Samp Mortar Rock Open Space Area
||west side of Springer Road just south of cul-de-sac
|| Google Maps
||historic conservation, hiking, wildlife conservation
Location and Access
This area is also called the Samp Mortar Rock Historical Site because of its unique history involving Native Americans and the Town’s Colonial-era inhabitants. There are many interesting legends associated with the huge rock formations in the center of the open space area. In one flat rock you can see the round depression in the form of a mortar in which Native Americans would grind corn (“samp”).
This seven-acre open space area in the Mill River watershed is just west of Samp Mortar Lake, which has its own interesting history. A short distance to the east you’ll find the Mountain Laurel Open Space Area. The Samp Mortar area is bounded by Springer Road on the east and by residential properties on Rock Ridge Road, Holly Dale Road, and Oriole Lane on the other sides.
The only point of access to the area at the present time is from Springer Road where there’s space for a few cars to park carefully along the side of the road.
Written accounts of the Town’s history describe the area as a sacred place for Native Americans who found shelter in the rocks, ground corn in the “samp mortar,” and took sustenance from the abundant wildlife all around. In addition, the rocks figure prominently in legends involving the Town’s early settlers and the Indian tribes, including a troubled romance that some have connected to the 1637 “Great Swamp Fight” with the Pequot Tribe in Southport. The Town would purchase much of the land that’s within the current boundaries of Fairfield, including the samp mortar rock area, from the tribes in the mid-to-late 1600’s.
By the 1900’s, the samp mortar rock area had become a popular picnic spot for people arriving in horse-drawn carriages from as far away as New York City. In 1901, a dam was built nearby on the Mill River to create the Samp Mortar Reservoir to supply drinking water to sections of the Town. (The reservoir is no longer used for that purpose.)
Later in the 20th century, the Samp Mortar Rock area was privately owned and operated as a natural park and recreation area for the youth of Fairfield County. The area would be acquired by the Town in 1966 for the purpose of preserving its natural resources and historic values and providing opportunities for hiking and picnicking.
The topography is steep and rugged. The most prominent landscape features are the huge glacially deposited boulders and the 30-foot high rock cliff face in the interior of the open space area. The high point, about 150 feet above sea level, provides a scenic vista of the surrounding forest.
Vegetation and Wildlife
The property is heavily wooded. Vegetation is mostly typical of an advanced northeastern hardwood forest, but other plant communities are also represented. There is, for example, a substantial under-story of Mountain Laurel.
Many species of mammals and birds are found in the open space area, including deer, raccoon, skunk, fox, opossum, squirrel, chipmunk, mice, songbirds, and raptors.
There are two maintained trails. The length of the “yellow” trail loop leading from the designated entrance at Springer Road to the historic rock formation and back is a little short of ½-mile. The “red” trail loops to the southeast promontory overlooking Samp Mortar Lake. Both trails have steep and rocky surfaces.
Scroll below to view photographs of the Samp Mortar Rock Open Space Area:
Page content from Frank Rice's 'Walking Through Fairfield's Open Spaces - A Guide to Fairfield Walking and Hiking Trails' published by the Conservation Commission in 2009.