ROCKY NECK STATE PARK
The large stone pavilion, diverse trail systems, and gently sloping beach make this park ideal for families. Try crabbing or fishing. Look for hawks, cranes, and herons. Rocky Neck provides something for all members of the family.
An ideal setting for families, Rocky Neck State Park has a wide array of interesting geological features perfect for exploring. The best geology in the Park can be investigated along the water's edge near the beach, only a short walk from the parking lot. Likewise, the hiking trails in the Park have nice examples of glacial plucking and glacial boulders. Loose sediments at one time covered Connecticut's coastline, including Rocky Neck State Park. This layer of loose sediments protected the seaward flank of New England's bedrock from erosion. Eventually these sediments were washed away and the bedrock underneath was re-exposed. As a result, the topography along Connecticut's coast is more level than the topography inland, since the bedrock was not exposed as long to the effects of erosion.
In addition, glaciation had a huge impact on the way in which Rocky Neck State Park appears today. During the most recent advance of glaciation in New England, which took place approximately 24,000 years ago, there was a point where the climate became too warm for the advancing glacier. As the ice tried to flow south, the warm climate melted the glacier back. For approximately 5000 years, the glacier hovered over New England, advancing and melting. Containing large quantities of rock, sand, and clay, the glacier dumped these materials as the ice melted. Known as a terminal moraine, a large pile of rock, sand, and clay piled up at the edge of the glacier, marking the maximum advance of glaciation in the Northeast. Long Island, Fishers Island, Bluff Point, Napatree Point, Block Island, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cape Cod all formed as a result of that terminal moraine.
Long Island and Fishers Island act as a natural breakwater, protecting the entire coastline of Connecticut. Both Long Island and Fishers Island can be seen on a clear day from the beach at Rocky Neck State Park.
A good place to start exploring Rocky Neck State Park's geology is the area surrounding the large stone pavilion that is located near the beach. Directly beneath the pavilion are large outcrops of granitic gneiss. Gneiss (pronounced "nice") is a high grade metamorphic rock subjected to intense heat and pressure during formation. Gneiss is easily identifiable by the segregation of light and dark minerals giving it a banded texture. Gneiss usually consists of mostly elongated and granular, as opposed to platy, minerals. The granitic gneiss exposed at Rocky Neck State Park is part of the Potter Hill Granite Gneiss dating back to the Proterozoic. This gray, coarse-grained gneiss is irregular in texture with patches and streaks of pink granite. Likewise, there are lenses of orange-pink microcline feldspar. Other minerals present in the Potter Hill Granite Gneiss include quartz, garnet, tourmaline, and biotite. Rock and mineral collecting is prohibited in State Parks.
Located on Long Island Sound in the town of East Lyme, 710-acre Rocky Neck is a popular recreation spot. The public now enjoys use of the park because of a few farsighted conservationists who secured the land in 1931, using their personal funds until the State Legislature authorized its purchase.
Rocky Neck's varied terrain offers something for everyone. Clear waters and the stone-free beach with expanses of white sand make it ideal for swimming. Picnickers find the large stone pavilion useful and unique. In the 1930's, relief agencies constructed the curved masonry building of native materials and crafted supporting pillars with wood cut from each of the state parks and forests. Diverse trails within the park provide easy and interesting walks to the scenic salt marsh and to such points of interest as Baker's Cave, Tony's Nose and Shipyard. Family camping within walking distance of saltwater bathing is also popular at Rocky Neck with 160 wooded and open campsites offering weekenders and vacationers attractive overnight accommodations.
Bounded on the west by a tidal river and to the east by a broad salt marsh, Rocky Neck was known to both Indians and colonists as a place of abundant fish and wildlife. Today, high spring tides allow schools of alewives (herring) to swim into Bride Brook toward inland spawning grounds. The osprey, or fish hawk, is a frequent early summer visitor. In the fall, cranes, herons and mute swans wade among cattails and rose mallow. Seasonal changes provide opportunities to fish for mackerel, striped bass, blackfish and flounder.
Connecticut has made state parks, forests, trails, historic sites and beaches more accessible to our residents so they can enjoy the many attractions and beauty they offer. Under the Passport to the Parks program, parking fees are now eliminated at Connecticut State Parks for those with Connecticut registered vehicles. You can view the CONNECTICUT PASSPORT TO THE PARKS
web page to learn more.
Rocky Neck Campground offers 160 sites in both open and wooded settings. The camping season begins in May and ends September 30.
BBs / Inns
Located in the shoreline village of Madison, CT, the Inn offers a cozy and elegant atmosphere of antiques and estate furniture.
17.9 miles from park*
BBs / Inns
Located along the CT Shoreline midway between New York City and Boston, and only one hour from Hartford, with tons of local attractions both on the Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River.
8.7 miles from park*