Connecticut State Forests - Seedling Letterbox Series Clues for Nathan Hale State Forest

State map showing location of Nathan Hale State Forest

Nathan Hale State Forest -
 the 26th State Forest

Seedling Series Letterbox Stamp #26


Nathan Hale State Forest: The first purchase of this forest was in 1946, through a bequest by the late George Dudley Seymour. The original purchase of 850 acres has grown since then to about 1,500 acres today. Mr. Seymour wanted to restore the Hale farm property he had purchased in 1914 “to a state comparable to that which existed during Hale’s boyhood, when most of the lands were cleared and grazed by sheep and cattle”. He soon saw how hopeless that idea would be, as the land reverted to forest faster than he could keep it cleared.

Two of his forester friends may have influenced him to turn his interest to forest and wildlife management. In the 1930’s, with guidance from Dean Graves of Yale and George Cromie, Mr. Seymour began establishing conifer plantations. This practice continued into the 1950’s, by which time the land was under State ownership.  

Mr. Seymour also had an interesting way of marking his boundaries. He planted them with hemlock and white cedar. The trees are still visible today as excellent markers of both former and current boundaries. 

Since the state acquired the land, plantations have been established, thinned and pruned; fields have been maintained in grass and shrub condition for a variety of wildlife; studies are being conducted to restore American chestnut; a 200 acre natural area has been established to be kept with no management activity; and the forest in general has been managed for a sustained yield of wildlife habitat and forest products. The Town of Coventry leases a 57-acre area of the forest as a town park.

Today, the objective of the DEEP Foresters is to maintain a healthy forest with an equal distribution of age classes of trees from seedling to mature timber. The wildlife is abundant and often visible or audible. Hawks, fox and coyote rival the deer and turkey for use of the varied habitat available. Look for informative signs along the way to the letterbox. 

Description: The letterbox lies hidden off of South River Road.  The letterbox is located on the site of an 18th century farm.  In Division of Forestry management plans, this area and others like it are given special attention as archeological sites.  The Division works with the State Archeologist at UConn to help protect these sites.  Please do not remove or disturb anything in the area.

Remember, also, dogs must be on a leash and under control so as to not disturb wildlife.  This is especially important during nesting and brooding season.  It is recommended that you wear blaze orange during hunting season - from October to December. 

If you have an Audubon Field Guide to New England Flora and Faune - that, too, may prove useful.

Clues: "To the 'Ledgend' of the Hale Family"

Your search will begin on South River Road in Coventry, at CL&P utility pole #33545.  You can get to this starting point by either starting from Route 6 and following South Street, starting from Route 31 and following Talcott Hill Road.  There is a "Speed Limit 25" sign near the pole.

Start at the wooden gate and proceed southeasterly on the narrow path that winds through the bushes for about 150 feet.  Suddenly, the path widens into an old farm road.  This road was once likely traveled on by a young Nathan Hale.  Continue on the old road southeasterly, away from the asphalt road.  The trail may be muddy, so step carefully.

After you have traveled about 1,000 feet, you will see 3 stone walls converging as the trail bends to the right and up a small hill.  You might also notice a down tree on the edges of the trail. 

Now, change direction and follow the stone wall to the right and uphill (westerly).  After 150 feet, the wall ends.  Ahead of you is a small plateau.  On the right is a ledge face resembling a cave.  You will need to search the area, looking under flat rocks.  You will find the letterbox in clear bag near the tree rooted to a rock.

Learn More, Earn a Patch: Your walk has led you through areas that illustrate some important forestry concepts. Some of these concepts are:

  • land use changes (What did the area look like from 1750-1900?  What would be different from today?) 
  • forest boundaries (How did G. D. Seymour mark his boundaries?)
  • species diversity (What trees would find in a swamp versus hilltop?)
  • dendrology (tree identification) (How many trees and shrubs can you name on your walk using your field guide?)
  • non-native invasive species control (What are those plants near the town road?)
  • neotropical migrants (How different does the forest sound in May as opposed to January?)

As you leave the forest, do you think you could point out some answers to these questions?

This is one of 32 letterbox hikes that is being sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Division of Forestry.  When you have completed 5 of these sponsored letterbox hikes, you are eligible to earn a commemorative State Forest Centennial patch.  

When you have completed five of these hikes, please contact us and let us know what sites you have visited, what your stamp looks like and how we may send you your patch.  We will verify your visits and send the patch along to you.

Be sure to visit your local library and read the latest biography written about the Connecticut State Hero: Nathan Hale.  A local author has researched Hale's life and written a wonderful account of this extraordinary young patriot.  Your search will be rewarded greatly. 

Contact DEEP Forestry

The Letterbox Page

Content last reviewed February 2020