Installing the Francis Keville Bridge on the South River in Marshfield.

After years of planning and discussion, there is now a footbridge over the South River in Marshfield Center, thanks to the efforts of the Planning Board, area businesses, and the family of Francis M. Keville, who erected the bridge in his memory.

The South River passes right through the center of Marshfield, yet many people have no idea that it’s even there. The river is visible upstream at Veterans Memorial Park, its first “public” appearance after winding through the woods of west Duxbury for several miles. It flows under Route 3A, and from there passes behind the playground of South River School, emerging again at Willow Street. But due to fences, dense vegetation, and traffic, none of these are ideal places to view the river.

From Willow Street east, the South River disappears amongst the vast expanses of salt marsh that border it on each side. You can catch small glimpses of it here and there in the side streets of the Rexhame neighborhood, but the river doesn’t appear again in plain sight until it reaches the back side of Rexhame Beach. Downstream from there, it completely changes character, suddenly out in the open as the western border of Humarock’s entire 3-mile extent.

Because of this visibility, many people are familiar with the lower portion of the South River, but few have had the opportunity to get to know the upper half. One of many reasons to celebrate the construction of this new footbridge is that the general public will now have easy access to the upper portion of the South River.

Why would you want to go see the South River? For one, it’s a feast for the eyes. Springing back to life after winter dormancy, the marsh along the river’s edge is just beginning to turn green. The colors change from day to day, fine tuned to the weather and the position of the sun in the sky. On a clear day the river appears deep blue in the distance, transparent up close, while on a cloudy one it might be green, brown, or gray.

The ever-shifting tide is another factor. Its influence might completely flood the marshes at one time of day, and later reduce the river to not much more than a trickling stream. Right now you can see the remnants of a dock — it appears to have washed up on the northern bank quite some time ago, no doubt delivered on a storm tide from points downstream.

From the bridge, you will also be able to observe the South River’s simple yet elegant course, snaking right and then left and then right again as it makes its way from source to sea.

As beautiful as it is, it’s not the river’s visible qualities that most enchant me. Visiting the South River — perhaps any tidal river — brings me a profound sense of peace. There is something about a tidal river that quiets people down, makes them more contemplative and calm. I’ve seen it time and again: people arrive at a river and are struck silent, feeling no need to speak, even to move. The serenity just pulls you in.

That’s another thing that’s ideal about this new bridge being so centrally located. You might stop on your way to work with your coffee or breakfast, or take a few minutes out of a morning of errands, or make a brief detour at the end of the day. The short walk takes you away from the immediate hum of traffic. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of a busy downtown, you find sanctuary — perhaps just what you need to get your day started on the right foot . . . or back on track. It’s simple, it’s accessible and it really does make a difference.

Getting There: The Keville Footbridge is located down a short path behind the new CVS in Marshfield Center — at the intersection of Route 139 and Webster Street. There is ample parking. There is also walking access from South River Street, a little bit east of Willow Street, next to the electric transformers. Take a short break from your day to stop and see the river, or spend an afternoon exploring the trail that leads from Summer Street, along Carolina Hill, across Ferry Street, behind the Fairgrounds, and across South River Street and the river to the new bridge.

by Kezia Bacon Bernstein, Correspondent
May 2001

Kezia Bacon Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.