You think you've seen all there is to see in New England? Well, there's a corner of Connecticut that isn't as urbanized and developed as some other parts of the region, where you can unwind and breathe country air.
Eastern Connecticut doesn't have splashy resorts or a big national park, but it does have the Quinebaug & Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor - www.nps.gov/qush - a mouthful of a name for a loosely organized scenic region of villages, farms, rivers, state parks and forests and the occasional antique shop. Since it isn't a formal park, there isn't a lot of detailed information here, until you dig through "Plan Your Visit" to "Things to Do," and then hit "click here" for a long list of regional attractions. The corridor also extends into south-central Massachusetts.
For a friendlier approach to Web travel surfing, The Last Green Valley - http://thelastgreenvalley.org - touts the two river valleys' more than 80 ponds and lakes, hiking trails, and wildlife, including moose and black bears. Look to the bottom of the page for a night satellite shot that illustrates how rural the area is, and look for "Photo Gallery" for the daytime scenery. Then click on "Tourist Information" for what you really need to know, including a detailed map. Explore the rural nature of the region by clicking on "Attractions" and then "Agricultural" - you can visit everything from pick-your-own orchards to maple sugar houses and a distillery (natural fruit brandy).
"Attractions" also has links to state forests and parks, and something called "Unique & Curious." Near the bottom of the "Attractions" menu is an entry for self-guided tours, including bicycle treks. To really enjoy a region like this, you wouldn't want to stay in just any roadside motel, so check out the campgrounds and accommodations, which include bed and breakfast inns with names such as Wappoquia Brook and Baileys-By-The-Pond.
It's not all hiking and biking. Visit America's Byways - www.byways.org - click on "Explore . . . " and go to Connecticut State Route 169, which passes the heritage corridor's colonial homesteads and small towns. Keep it in mind when you're planning a fall foliage season trip.
And, it's not all strictly rural. The town of Putnam - www.putnamct.us - calls itself the Quiet Corner of Connecticut, a place to stroll and shop. Try "Guides" for the River Mills Heritage Trail and Putnam River Trail, and save a few minutes to browse the photo gallery. "Links" has connections to more regional tourism Web sites.
The town is also a convenient spot to spend money. Putnam Antiques - www.putnamantiques.com - will give you an introduction to the local shops.
The National Heritage Corridor is only a part of this end of the Nutmeg State. See what else you can see and do in eastern Connecticut by visiting the regional page of the state's official CTvisit - www.tourism.state.ct.us/tourism_regions/default.asp - and clicking on "Mystic Country." They'll lead you to information on the Mystic Seaport maritime museum and the Mystic Aquarium, casinos, the USS Nautilus and Submarine Force Museum, and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.
A new Web site makes it easier to plan trips to federal recreation sites, from monuments and historic attractions to forests, parks and scenic byways.
The site - www.recreation.gov - allows you to see photos of and information about thousands of places and activities. You can also use Recreation.gov to make reservations and payments for tours, camp sites and other accommodations.
"Recreation.gov not only simplifies reservations, it showcases the many opportunities to enjoy public lands," Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns said in a statement. "This is a refreshing change for those who have searched multiple Web pages."
If you go to the Web site with something specific in mind - say a camp site at California's Yosemite National Park or a tour of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky - booking is fast and easy.
But it's also a lot of fun to just browse and explore the Web site. Take a look at the destinations featured on the home page, which has included the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northeastern Minnesota, and Stub Creek Cabin, which you can rent for a stay in a national forest near Fort Collins, Colo. Or click around and check out the options for biking, horseback riding, water sports or hunting.
You can also search by location.
Other links from the Web site help you learn about boating safety, sign up to volunteer at federal sites, or "share your story" about driving national scenic byways.
Recreation.gov supports the National Recreation Reservation Service, which consolidates the capability to reserve sites managed by these agencies.