History of the River

Tom Walsh, Shoreline Aerial Photography

Home > History of the River > A Refuge in Paradise

A Refuge in Paradise

Eight miles up the Connecticut River from the Long Island Sound, Hamburg Cove is considered by many to be the most beautiful, and certainly one of the best-protected boating destinations in the area.

For generations its broad outer cove has offered protection from wind and waves, from all directions, by the wooded hills that surround it.

Hamburg Cove is still considered the perfect “hurricane hole” providing shelter from the nor’easters that frequently wreak havoc on the New England coast. When the barometer starts to fall, boaters in the know head for the cove to hunker down.

Looking like a page out of a tour guide for Maine, it is an incredibly popular place for boaters. But this also means it can get very crowded on summer weekends. Because of the large number of moorings and the swing-room required by changing tides and currents, anchoring is not permitted.

Two boats make their way through channel into the picturesque outer cove.

Two boats make their way through channel into the picturesque outer cove. Tom Walsh, Shoreline Aerial Photography.


However, moorings can often be rented through Cove Landing Marina which is actually located within the smaller, inner cove. Although anchoring anywhere is forbidden, there is a local custom that anyone can pick up an empty mooring as long as they stay aboard their boat and are prepared to relinquish it if the owner returns with their own boat. Best call ahead!

Ironically, although known as the area’s safest place to be in a blow, it is also legendary for frequent groundings. This has nothing to do with the weather. Like the river’s own mouth, the entrance to Hamburg Cove appears wide and welcoming. But boaters who do not have local knowledge and feel they can cut the channel markers discover that there are muddy shoals, and even rocks waiting just outside the narrow channel. Aerial photos reveal great scars in the bottom where sailboat keels have plowed through the sandy muck before lurching to a stop.


inner cove in the foreground

With the inner cove in the foreground, the outer cove joins the Connecticut River adjacent Brockway Island with Essex just beyond. Tom Walsh, Shoreline Aerial Photography.

The cove marks the interface between the Connecticut River and the outflow of the Eight-Mile River, which is not navigable but can be explored at high tide with a dinghy or kayak. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the Eight Mile River got its name, not for being eight miles long, but because it joins the Connecticut River eight miles upstream from Long Island Sound. Creative people, those colonials!

Speaking of history, on Cove Landing Marina’s website, you can find an excellent recounting, complete with vintage photographs, of the Cove’s deep ties to the maritime trades including fishing, coastal and West Indies schooner-commerce and even shipbuilding.

Today it is all about recreational boating and the historic charm that lingers here. While some of the old dwellings and boat houses have been replaced, or radically altered by new owners, much of the lost-in-time allure remains. The Connecticut River Gateway Commission continues to work closely with the local zoning commission and responsible home owners to help ensure that renovations are more in tune with this truly magical place and that uphold its unique scenic, ecological, scientific and historic value as called for by Section 25-102a.

If you are coming up the river by boat, hang a hard right as you reach Brockway Island and you will be in for a true adventure… just stay in the channel!


deep blue waters meet the horizon

The Outer Cove and Brockway Island. Tom Walsh, Shoreline Aerial Photography.