MANHAN/NEW HAVEN & NORTHAMPTON CANAL RAIL TRAIL SOUTH LETTERBOX:

EASTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Letterbox Planted:     August 16, 2003

Last Updated:              October 19, 2013

Length:                        Manhan Rail Trail; 5 miles

                                     Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail South; 7 miles

                                     Route 5 to Letterbox; 0.8 miles. 

Difficulty:                    asy. Flat paved trail.

Directions:

To start from Route 5: Take exit 18 off of I-91 to Route 5 south. You cross a bridge after a mile and pass by a boat launch. The trail begins next to the sub-station. There is parking here for several cars. If the area is full, you can also park at the boat launch.

Easthampton’s industrial base was so extensive that it was served by two competing railroads; The New Haven Railroad’s Canal Division and the Mt. Tom Branch of the Boston & Maine Railroad. The Manhan Rail Trail travels 2 3/4 miles north from the Southampton town line along with the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail South. It then veers east along a separate rail bed out to Route 5 for a total of 5 miles, while the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North continues north through Northampton to it's intersection with the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck West and Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck East at the Spoke after 7 miles. 

Three rail trails Spoke out from the east side of King St (Routes 5 & 10) in Northampton. The Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck West crosses King St and heads northwest past Look Park, through Leeds Village towards Williamsburg. The Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck East will (as of Dec 2015 construction has not yet begun on the new tunnel) travel underneath the active rail line heading east along the former Central Mass Branch of the Boston & Maine RR Line that connected Northampton to Boston. The Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail travels south along the former New Haven & Northampton Railroad through downtown Northampton to East Hampton where it intersects the Manhan Rail Trail, then continues along the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail to the Southampton town line. For more information visit;  NORTHAMPTON TRAILS .

The Mass Central Rail Trail is a planned 104 mile trail from Northampton to Boston along the former Central Mass Branch of the Boston & Maine RR Line, which was abandoned in 1938 after the 38 Hurricane shattered the line. The trail today exists in many unconnected sections and with differing surfaces. Starting from Northampton heading east the sections that are complete include the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck East, Mass Central Rail Trail: Belchertown , Mass Central Rail Trail; New Braintree-Hardwick , Mass Central Rail Trail; Barre-Rutland , Mass Central Rail Trail; Holden-West Boylston & Mass Central Rail Trail; Sterling in the towns of Belchertown, Braintree, Hardwick, Barre, Oakham, Rutland, Holden, West Boylston and Sterling. Outside of Boston, the town of Wayland has plans to convert their section of rail bed in 2016. In Cambridge the last section of the Mass Central Rail Trail has been completed and is referred to as the Fitchburg Cutoff . It connects to another Spoke of trails that all radiate out from Alewife T Station: See; Minuteman Bikeway , Alewife Brook Greenway , Fresh Pond Loop Trail and the Somerville Community Path .

The New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail is a planned 84 mile multi-use trail from New Haven, CT to Northampton, MA. In Connecticut the trail is referred to as the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and in Massachusetts as the New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail, although each town currently has there own name for the trail. Hence the name Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton. Heading south from Easthampton, future plans call for a trail to be developed in Southampton which will one day connect into the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail in Westfield, the Southwick Rail Trail in Southwick and the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail Northern Section in Connecticut. For more information visit; MANHAN RAIL TRAIL  .

In 1828, the Farmington Canal opened for excursion boats to take passengers from New Haven to as far as Northampton, Massachusetts. The canal was 86 miles long, 4 feet deep and 36 feet wide. Twenty-eight locks were built in Connecticut to accommodate a 292 foot total drop in elevation along the canal. The canal was never profitable and so by 1848 railroad tracks were being laid along the old canal route. The New Haven & Northampton RR/Canal Line was born, changing ownership over the years until the Boston & Maine Railroad discontinued service along this line. See; NH & NH RR .

Starting from Route 5; A map board is located here. The paved Manhan Rail Trail passes by the power sub station and then passes beneath I-91. You can see the part of the Connecticut River known as the "Hook" because it breaks off from the main river and forms a hook back towards Route 5. The trail also follows along the Manhan River, for which the trail is named. After crossing over a small bridge, you will see an opening on your left in the split rail fencing and a green bike rack at 0.8 miles. There will also be a sign that reads "Old Pascommuck Conservation Area/Florence Smith Nature Trail". A set of wooden steps head up to your right, but you head left down the path to the stone base of the bridge. Standing next to the bottom of the stone stair abutment, take a compass reading of 150 degrees. Walk up a small hill past the tree your compass pointed too and spot an old log on the ground. Go to the right end of the log where it's piled up and you will see 2 old railroad ties. Under the front railroad tie is the Manhan Rail Trail Letterbox. Continuing along the trail, you'll pass a small green sign to your right on the fence. This is the 1 mile marker. These mileage markers are placed every mile along the right side of the trail (very low to the ground). At 1 ¼ miles is the first of many old cement Whistle Stop posts that you will pass by, remaining from the days when this was a railroad line. After passing by an old factory to your left, that still has a railroad siding and tracks running alongside it you'll come to a sharp left turn in the trail at 2 1/4 miles. This is where the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North joins the Manhan Rail Trail. Here you'll find a map board. 

Note; Head right to follow the paved Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North to Northampton. See; Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North for trail directions and information.

Continuing straight along the southern leg of the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail South you'll cross Ferry St and travel past Mill Side Park, which contains restrooms. The trail travels alongside Mill Pond through an industrial area before coming to Route 141. A cross walk is here, but no cross light, so USE CAUTION. Right up Route 141 takes you to downtown Easthampton and Route 10. There are places to eat or grab some snacks. A map board is located here next to a small sculpture park at 3.3 miles. Along the side wall of the plaza is a giant mural that was created just for the bike trail, showing the towns buildings and people. Opposite is the old RR Depot. The trail then heads into a more shaded section after passing between Wilton Brook pond, with the Williston Northampton School along your right. You pass through an old stone tunnel underneath Park St. The trail then crosses South St after 4.3 miles. Another map board located here. Nice wood fencing located along this section which is wooded along the left and residential right. The trail currently ends after 5 miles at Coleman Rd just past the Southampton town line. Here you'll find a map board and bench area. Future plans call for extending the trail south through Southampton to connect into Westfield's Columbia Greenway Rail Trail

HH

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LETTERBOX LAST VERIFIED ON

MARCH 18, 2012

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