What is the Zone?

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The Zone is a simplified name for the Gateway Conservation Zone that was created by state law in the early 1970s and adopted by eight lower river valley towns.

It is located in parts of East Haddam, Essex, Chester, Deep River, Haddam, Lyme, Old Lyme, and Old Saybrook.

Basically described, the Zone is that area of the lower river valley’s hillsides, shoreline and marshland that can be seen from the river—and from land across the river. This includes various coves and tributaries as well as the main river channel.

The Zone extends roughly 20 miles “as the crow flies” from its far northern boundary down to the Connecticut River’s mouth between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme. As the river meanders south to Long Island Sound, it forms 59 miles of shoreline in the Zone.

Tree lined riverbank
Tree lined riverbank, Katie Perzanowski, DEEP

This lower Connecticut River valley features numerous state parks, famous landmarks such as Gillette’s Castle, a ferry that began service before America became independent, a scenic railroad, waterfront dining establishments, homes, marinas, museums, and award-winning theaters. It truly is a special region.

The Connecticut River Gateway Commission was created to preserve the Zone’s “natural and traditional” character and today works cooperatively with the eight towns to blend development with care.

a group tour of the historic site
Gillette's Castle, Wendolyn Hill
Ramsar logo overlays the a photo of the Connecticut River

The Connecticut River has a very impressive list of honors.

The lower river and its wetlands complex were named by the International Ramsar Convention as being “internationally important.” The river tidelands, including the Zone, are considered one of the Western Hemisphere’s “40 Last Great Places” by the Nature Conservancy. It is the first, and only, National Blueway per the federal Department of the Interior. And it is an “American Heritage River.”