Cato’s Ridge Preserve

81 Main St, Plympton, MA 02367, USA

Town of Plympton: (781) 585-3220

Owned By: Town of Plympton

Known collectively as Cato’s Ridge Preserve, this 105-acre property also includes Churchill Park and O’Neil Marsh. It features a 2-mile network of woodland trails plus a 600-foot boardwalk over the Jones River Brook and its surrounding wetlands.

In season (but not on Sundays), hunting is permitted in the Cato’s Ridge Preserve, but not in Churchill Park, O’Neil Marsh, nor on the boardwalk.


This property was established in 2012, with Community Preservation. The O’Neil Marsh are was added in 2015.

According to signage on site, the 11-acre Churchill Park is named for the William Churchill family, one of the first to settle in Plympton in the early 1700’s. The Messinger Family — the most recent owners of this land, and also Churchill descendants — wanted this land to be conserved for all to enjoy.

The 77-acre Cato’s Ridge Conservation Area was donated to the town in the 1990’s by the T.L. Edwards company. According to signage on site, Cato was a servant who had a house on the ridge during the Revolutionary period. He died in 1806.

The 17-acre O’Neil Marsh served for 250 years as Plympton’s freshwater meadows, where hay was harvested annually. In the mid-1900’s it was converted to a cranberry bog. Longtime Plympton resident Roger O’Neil donated it to the town in 2015.

As Europeans settled the area, they harvested wood here with teams of horses or oxen, creating the wide cart paths that extend through the forest to this day. Later, those roads facilitated travel between Plympton and Halifax. In the 1900’s, some of the area was used for cranberry farming. Look for occasional vestiges of those operations along the trails. The gravel pit on site provided materials for paving local roads.

This land is within the region of the Wampanoag tribe. Native American artifacts have been found in the area. To learn more about our local tribes, we encourage you to interact with their members. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, and the Herring Pond Wampanoag both share information on their websites. 

Trail Description

The parking area on Main Street (across from Maple Street), offers access to two trailheads, which together form a loop of about 0.35 miles that features two short boardwalks. This entrance trail provides access to the remainder of the property, which begins with a 600-foot boardwalk across Jones River Brook and its wetlands. Beyond the boardwalk is a meandering 2-mile network of trails through the woods, and along the edges of wetlands. Many of the trails are named for streets within the town of Plympton. The Cato’s Ridge trail offers elevations up to 130 feet.

All of the trails are very well marked and maintained, plus there are property maps posted at most intersections. Still, it’s a good idea to carry a map, as there are a lot of intersections! (Many of these also offer wooden benches.) Some trails are wide and clear, others are narrower, with roots and rocks underfoot.

Habitats and Wildlife

The ridge area, with elevations up to 130 feet, is part of a series of high hills and ridges across the South Shore, formed by retreating glaciers. Look for occasional bits of quartz and some scattered glacial erratics, and at least one crumbling stone wall. The ridge is situated over the Plymouth-Carver Aquifer.

Some of the trees growing here include maples, oaks, pines, holly. There are some hemlocks and beeches over 100 years old, plus some very impressive birch trees. In season, there’s plenty of fern and sweet pepper bush. In addition to hardwood forest, there are also wetlands, vernal pools and a small pond.

This property is located within the watershed of Jones River Brook. A headwater to the Jones River, this stream originates in wetlands upstream. It flows west, then north, then east through Plympton and Kingston before emptying into the Jones River just downstream of its confluence with Pine Brook.

The Jones River finds it source at Silver Lake, and extends for 7.5 miles through the town of Kingston. Follow the Jones River Watershed Association for more information.

81 Main St, Plympton, MA 02367, USA

Historic Site: No

Park: No

Beach: No

Boat Launch: No

Lifeguards: No

Size: 105 acres

Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Parking: On-site 5 car parking lot.

Cost: Free

Trail Difficulty: Easy


Benches, boardwalks, informational kiosk.

Dogs: Dogs must remain under control at all times. Scoop the poop!

Boat Ramp: No

ADA Access: No

Scenic Views: Yes

Waterbody/Watershed: Jones River Brook (Jones River watershed)

Other Things to Do at This Site