The Steep Rock Association is a land trust that works to purchase, protect, and administer open space and conservation land in Washington, Connecticut. Steep Rock Preserve, the association’s first preserve and the parcel from which its name derives, is probably their most well-known property and certainly a long-time favorite of Trails of Freedom. But Steep Rock Association protects other parcels of land throughout Washington, such as Macricostas Preserve (pictured above), which offer hikers some beautiful and varied landscapes that are sure to satisfy.
Macricostas Preserve is the newest of the Steep Rock Association’s preserves and was established only 11 years ago; a mere blink-of-an-eye when you consider that Steep Rock Preserve has been around for nearly 90 years (albeit at a smaller acreage than it currently encompasses). Nonetheless, the 368-acre property at Macricostas Preserve fits snugly into the fantastic holdings of the Steep Rock Association and boasts a wide range of interesting habitats that benefit wildlife just as much they impress visiting hikers.
The 98-acres of Meeker Swamp are located in the center of the Preserve and essentially split the remainder of Macricostas in two halves: the rocky ridge and woodlands in the north and the meadows in the south. The swamp itself acts as the headwaters of Bee Brook, which emerges from the wetlands to meander throughout the southern half of the Preserve on its way to feed the nearby Shepaug River.
Hiking trails in the northern section of Macricostas Preserve ascend the slope of Waramaug’s Rock, a forested ridge that rises to an elevation of 1250 feet and rewards those who reach the summit with an excellent overlook of picturesque Lake Waramaug in the distance.
In stark contrast, the bulk of the southern half of the Preserve treats hikers to idyllic views of an expansive, gently-rolling meadowland. Totaling about 50 acres, this sprawling field of grasses and wildflowers is a charming throwback to the pastures of 19th-century Connecticut. There are few places left in the state where you’ll find such a large meadow nestled in an otherwise natural setting; most have either been overtaken by forest, been developed for housing and business or become so crowded by human habitation that they cease to feel like the country-side of old. This author can attest that the meadowlands of Macricostas are his favorite corner of the Preserve.
Macricostas Preserve, like so many parcels of modern conservation land, was rescued from potential development plans that would’ve covered this precious landscape with a few hundred condominiums. In 2000, the combined efforts of the Steep Rock Association, the Town of Washington, and Connecticut’s Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Program managed to amass enough money to purchase the property and protect its natural and bucolic character. At that time, the property totaled just under 250 acres. Subsequent adjacent land acquisitions have added more than 100 acres to expand the Preserve to its modern size.
While Steep Rock Preserve may still be the flagship property of the Steep Rock Association, the diverse lands of Macricostas Preserve will surely gain more popularity as time goes on. This patchwork of contrasting terrains -forest, ridges, swamplands, meadows, and running water- encompasses a taste of all those landscapes that Connecticut hikers have come to love… all miraculously within walking distance from a single trailhead tucked away in the hills of Washington.