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Iron Trail

Length: 4 miles

Towns: North Canaan, Canaan

Trail Overview: The Iron Trail runs through Housatonic State Forest and the Canaan Mountain Natural Area Preserve.  From the southern terminus at a metal gate on Canaan Mountain Rd in Canaan, the trail heads north and west to the State’s Beckley Iron Furnace Industrial Monument on the banks of the Blackberry River in North Canaan.  The trail mostly crosses through mixed hardwoods— including white oak, black cherry, and beech—punctuated by islands of pine and hemlock.  In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the area was regularly cut to produce charcoal to feed nearby iron furnaces, including Beckley.  Repeated coppice cutting has resulted in many multiple trunked trees.  Visible in a couple places are flattened areas where mounds of wood were stacked and “cooked” with slow, smoky fires to produce charcoal.  About halfway along the trail is a pile of stones that was probably once the fireplace of a collier’s hut.  From Wangum Rd the trail follows a broad woods road bounded in places by stone walls.  Upstream of a narrow brook crossing there is a beaver flowage.  Upon veering west, the trail narrows and winds through thick woods while skirting the edge of Canaan Mountain.  The last three-quarters of a mile descend to Beckley Furnace along a narrow charcoal road.  The upper part features beautiful rock outcroppings on the upslope side.  Pieces of slag from the furnace can be found on the lower part of the trail.  Pass slag piles overgrown with vegetation just before crossing the Blackberry River and arrive at the stone furnace stack which produced iron between 1847 and 1919.  Picnic tables and interpretive signs make this a nice spot to spend some time learning about a part of Connecticut’s industrial history.

Allowed Uses: Hiking Only

Partners: Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP)