MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL; NORWOTTUCK WEST

NORTHAMPTON-WILLIAMSBURG, MASSACHUSETTS

MANHAN/NEW HAVEN & NORTHAMPTON CANAL RAIL TRAIL NORTH

EASTHAMPTON-NORTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS

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Last Updated:       June 25, 2017

Length:                 Mass Central Rail Trail: Norwottuck West; 4 miles

                                Look Park Loop Trail; 1.5 miles

                               Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail; 4.3 miles to Manhan Rail Trail intersection; 7 miles to the Southampton town line (where the trail currently ends).

Difficulty:             Mass Central Rail Trail: Norwottuck West; Easy. Paved rail trail with slight grade one direction.

                               Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail; Easy. Paved rail trail.

Directions:           From I-91:

Northbound; Take exit 19 and continue straight off the ramp across Route 9 onto Damon Rd. On your right is Elwell State Park, providing access to the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck East. You may also park here to connect to the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck West. To start from King Street; Continuing along Damon Rd, you travel under I-91 and come to Routes 5 & 10 (King St) at the light. Turn left on King St and follow until you come to the Stop & Shop Kingsgate plaza on your right. As you turn right into the plaza look left to spot a spur trail. This trail runs through the parking lot and connects to the trail near where it crosses King St. 

Southbound: Take exit 20 to Routes 5 & 10 (N King St) south. To start from King Street; Continue straight on King St and follow until you come to the Stop & Shop Kingsgate plaza on your right. As you turn right into the plaza look left to spot a spur trail. This trail runs through the parking lot and connects to the trail near where it crosses King St.  

Until the 1930s, there were two parallel railroads that ran north through Northampton. The Boston & Maine's (B&M) Connecticut River Division, which runs to this day on the east side of Route 5, and the New Haven & Northampton RR, which basically ran on the west side of Route 5. The RR bed was originally constructed in 1868 as part of the New Haven & Northampton Railroad which later was acquired by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroadómost commonly known as the New Haven Railroad (NH). The New Haven & Northampton RR then branched off to Williamsburg. Remains of the footings for the overpass over Route 5 are still visible where the line once headed toward what is now Super Stop & Shop. This commercial development, and the others just north of here, sit atop what was once the New Haven's classification yard and engine service facilities, complete with turntable and coaling tower. This is where the Williamsburg Branch began and what is now referred to as the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck West, even though it was never part of the Mass Central RR. See; HISTORY OF WILLIAMSBURG BRANCH .

Three rail trails Spoke out from the east side of King St (Routes 5 & 10). 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 June 2017, construction is still underway on the new tunnel underneath the RR tracks. Expected opening of Oct 2017) 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 North 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 South 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 .

Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck West:

Starting from the Spoke (King Street); From the intersection of the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North, Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck East and Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck West follow the paved trail west out to King St. Turn left and use the cross-light over King St where you'll find a map board and maps. The Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck West travels northwest alongside the Stop & Shop Kingsgate plaza. 

Note; An intersecting trail on your right at 0.2 miles is a Spur Trail that travels through the Stop & Shop Kingsgate plaza and back out to King St. Parking located in the plaza.

The trail begins a bit of an assent as it travels alongside the Barrett Street Marsh on your right. You'll travel underneath the Jackson Street Bridge at 3/4 miles where a ramp leads up to Jackson St and another map board. Come to the first of several low volume road crossings via Prospect St at 1 mile. You travel along a high berm and cross two more streets before coming to an adobe bench under a wooden lean-to. Here you'll find an air pump for public use, as well as, a pay phone. A sign indicates their is a "Lending Library" here as well. Just after crossing Chestnut St, look to your left to spot an old RR Semaphore Arm. The trail levels out as you come to N Maple St at 2.2 miles near downtown Florence. 

Note; Heading left brings you out to Route 9. Places to shop and eat.

After traveling along a medium sized berm you come to Bridge St. A map board is located here. The old rail bed continues across the street, but follow the paved trail through the roundabout and across N Main St (Route 9). This brings you to the entrance for Look Park. An opening in the iron gate leads to the Look Park parking lot at 2.9 miles. 

Note; Look Park is a great park for kids. Open year round during daylight hours with reasonable entrance fees and picnic site fees. Visit;  LOOK PARK  for more information on fees and amenities such as pedal boats, bumper boats, miniature golf, water spray park and even a mini train that runs inside the park. A mile and a half paved trail loops through the park connecting all areas together. At the entrance to Look Park is a parking area you may start from, unless you plan on visiting the park, in which case the loop trail within the park will bring you back to this parking lot. 

The trail travels past the gatehouse (map board) and into the park passing by the miniature golf course. When you reach the road, the trail turns right. Straight takes you along the parks trails. The trail skirts the park before turning right and heading back out of the park and back to the paved rail trail at 3.4 miles.

Note; If you head right, the trail brings you back out to N Main St and the entrance for Look Park.

Head left along the trail as it travels above N Main St on your right and the park on your left. You'll cross over two wooden bridges, the second over Arch St and head back into the woods. You'll spot the Mill River below on your left. Come to Mulberry St where you'll find another map board at 4.3 miles. Down to your left is a nice old brick mill building along the river in Leeds Village. Crosswalk over Mulberry St. The trail travels only a short distance before the pavement ends at 4.5 miles. On your left is an old stone dam across the river. Waterfall created by the spillway. Be sure to check it out. The trail continues along the river, but consists of a stone-dust base. Check out all the artwork created out of what people found along the trail. Come to a spur trail at 4.8 miles.

Note; This paved spur trail heads right uphill to Grove Ave, a residential dead end road. 

The trail becomes paved as it continues north alongside the river crossing a wooden bridge over Beaver Brook. The paved trail ends after 5.2 miles as you cross into Williamsburg. A short section has been graded but at 5.5 miles the trail is undeveloped. Future plans call for continuing this section out to Main St (Route 9) in Williamsburg. 

Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North:

Starting from the Spoke (King Street); From the intersection of the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North, Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck East and Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck West head south along the paved trail.

Note; To access the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck East, you need to travel north alongside the active RR tracks, however, as of June 2017 this section, which will lead to a tunnel under the active RR tracks, is still under construction. Instead you need to detour south along the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North.

The paved trail travels south alongside the active RR tracks and comes to a wooden bridge over North St. After crossing the bridge at 0.2 miles, you'll come to a paved spur trail on your right.

Note; To access the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck East, follow this path down to North St and travel right underneath the bridge and railroad tracks. Although you may think North St ends at the intersection, it actually bears left and so do you. When you come to Woodmont Rd, take a left and this will bring you to the paved Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck East after 0.4 miles.

Continuing south alongside the active RR tracks you cross a bridge over Main/Bridge Street (Route 9) alongside the B & M Line trestle bridge. This section is referred to as the William Nagle SR. Walkway. The trail then passes by the old Union Station after 0.5 miles. An Amtrak Station is also located here. You come to Pleasant St (Route 5) where a cross-walk takes you over to the trail as it turns westward. Map boards are located all along the route.

Note; You can detour right out to Main St and downtown Northampton. Lots of shops and places to eat.

After traveling over a small bench lined berm you'll encounter a large parking area as you come to Old South St. Cross this road and follow the trail past the Roundhouse parking lot at 0.9 miles. Map boards are located all along the trail.

Note; Over on your right is the old Gas Works building (the Roundhouse), which was used as a gas holder when it was constructed in 1856.

Continue straight and travel underneath South St (Route 10) along the paved trail, passing by a skateboard park and alongside West St (Route 66). Smith College is just to the north. A parking lot is located just before you pass by the Felt building at 1.2 miles. Next you'll cross a wooden bridge over the Mill River. Check out the scenic red horse stables on your right. You come to the intersection of Earle & Grove Streets after 1.7 miles. Follow the crosswalks over to where the trail travels up a slight hill. The trail heads into the woods and travels along a small berm. You cross over Route 10 at 2.5 miles via an iron enclosed bridge. The open trail now follows the transmission lines alongside Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. Cross Lovefield St at 3.4 miles and parallel this street to the junction of Lovefield & O'Neil streets. An iron bridge takes you over the Manhan River. Look left to spot the stone embankments from the old RR bridge that used to cross here. The trail then comes to an intersection after 4.3 miles. Here you have two options:

1. Head left (east) along the Manhan Rail Trail out to Route 5. A distance of 2.3 miles. See; Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail South for directions and information for starting from Route 5.

2. Continue straight along the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail to the Southampton town line. Another 2 3/4 miles. See; Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail South for directions and information for continuing from here.

HH

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