Kayaking Connecticut's Historic Water Park

Ziplines, rock climbing and wakeboarding are just some of the activities to enjoy at Portland's Brownstone Quarries.

I’ve been intending to check out the at the quarries in Portland for a few years now. I took a recon drive over to it a few days ago and realized that I could bring my own kayak there and paddle around for $18. My wife and I took our tandem kayak over to the quarry, paid our fee, and put it in. The area set aside for kayaking is restricted somewhat by the presence of two ziplines that angle in low to the water on the north side of the quarry; nevertheless, the experience was worthwhile.

It’s fascinating to see the tall, sheer faces of brownstone cliffs from the perspective of the water. The tallest, accessible cliff is on the south side of the quarry about halfway up Silver Street. That cliff is about 80 feet above the surface of the water. The longest zipline is located there. In fact, there are two parallel cables that run together for several hundred feet before splashdown.

It looks like great fun. (See the photos and movie.) Two other ziplines were operating that day. Both of them ran in an east-west direction across the quarry. Both aren’t nearly as high as the north-south zipline and were the preferred choice of the younger and less adventurous. (See movie.)

Another fun activity is the rock climb. A helmet, vest, and footwear are required. Like all of the activities at the park, this one is well supervised. Staff members instruct and help adventurers get to the top of a 60-70 foot brownstone cliff. Footholds are already cut into the face of the cliff to aid the ascent. (See movie of a cliff ascent.)

Wakeboarding is yet another fun activity at the park. You can bring your own or rent one onsite. An overhead, winch driven, cable system with a rope and handle attached to it can propel wakeboarders at speeds up to 25 mph as far as 1,200 feet! Advanced boarders can hit jumps and skids along the course. (See the wakeboard movie.)

There is also a 100-foot waterslide on the west end of the quarry, as well as a multitude of fun objects with footholds in them for people to climb. Scuba diving is also permitted, but strict rules have to be followed. There are refreshments available for purchase as well

The park also has both kayaks and paddleboats for rent. You can, of course, bring your own kayak, as we did. If you bring your own, a park attendant will open a gate near the southwest corner, and you can back down fairly close to the water to unload.

There is a handicapped parking space right there as well. The able-bodied will have to drive their vehicle down the road to the northwest corner of the park to a large parking lot. There you can pick up a shuttle bus to take you back to the kayak launch area. (It usually doesn’t take very long at all.)

The east and northeast sides of the quarry have interesting plant growth. It’s simply amazing to see how trees can grow in just a little opening in the sheer face of a cliff! One tree has a U-shape and seems to grow right out of rock (see photo).

The great thing about kayaking in the quarry is the perspective that you can get on those cliffs as well as the great view that you have of the zipliners. It’s worth doing at least once.

The park is easy to find. Cross the Arrigoni Bridge from Middletown. As you enter Main St. in Portland, there is a Hess station on the left. Take a left there down Silver Street, a one-way street. Proceed down the hill and bear right. You can’t miss it. The park is open seven days a week through Labor Day, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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