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Hiking

Back River Trail

Wharf St, Weymouth, MA 02189, USA

Owned By: Town of Weymouth

This paved trail currently (2021) extends from Bridge Street (Route 3A) through Great Esker Park and Osprey Overlook Park, for about 2 miles. However, there are grand plans for its expansion! It will eventually extend from Webb Memorial State Park, along Weymouth Neck to the Kibby Property and Abigail Adams State Park. After passing under Route 3A via boardwalk, it will continue through Great Esker Park and Osprey Overlook Park, and then along Wharf Street, through the Durante Property, and south to Lovell Field, the Stephen Rennie Herring Run ParkHerring Run Pool Park, Iron Hill Park and Whitman’s Pond. The trail runs alongside the Back River, the Mill River, and Herring Run Brook.

Features

Both the Back River and the esker that underlies Great Esker Park were formed about 12,000 years ago. According to the Back River Trail Report, “The esker formed from the remnants of sands and gravels in the bed of a meltwater stream within the glacier. This accounts for its long, sinewy form and unconsolidated materials. The Back River formed as glacial meltwater increased the ocean elevation and low-lying coastal areas were flooded and became parts of the new coastline.”

The Back River Trail links several of Weymouth’s parks and open spaces. Many of these have industrial pasts. Iron Hill Park was the site of the Weymouth Iron Works (1837). The section of the trail just north of the Weymouth MBTA station (as yet undeveloped) was the home of the Weymouth Wool Scouring Mill and an off-loading point for ships bringing coal and iron ore to the Weymouth Iron Works. Osprey Overlook Park was a landfill. Great Esker Park was acquired by the U.S. government in the early 20th century for use as a geographical buffer for its Ammunition Depot, across the river at today’s Bare Cove Park. Abigail Adams State Park was once a car dealership and a marine dredging operation. Going farther back, the Back River was home to a seasonal Native American encampment as well as at least one trail. Numerous artifacts have been found, dating as far back as 9,000 years.

Trail Description

A wide paved trail currently extends southward for about 2 miles, from the northernmost section of Great Esker Park, at Bridge Street, all the way through Osprey Overlook Park, to Wharf Street. Development plans include a boardwalk under Route 3A to extend the trail to Abigail Adams State Park, as well as additional trails southward through Jackson Square to Whitman’s Pond.

The trail is wide and easy to navigate. However there are some steep and hilly sections that could pose a challenge to some. There is some interpretive signage along the way, with more to come.

The intended (future) trail route south of Osprey Overlook Park is as follows (from the Back River Report): “The current path… will be extended… (to) cross the estuary into the Durante Property (wool mill) by way of two bridges… Near this bridge a small park with parking for twelve vehicles will be developed that will afford canoe and kayak acres to the river… The trail will turn and follow along the northernmost end of the new MBTA train station parking lot before turning to follow Herring Brook into Lovell Playground. From Lovell Playground the trail will become an on-road trail with dedicated bike lanes along Water Street up to and through the intersection with Pleasant Street… The trail will continue along Iron Hill Street to the site of the Iron Hill Fish Ladders, where site improvements will include a fish ladder, viewing improvements, picnic tables and playground.”

Habitats and Wildlife

At Great Esker Park, the forest that grows on top of the ridge is composed of oak, birch and cedar, with some sumac, maple and pitch pine. Kettle Hole Pond was formed by a melting chunk of glacial ice. Directly across the river is another excellent place to explore, Bare Cove Park in Hingham.

Osprey Overlook Park is an open, grassy park that borders the salt marsh and the Back River. Watch for osprey from early spring through early fall. There are two active nest platforms within the park. Also known as fish hawks, osprey return to the Back River every year to hatch new chicks. Their large nests, built of sticks, are typically situated atop bare trees, utility poles, channel markers, and other uncluttered tall points. They are easy to spot! It is common to see osprey diving into the river for fish. They love the Back River because of its the abundant herring population. You may see river herring swimming upstream in the springtime.

The trail runs alongside the Back River, the Mill River, and Herring Run Brook. The Weymouth Back River rises from several ponds and swamps, including Whitman Pond in Weymouth. It flows for about 10 miles, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Hingham Bay, just south of Grape Island and Slate Island.

Wharf St, Weymouth, MA 02189, USA

Historic Site: No

Park: Yes

Beach: No

Boat Launch: No

Lifeguards: No

Size: 2 linear miles (so far)

Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Parking: Small parking area on Wharf Street at Osprey Overlook Park. Parking for 1 or 2 cars on Puritan Road. Large parking lot on Elva Road at Great Esker Park. Small parking area at trail terminus at Bridge Street.

Cost: Free

Trail Difficulty: Medium

Facilities:

Numerous benches. Trash receptacles at parking areas. Informational signage.

Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash.

Boat Ramp: No

ADA Access: Wheelchair access at Puritan Road and Wharf Street. Not recommended at Elva Road due to a very steep hill.

Scenic Views: Yes

Waterbody/Watershed: Weymouth Back River watershed

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