heavily photographed of all here, is part-horsetail, part-plunge. The water gently slides sideways off a wide ledge only to plunges off a second ledge directly afterwards into a refreshing pool. Altogether, the third falls are about 18 feet tall in height, and they are also best seen from the opposite side of the stream bank. The fourth falls are just a hop, skip and jump downstream from the third falls. Here, the brook slips off an overhanging lip 12 feet down to a pool below. This is perhaps the least photogenic falls of the lot. The fifth falls are not to be missed. This 15-foot two-segment plunge marks the end of the drops in fine style. A gathering of small boulders outlines the medium-sized pool at the base of the falls, which is likely to be less crowded than those above. Make sure to visit all five waterfalls to make the most of this remarkable destination.

In the summer of 2011 when you visit Enders Falls, remember that this breathtaking part of Creation that we enjoy was once the source driving the everyday economy for the early residents of our community.

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