Council Rock

photo by Erik Ofgang
photo by Erik Ofgang
According to local traditions, the rock formation was a gathering place for the Schaghticoke tribe. Chief Squantz, who held sway over the Schaghticoke in the early 1700s, could stand there, as if at a pulpit, and address a large gathering of his tribesmen.

Today it is hidden in the thick woods above Squantz Pond in New Fairfield, Connecticut, accessible only to intrepid hikers willing to work up a sweat finding it. It is worth the effort. Council Rock is a fascinating piece of both natural history and Native American History.

One giant round slab of rock rests above other rocks forming a natural canopy or veranda, depending on what perspective you look at it from. For Chief Squantz, after whom Squantz Pond is named, it apparently served as a stage, a place where he could stand and see people approaching and where many people could see him.

During my most recent visit, on an unseasonably warm day last winter, I could not resist the urge to ascend to the top of the rock. This was more difficult than it looks. The route I chose involved some actual climbing, which I was not prepared for and am not adept at. I ripped my jeans in the process, but ultimately I reached the summit. Standing on the natural shelf the rock forms, I looked out over the sloping land beneath me. At that time of year, there were no leaves on the trees and I had a great vantage point of Squantz Pond.

Council Rock is located in a part of Pootatuck Forest with large old trees that, in the summer, cast long, thick shadows that remind me of Tolkien’s Mirkwood. Standing on that ancient natural stage, in the shadow of those trees, I thought I caught a glimpse, however brief, of the way things once were.

Erik Ofgang
Associate Editor