Sherwood Mill Pond And Island: The Hidden Culverts

Generations of Westporters know John Kantor from his decades owning and running Longshore Sailing School.

But he’s comfortable near any body of water. He lives on Grove Point Road, bordering Sherwood Mill Pond. John writes:

Whenever there is a big coastal flood due to a hurricane, tropical storm or nor’easter, Grove Point residents talk about shutting the flood gates at Old Mill to keep the seawater out of our neighborhood. They believe that it is where floodwaters come from.

It is not entirely true.

The Mill Pond is not a closed system whose seawater level is controlled exclusively by the tide gates at Old Mill.

Did you know that you could paddle a canoe or kayak, non-stop from Grove Point to Greens Farms Academy?  And, under certain conditions, even to the Greens Farms post office?

Sherwood Mill Pond, Sherwood Island State Park and environs. Grove Point is at left, off Hillspoint Road. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

You can. You just need to pass through 3 culverts. But watch your head. Some have low clearance.

And if you turn to starboard in the marsh channel at Burying Hill Beach, you could paddle straight into Long Island Sound. It is an independent seawater connection to the Mill Pond – a Mill Pond back door.

You can kayak all the way from Sherwood Mill Pond to Burying Hill Beach (shown above).

To prove it, the other day I took a walkabout.

I went to the Sherwood Island State Park “Mission Control” office on the Connector, and got permission to slog around in the wetlands. I wanted to see the culvert that I knew existed, which connects the Mill Pond to the wetlands north of the state park. I wanted photos to bring back as proof.

I took many shots from every possible angle, from the pond on our side all the way to the New Creek wetlands alongside Greens Farms Academy.

The culvert from Sherwood Mill Pond to Sherwood Island State Park …

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officers assured me that the tidal flow, ebb and flood, to and from the pond, goes both ways in the culvert on a daily basis.

The cast concrete box culvert is sizable. Actually there are 2, separated by a common concrete wall. Each is wide enough for two canoes to pass through side by side.

… and the view from the park, looking west to the Mill Pond.

The culverts have no control gates. Water passes through freely on all tides. Tidal surge seawater can enter the pond through them in substantial volume regardless of whether or not the gates at Old Mill are open or shut.

Sherwood Island really is an island. It is surrounded by water on all sides. It just doesn’t appear that way. because the big double culverts are hidden from view beneath the Sherwood Island Connector. You drive over them whenever you enter the State Park.

New Creek culverts by Beachside Avenue, further east. (Photos/John Kantor)

Fun Fact: There is a significant delay in the tide change in the Sherwood marsh system, relative to the Sound. I witnessed a rising tide level on the state park beach side of the Burying Hill breakwater, while the ebbing current was still flowing (at a good clip) out of the Sherwood wetlands on the other side of the breakwater — just a few feet apart!

12 responses to “Sherwood Mill Pond And Island: The Hidden Culverts

  1. Joyce Barnhart

    Some years ago, Diane Worden from Earthplace, took a group on a canoe trip from Burying Hill into the Mill Pond. It was a great experience and something I’d love to do again.

  2. Richard W. Alley

    The Mill Pond, tidal gates and culverts, also provide some of the best fishing to be found in Westport waters. In August and September, snapper blues move in and out with every tide. Striped bass can be caught in the Pond itself, while entrances and exits at New Creek and the Tidal gates offer outstanding opportunities for bigger fish. The flats in the Cove allow anglers to follow the fish into open water as the tide drops. One of the early fishing stories I did for the Westport News featured my then five-year-old Grandson Chris, catching his first snapper blues behind Allen’s Clam House. This year, we might take his son Tucker for his first try at the baby bluefish. – Dick Alley

  3. Robin Bates

    Like this piece! I believe the last photo though is the culvert at Burying Hill Beach (New Creek and Beachside Ave).

  4. Ernie Lorimer

    I submitted a few corrections to Google Maps this morning. “Burial Hill Beach” indeed.

    • When I was growing up here, it was called both “Burying Hill” and “Burial Hill.” I haven’t heard “Burial” in years.

  5. Craig Clark

    My father and I made a fabric covered kayak from a kit back in the early 60’s. Growing up on the Cove gave me access either through the gates or by the first house then owned by the Morrison’s. I can’t count how many times I made the trip from the mill pond to Burying Hill and in the reverse. I have written about this before and it is truly one of Westport’s hidden gems. Shore birds of every flavor, crabs and fish made the trips special. If you timed the tide right you could make the trip with little effort. There is something special about gliding through the water silently listening to the squawks of the herons and egrets. Of all the things I miss from Westport, this is close to the top.

  6. Michael Calise

    It’s been a while but it sure is a great trip!

  7. Wow, so interesting, John! I always wondered why Sherwood Island was called an island when it didn’t appear to be so. And thanks Craig for your poignant comment, & to Dan for posting. I enjoyed this very much. Anyone offering guided kayak tours??

  8. Terry Brannigan

    Back in the day, when my sister and I worked at Alen’s and Old Mill had not silted in, I used to actually take my 13′ Boston Whaler through those culverts into the pond which was deeper back then.  

    I grew up down there and had friends on the perimeter.  I can remember Ben Dossett and Keal Evans and I water skiing in the Mill Pond and tying up at Robert Nimpkoff’s house on the tip of Groves Point. We also used to ski in through the Burying Hill channel and all the way up to the Culvert. It was remarkable, like glass and you could ski over the grasses. Felt like you were in the everglades!

    BTW: There were other outboards on the Mill Pond as well back then.   No need to tell me about the impact to the shellfish, it was a long time ago!

  9. Seth Schachter

    A word of caution —— Enjoyed reading this as well– I have made this trip before via kayak (few times) and I will caution the reader and potential adventurer– after leaving the Mill Pond and going under the Culvert under Sherwood Island Connector, there is a small bridge you go under that leads to a private residence (I believe a distant relative of the Sherwood family). The currents under this small bride depending on the tidal changes can be challenging. One might have to ‘muscle it’ to get through and you need to be careful of the ‘strainer’ effect where twigs, branches, etc. build up in this area. If you get turned you don’t want to get trapped in this. Just a word of caution —- Thought that some would hopefully find it helpful.

  10. Nancy McKeever

    Took this fun trip with my oldest son in a two person kayak when we lived on Edgewater Hillside. We learned, from experience, to go with the tide.