Towns of the Naugatuck River Valley

Each of the eleven towns that make up the Naugatuck River Valley have a rich and unique history related to the Naugatuck River.  Click on the links below to learn more about the history, character, and outdoor recreation opportunities of each town!

AnsoniaHarwinton Seymour Waterbury
Beacon FallsLitchfieldThomastonWatertown
DerbyNaugatuckTorrington



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A view upstream at sunset from the East Branch Dam on the headwaters of the Naugatuck River in Torrington. Photo courtesy HVA.

City of Torrington

Originally inhabited by Native Americans, Torrington, located at the headwaters of the Naugatuck River, was settled by early Europeans in 1735. With the construction of a woolen mill in 1813, and later the construction of two brass mills in 1834, the city quickly became an industrial town, utilizing the fast moving waters of the river for waterpower. The completion of the Naugatuck Valley Railroad in 1849 led to further industrial expansion and population explosion. As European immigrants filed in, the tiny town quickly grew from to over 22,000 by the early 20th century, ensuring its charter as a city in 1923. Like the other towns in the Valley Torrington suffered severe damages and losses during the Flood of 1955. In the wake of the disaster, the City went through extensive lengths to protect itself from the river’s fury. The river was widened and channelized through the downtown, and flood control dams were constructed north of the town center.

Today, the City of Torrington is leading a new wave of river-centered economic development in the Valley with the vision for its Downtown Torrington project. The revitalization project promotes mixed use development and incorporates preservation of the town’s heritage as well as celebration of the river. Signs are installed throughout the city to educate residents and visitors about the river, and municipal officials have enacted new ‘low impact development’ regulations, to protect the river’s water quality and wildlife. The Torrington Trail Network, an active group of engaged community members is also working to expand the recreational trail system in town. 


  Litchfield-TownSeal.jpg Town of Litchfield

The town of Litchfield was founded in 1721.  By the 1790s the town was a flourishing commercial, social, and cultural center in Northwestern Connecticut. Over the years, merchants diminished, and instead Litchfield became a popular destination spot where tourists could go to enjoy nature and the area's beautiful scenery.  The area around the Naugatuck River, which forms the town's western border, is more developed than other sections of town and access is presently limited.   


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The Naugatuck River in Harwinton.  Photo courtesy of Diane Friend Edwards.
The Town of Harwinton was incorporated in 1737 from land controlled by the towns of Hartford and Windsor. The name is a combination of those towns, HARtford and WINdsor TOwN. Harwinton, Connecticut is the only town with that name. The land in Harwinton today is very much like it was when the Town was incorporated in 1737. Although the former Alfred and Hopkins Clock Shop, which was powered by a dam along the river, is no longer in operation, the Naugatuck River continues to flow along the town's western border and the town's natural environment continues to remain central to its character.

Harwinton has already made progress towards completion of its section of the Naugatuck River Greenway, which will run along the river's eastern banks through the town.  The town was awarded a $42,000 federal grant to develop a half-mile stretch of easement for public access and has purchased an additional five acres along the river for public access. 


NaugatuckRiverfromThomastonDam_CourtesyCOGCNV 
The Naugatuck River as seen from the Thomaston Dam.  Photo courtesy of COGCNV.
Town of Thomaston
The Town of Thomaston has a rich history.  Led by the clockmaker Seth Thomas this town was transformed from a small farming hamlet into a cutting edge industrial community. The Naugatuck Valley was at one time the Silicon Valley of its day and the town of Thomaston was its leader in technology and design. Clocks made in Thomaston are still known around the world for their standard of excellence.  The Naugatuck River was the main source of power which allowed clockmaking and other industries to grow in Thomaston. A cotton mill, brass works, knife shops, and others all at one time flourished along the rivers banks in Thomaston. Much has changed in the past 150 years, but the buildings, the people, the side walks, all are links to this proud story.


Watertowns Phase 1 of their 3 Phase Greenway project opened for business Oct. 9th

Town of Watertown

Watertown was originally owned by Native Americans and sold to settlers in 1684. The town became known for its manufacturing companies and products such as cutting tools, plastics, and spooled silk thread. Today the town is a quasi-rural and suburban community, working to integrate environmental restoration and outdoor recreation into town economic and community development efforts. The Town hosts the beautiful Black Rock State Park as well as several smaller town parks, and is currently working with partners to developing a greenway along Steele Brook, a significant tributary of the Naugatuck River and home to a growing brown trout population as well as several native fish species. Long-term plans also include the expansion of the Naugatuck River Greenway through Watertown.

  • To learn more about future plans for expansion of the Naugatuck River Greenway through Watertown, contact the Town Engineer.
  • To learn more about Recreational Opportunities in Watertown contact the Watertown Recreation Department.
  • To learn about the Steele Brook Watershed Plan and related dam removal and flood control projects, click here or contact the Town Engineer.
  • To learn more about the Steele Brook Greenway Project click here. Want to help protect the brook and establish the greenway? Contact Vicki Barnes (e-mail ctvic@optonline.net), Volunteer Coordinator, to become a volunteer with the Steele Brook Rangers.


PaddlingNaugatuckRiver-Waterbury-CourtesyAltaPlanningDesign.jpgPaddling the Naugatuck River in Waterbury.  Photo courtesy of Alta Planning + Design. 

City of Waterbury

Originally named “Mattatuck,” a Native American name meaning “place without trees,” Waterbury was settled in the late 1600’s. According to local stories, the name was later changed to “Waterbury” in reference to the numerous streams throughout the City which flowed into the Naugatuck River.  In the 19th and 20th Centuries, the Naugatuck River served as an industrial route and source of industrial power for the region. Today, the remains of abandoned brass and copper mills dot the river's banks in the City. Flowing through the "Brass City" of Waterbury, the Naugatuck River is nearly invisible and inaccessible to the surrounding communities in many places.

To increase public access to the river, the City completed a nine month greenway routing and feasibility study in 2010.  The study identified the river valley's potential use as a recreational greenway corridor, leading to work towards the development of a design plan for the greenway.   Platts Park was also recently completed, providing the first major public recreational access to the river.  The Waterbury Industrial Commons revitalization project, located on Thomaston Avenue at the former home of the Chase Brass & Copper Company, will also include an easement for the Naugatuck River Greenway and public river access.  Community leaders hope that by providing public access to the river, public awareness of the river will increase leading to decreases in local water pollution and dumping. 


Linden Park Greenway completed Fall 2013 Borough of Naugatuck

First settled as a farming community in 1701, Naugatuck quickly became an ideal place for manufacturing companies to grow. Naugatuck was the home of nine rubber companies up until the 1980’s. Unfortunately, this history of industrialization also lead to the pollution of the Naugatuck River.  Thankfully, restoration efforts by state and local parties have improved the health of the river immensely over the years, making the Naugatuck once again safe to fish and swim.  

Plans are underway to construct the Borough's section of the Naugatuck River Greenway in 2012.  The greenway will extend from Linden Park to the Pulaski Pedestrian Bridge.  The proposed scheduled for construction this yea.  The Renaissance Place mixed‐use development is also proposed for downtown Naugatuck and will highlight the river. 


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Volunteer Park overlooking the Naugatuck River in Beacon Falls. Photo courtesy of Michael A Krenesky. 

Town of Beacon Falls

Located near the heart of the Naugatuck Valley, Beacon Falls offer passive recreation opportunities such as hiking, kayaking, and traditional New England scenic views.  The town is fortunate to have direct access to several thousand acres of the scenic Naugatuck State Forest, which spanning both sides of the spectacular Naugatuck River Scenic Gorge.

The town was first settled by colonists in 1678 and later incorporated in 1871. Over the years, Beacon Falls became known for its agriculture and manufacturing industry.  It remains, however, one of the smallest towns in New Haven County, with a population of only approximately 6,000. Despite its small size, Beacon Falls continues to make important impacts in the Valley.  Notably, Beacon Falls was the first town in the Valley to establish the tradition of hosting an annual duck race.  Today the Beacon Falls Riverfest and Duck Race is one of the Valley's most celebrated events! The town also boasts two riverside parks with public access for fishing and boating, Volunteer Park and Riverbend Park, components of the Naugatuck River Greenway.  Volunteer Park also serves as the final pull-out point for racers participating in the annual Naugatuck Valley River Race.


 Tingue Dam Bypass rendering.jpg Town of Seymour

Acquired from Derby in 1642, Seymour was historically an area of fertile land and dense forests. Over the centuries, however, small industries began to populate the town on the banks of the Naugatuck River, using the waterpower for gristmills, corn mills, and paper mills.  The infamous Flood of 1955, however, caused the river to rip over its banks, destroying most of the downtown including many buildings and businesses. Since the flood, residents have worked hard to restore the downtown area, however, and today it is once again a bustling Valley town. 

  • To learn more about the Tingue Dam and its new Bypass construction click here.
    To learn more about Recreational Opportunities in Seymour contact the Town's Parks Department.
  • To download a copy of the Seymour Land Trust's Trail Guide click here.  


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The Ansonia Riverwalk Park is the newest addition to the Naugatuck River Greenway System.  Photo courtesy of the City of Ansonia.

City of Ansonia

The Naugatuck River was, and still is, one of the most important natural features in Ansonia's history. In 1654, Edward Wooster traveled to Ansonia from Milford looking for a place to grow hops for the Milford brewery. He found the perfect place along the banks of the Naugatuck River near the current Riverwalk pavilion on North Division Street. Wooster became Ansonia’s first permanent settler. The River, and in particular the energy generated by its falls, also proved successful at growing manufacturing companies, leading to Ansonia’s later reputation as the “Copper City.” Over the years, Ansonia has continued to be physically transformed, often with the river at the center of the transformation. The devastating flood of 1955 destroyed much of Ansonia’s downtown area. But the City persevered, and with the Army Corps of Engineers, built flood walls on the banks of the river.

Today, Ansonia joins the rest of the Lower Naugatuck Valley in sharing the distinct honor of an "All-America City" title for exceptional community spirit. Although the City is almost completely developed, visitors to Ansonia still have several options available to them to celebrate the outdoors, including attending a program at the Ansonia Nature and Recreation Center, exploring the historic downtown riverfront, fishing at the State Naugatuck River Access, or visiting the newly constructed Ansonia Riverwalk Park.

  • To learn more about Recreational Opportunities in Ansonia contact the City Recreation Department.
  • To learn more about the Ansonia Riverwalk Park (a section of the Naugatuck River Greenway system) contact the City of Ansonia's website (e-mail webinfo@ansoniact.org)
  • To learn about upcoming nature programs at the Ansonia Nature & Recreation Center click here.  


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A view of the Naugatuck River (left) from O'Sullivan's Island Recreation Area in Derby.  Photo courtesy HVA.

City of Derby 

Known as “the smallest city in Connecticut,” Derby is the southernmost Naugatuck Valley town.  The cities border straddles the Naugatuck River just north of its confluence with the Housatonic River. Derby was settled by the first non-native peoples in 1642 and became known for its trading post on the river.  Derby has seen several economic transformations over the years.  For almost two centuries, beginning in the late 1600s, ship building was one of the most active and prominent industries of the town.  On days that newly constructed ships would launch, people from throughout the town would flock to the river's edge to celebrate the boat's first entrance into the water.  The construction of the Naugatuck Railroad and the opening of the Ousatonic Dam (or Derby-Shelton Dam) along the Housatonic River in 1870, led to another period of expansion and a shift in the focus of local industrial business towards manufacturing. 

Today the City of Derby, an All-America City, is the host of the widely acclaimed O'Sullivan's Island Recreation Park and Derby Greenway - the first segment of the Naugatuck River Greenway system to be completed.  Officially opened in 2006, the greenway begins at Bridge Street and follows the Housatonic River flood wall under the Route 8 over pass and around O'Sullivan's Island, a popular boating and fishing destination, before traveling north along the flood wall of the Naugatuck River.  (Fittingly, construction on the greenway coincided with the 50th anniversary of the devastating 1955 Flood.  The walls that now exist along the river to protect the community from future flood events serve as the foundation for much of the greenway path!)  Visitors to Derby can also learn about the local environment at the Kellogg Environmental Center and Osbornedale Homestead Museum located on the west side of the City. 

  • To learn more about O'Sullivan's Island Recreation Park and the Derby Greenway (a section of the Naugatuck River Greenway system) visit the City's Greenway Website
  • To learn more about additional Recreational Opportunities in Derby contact the City of Derby Parks & Recreation Department.
  • To learn about upcoming nature programs at the Kellogg Environmental Center and the Osbornedale Homestead Museum click here.  

Special thanks to our sponsors:
Naugatuck Savings Bank, Connecticut Community Foundation
Union Savings Bank, Wesson Energy, Inc., The United Illumination Company, Friends of Naugatuck River
The Platt Brothers & Company, Thomaston Savings Bank, Valley Community Foundation