NATURE
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent

As challenging a year as it was, one of the upsides of 2020 was that it gave us increased opportunities to spend time outdoors. We are so fortunate, here on the South Shore, to have a seemingly endless supply of parks, preserves, and conservation areas.

Last year each of these Nature columns was devoted to a specific town, highlighting some of the best walking places to be found there. This year we’ll be returning to more varied themes, with the continued intention of introducing you to, or reacquainting you with, a wide variety of places to hike, to fish, to paddle . . . or just to enjoy the view.

Be sure to check out the Explore South Shore 2021 Contest, which has been extended for another full year. We’ll be branching out a little farther across the region this year, featuring properties both within and beyond the watershed of the North and South Rivers. Each week we’ll highlight a new property to explore, and encourage you to visit, and post a photo from your adventure to Instagram with the hashtag #ExploreSouthShore. Once a month, we’ll randomly select a winner and award a prize.

I’m so excited to share this month’s column with you! Below is a list of ten places I discovered only recently. Some of them are new, some are just new-to-me, and some were improved in one way or another over the past year. I hope you’ll enjoy exploring them!

Nathaniel Thomas Mill

Not far from the Hanson Town Hall, across from Wampatuck Pond on Route 58, stands this historic structure. Indian Head Brook flows from the pond, under the roadway, right past — and through — this renovated sawmill. If — like me — you’re fascinated by flowing water, you’re going to enjoy just standing on the observation deck, looking down into the brook as it passes by. The 1.3-acre property is small but mighty. A short walk down one side brings you to the edge of the brook, which flows through Hanson into the Indian Head River, one of the North River’s most significant tributaries. Ample on-site parking on Liberty Street in Hanson. Visit: https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/nathaniel-thomas-mill/

Cavern Rock Park

What an unexpected delight it was, to discover this unusual 36-acre property! Cavern Rock Park was acquired by the Town of Weymouth in 1968. It stands out among other local offerings because of its challenging 0.7-mile loop trail, which snakes through an oak forest, and features numerous granite outcroppings, many covered with moss. The steep trail is not for everyone. You won’t need ropes and carabiners, but if you enjoy scrambling over large boulders, be sure to check this place out. The land here drains to Whitman’s Pond, one of the headwaters of the Weymouth Back River, which flows for 10 miles to Hingham Bay. On-site parking for 3 cars on Westminster Road. Visit: https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/cavern-rock-park/

Lapham Woods

Forward thinking by the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society preserved this 36-acre woodland for posterity in 1931 and 1952. Located on both sides of Depot Street, where it intersects with Tremont (across from the Duxbury Town Offices), it provides a broad swath of pine forest within a busy part of Duxbury. There are several trailheads, and about 1.5 miles altogether of trails. The land here lies within the watershed of the Bluefish River which drains to Duxbury Bay. Limited roadside parking on Depot Street. Visit: https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/lapham-woods/

Indian Crossway Conservation Area

If you’ve visited the Burrage Pond Wildilfe Management Area in Hanson, you already know this terrain. But the 1.1-mile Indian Crossway trail offers alternate access, as well as new vantage points. Usually when we talk about historic properties, we’re referring to places that date back to the Colonial era. But this goes back much farther. Extending along the highland between the Great Cedar Swamp and the Burrage Pond reservoirs, it was established by Native Americans as a travel route between the North and Taunton River watershed. The waters here drain through Stump Brook to Robbins Pond, a headwater to the Satucket River, and part of the Taunton River watershed. Limited parking on Crooker Place in Hanson. Visit: https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/indian-crossway-conservation-area/

Great Pond Trail

Great Pond provides Weymouth’s drinking water. This 1-mile trail network extends through a beech and pine forest and along the lakeshore, skirting wetlands and glacial erratic boulders, and offering spectacular water views. Great Pond is part of the Back River watershed. Its waters flow northeast to Whitman’s Pond and the Back River. You’ll find trailheads and parking at two locations on Thicket Street — Gifford Playground and Negus Park. Visit: https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/great-pond-trail/

Crosbie Family Preserve

Scituate has been on a roll lately! Not only has the town opened hundreds of acres of conservation land to the public, it has furnished them with excellent trail maps and parking areas. You’re going to want to check these places out. The newest among several properties off Clapp Road in the West End is the 50-acre Crosbie Family Preserve, which opened this summer. You’ll find stone walls, agricultural fields, and several intersecting loops trails through the woods and wetlands abutting South Swamp. The swamp drains to three different streams — Aaron Brook and Bound Brook, which flow to the Gulf River and Cohasset Harbor, and First Herring Brook, a major tributary to the North River. Limited on-site parking just east of 253 Clapp Road, Scituate. Visit: https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/crosbie-family-preserve/

Masthead Drive Trail

If you’ve enjoyed the North River from the water, you may have noticed this trail and wondered how to find it. Because of its location at end of a quiet road, nearly adjacent to Route 3, it’s not really “on the way” to anywhere. But it is well-worth the trip! Follow Norwell’s Masthead Drive to the very end, and park in the cul de sac. Look for the trailhead just behind the storm drain grate. Follow the trail through the woods, up and down some moderate rolling hills, and across a small footbridge. After 0.4 mile, you’ll find yourself looking out over the North River. It’s a gorgeous spot, and if you continue a little farther to the left, you’ll find two additional vantage points. Visit: https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/masthead-drive-trail/

Harbor Walk

In terms of conservation acreage, Marshfield runs at the front of the pack of South Shore towns, with only Plymouth boasting more open space. For those who prefer strolling on paved trails, the newly-expanded Harbor Walk provides endless scenery without the challenges of a forest hike. Located directly on Green Harbor, this wide concrete 1-mile path connects several popular landmarks — the town pier, two parks, and the Brant Rock Esplanade — with views of the harbor, the estuary, and the Green Harbor River. For parking, look for the small lot across the street from Harbor Park. Visit: https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/harbor-park-and-harbor-walk/

Berrybrook Fields

For a glimpse of Duxbury’s agricultural past, check out these rolling green fields on Winter Street. This tree-lined 40-acre property features a small drumlin hill at its center with some impossibly picturesque oaks standing tall at the top. For a pleasant walk, follow the cart path along the eastern edge of the property, and continue all the way around the perimeter. The land here drains to Bassett Brook, part of the Jones River Watershed. Limited roadside parking on Winter Street. Visit: https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/berrybrook-fields/

Studley Pond

Within Rockland’s busy commercial center, there’s this 29-acre oasis of calm — Studley Pond. Located directly behind the CVS on Market Street, this is a great spot to fish, to paddle, or even just to pause for a few deep breaths. Known first as Silver Lake, and then Reed’s Pond, through the years it has been home to a mill, a box factory, an ice company, and even a swimming pavilion. You’ll see vestiges of its past along the shoreline. French’s Stream, a tributary to the Indian Head River, flows through the pond. Limited on-site parking. Visit: https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/studley-pond-reeds-pond/

Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. You will also find 25+ years of Kezia’s Nature columns there. For more information about the Explore South Shore 2021 Contest, visit https://www.nsrwa.org/get-outdoors/explore-south-shore-2021-contest/