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All Aboard the Hues Cruise | Connecticut’s Lower Connecticut River Valley
When fall arrives in the Lower Connecticut River Valley, water and sky are as alive with wildlife as ever.
Right through October, the river-veined core of Connecticut clings to a fall stage that can only be called … denial. Virginia creeper vines slithering up tree trunks are caramelized red; the river banks shine gold, signaling upland maples it is time they, too, relinquished their green. Yet water and sky are as frenzied and alive as ever. The Connecticut—New England’s mightiest river—gets a shot of saltwater from Long Island Sound as it nears the end of its 410-mile run, creating an estuarine environment that sees a flurry of wildlife activity in the fall. Book a riverboat cruise from East Haddam or Deep River and enjoy nature’s show, from ocean-bound baby shad leaping in silver streaks to a bald or golden eagle soaring overhead. Hundreds of winged species migrate through each fall, but the tree and barn swallows are an autumn phenomenon unto themselves: When nearly a million of these birds swirl in a funnel before plummeting en masse to roost among amber reeds, their flapping creates a vortex of energy you can actually feel.
The rush is magnified if you paddle into the melee in a kayak or canoe. Low to the water, which snaps so crystal clear after the first frost you can spy on the tens of thousands of blue crabs that march downriver just as foliage color peaks, you’re no longer an impartial observer. Old Lyme–based Black Hall Outfitters offers kayaking ecotours into the 500-plus pristine backwater acres of the Great Island salt marsh, where you can banish civilization from sight and immerse yourself in an autumn splendor that feels as if it could go on forever. —Kim Knox Beckius