A view of the marsh at Camp Wing.


I continued my exploration of Duxbury’s open space parcels this month with a trip to Camp Wing Conservation Area on Franklin Street. Initially I was really excited about exploring this large (353-acre) parcel, until I glanced at the map and saw that most of it is wetland. It turns out that only about a fifth of it contains walking trails.
This isn’t such a bad thing. Conservation land that’s not accessible to humans is ideal habitat for wildlife, as it gives it room to roam, so to speak, without the threat of human impact. In the Camp Wing Conservation Area, a two-mile stretch of the South River, along with a variety of marsh and swamp lands, provides a sanctuary for all sorts of birds and critters.
The Town of Duxbury has put maps of its conservation lands online, along with general information about what one can expect to find there. Even after writing this nature column for eighteen-plus years, I feel like I’m just getting started with my knowledge of ecology. So just glancing at the Camp Wing map, I learned a few things.
The Camp Wing Conservation Area features four different types of wetland. One is what’s known as stream-side marsh – the grassy sort of wetland favored by migratory birds. The marsh borders both the South River and its tributary, Phillips Brook. There is also a fair amount of red maple swamp, filled with – you guessed it – red maple trees. And there is also some shrub swamp – where plant species such as blueberry, alder and sweet pepperbush dominate. And finally, there is some fen – a wetland that’s more mossy than the others. (In this case, it’s a former cranberry bog).
Camp Wing itself has been around for generations. It first opened in 1937 as a summer camp for 55 children from the Roxbury and Charlestown Boys’ Clubs. It was named in honor of Daniel Wing, a longtime member of the Board of Overseers of the Boys’ Clubs of Boston. Now known as Crossroads for Kids, the establishment continues to offer programs for at-risk children from all over Massachusetts. In 1998 the camp sold most of its undeveloped land to the Town of Duxbury.
Before that, the properties that make up the camp and the conservation area were owned by the Keene Family. And before that, dating back to the arrival of European settlers in the 1600s, Camp Wing was part of Duxbury’s Common Lands — to the community for woodcutting, hunting and fishing.
At one point in time, there was a mill in the northern corner of the property. The dam is still there – visible from River Street. The uplands were very likely used as farmland – many of the stone walls have survived. In the last century, there were also cranberry bogs on site, operated by the Consolidated Cape Cod Cranberry Company. These were shut down when Route 3 was constructed in the 1960s. The land was also logged through the end of the 20thcentury.
While visible from various vantage points in Marshfield and Humarock, the South River is largely hidden in the town of Duxbury. Yet the river is sourced there, and several miles of its 12-mile course run through the western part of town.
In the Camp Wing Conservation Area, you might catch a glimpse of the river, especially from the observation deck that looks out over the former cranberry bog. You can access it from the East Loop trail. There’s quite a bit to see there – marsh and swamp, rails and bitterns . . . and also Route 3.
The trails are accessible from Franklin Street, where there is a small parking area adjacent to the road. There are two loop trails (West and East), connected by an additional trail. These are all in the wooded upland portion of the property. All of the trails are marked.
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent
May 2013
Kezia Bacon’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 or visit To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit