202 N Main St, Cohasset, MA 02025, USA
Owned By: Town of Cohasset
Barnes Wildlife Sanctuary directly abuts Wheelwright Park and the Cohasset Boy Scout Retreat. On the other side of Wheelwright Park are the Cornelia & Richardson White Woods and Holly Hill Farm. Altogether, these properties represent a large swath of conservation land in the heart of this coastal town, with 232 acres of forest stretching from Jerusalem Road to Sohier Street, and from Little Harbor to Forest Avenue.
Prior to European contact, a band of the Massachusett Native American tribe maintained a village in what is now Cohasset. It was known as Quonahassit — often translated as “long rocky place.” In 1614, while exploring what was known then as the New World, Captain John Smith (1580-1631) landed in “Quonahassit Harbor” to trade for furs. The Quonahassit village was probably in the vicinity of today’s Elm Street, a summer camp for fishing, and for growing corn, beans and squash. The village moved inland during the winter for shelter, and to hunt for deer, turkey and other wildlife. A widespread plague decimated the Quonahassit population shortly after Smith’s visit.
Please bear in mind that Native American cultures often favor oral histories to written ones. Much of what’s recorded about the history of the South Shore is from the perspective of European settlers. It’s not the whole story. To learn more about our local tribes, we encourage you to interact with their members. The Mattakeeset band of the Massachusett and the Massachusett tribe at Ponkapoag share information on their websites.
From the parking area, follow the main trail uphill and look for the Eagle Trail to the left. This leads from Wheelwright Park into the Barnes Wildlife Sanctuary. The trail — which can be steep and narrow in places — climbs past, and over, some rocky outcroppings, and offers captivating views. There is a glacial erratic here known as Eagle’s Loft. The trail eventually broadens and levels out, and continues through the woods, heading west. The Starway and Life Path Trails create a small loop with the Eagle Trail in the center of the property. There is also a short trail that leads to a radio tower, and another that leads to an old fireplace.
The Eagle Trail continues to the property’s border, and then crosses a privately-owned Cohasset Boy Scout Campground. Access across the Boy Scout property is permitted, but visitors must remain on the trail. From there, the Eagle Trail continues into Wheelwright Park. It intersects with Wheelwright Park Lane, the main trail of Wheelwright Park, just east of the glacial erratic boulder known as Big Tippling. From there, you can loop back through Barnes, or explore Wheelwright Park. If you turn left, Wheelwright Park Lane will eventually bring you to the park’s Forest Ave. entrance. If you turn right, Wheelwright Park Lane completes a pleasant nearly-2-mile loop back to the parking area. All trails are well marked.
Habitats and Wildlife
The forest here is mostly pine and oak, plus there are numerous holly trees. In season, look for lady slippers, fiddleheads, and mayflowers. The property also contains vernal pools and wetlands. There are quite a few glacial erratic boulders and rocky outcroppings scattered throughout and some old stone walls. Among the mammals observed here are coyote, fox and deer. There are also quite a few different species of birds.
Most of the land here drains to Richardsons Brook, which flows into Cohasset’s Little Harbor. Some of the southern portions of the park flow into James Brook, and eventually into Cohasset Harbor.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 32 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: On-site parking area at Wheelwright Park on North Main Street, very close to Red Gate Lane. Additional trailhead with parking for 4 cars on Forest Ave.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
Picnic tables, numerous benches, trash receptacles.
Dogs: Dogs must be on leashes in the parking area. Dogs must be well-behaved and under control at all times. Scoop the poop!
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Richardsons Brook (Little Harbor watershed) and James Brook (Gulf River watershed)