North River, Marshfield, MA 02050, United States
Owned By: Town of Marshfield
This 20-acre parcel of town-owned land features one of the few sandy beaches on the North River. Water access for small and mid-size boats. Trail access from Couch Memorial Cemetery. Camping by reservation for local nonprofit groups. Apply for permit at Marshfield DPW’s Cemeteries/Trees/Greens Department. Campfire permit also required, from Fire Department. Stroller-friendly in some sections.
IMPORTANT: Please “leave no trace,” and carry out all trash and waste. Careless overuse is endangering this much-loved spot!
Tide Math: High tide at Couch Beach is about 2 hours after the Boston high tide.
Land access for Couch Beach requires a walk through the woods of about 1/3 mile. A wide trail leads through a pine forest to the river’s edge. Approaching the river, the land flattens and a clearing provides an ideal spot for camping.
The small sandy beach area is a lovely spot to spend a few hours on a summer day. This is an excellent location for river wading and swimming, provided you remain mindful about the current, which can be very strong, depending on the tide. Fishing is also popular here.
Couch Beach is a perennially inviting place to stop while paddling or boating on the North River, whether to stretch your legs or pause for a snack or a picnic. Small boats can anchor here, and kayaks and canoes can easily be pulled up onto the shore.
There are two trails that lead to Couch Beach. The wider, more obvious one leads from the parking area down a long, slow decline to the river — a distance of about 1/3 mile. The narrower trail continues from Couch Beach, through the woods, to the rear of Couch Cemetery. Taken together, they make a pleasant circuit of about a mile.
Habitats and Wildlife
On flat land, rivers erode sideways, wandering back and forth instead of eroding down. Water travels faster on the outside of curves in rivers, and slower on the inside of curves. This means that the river removes material from the outside bank and deposits it on the inside bank. This is very noticeable at Couch Beach. The bank is undercut and trees that were once on solid footing seem like they are about to fall over. Meanwhile the marsh on the inside of the river curve is extensive and growing.
Especially in the spring and summer, there is a large vernal pool that crosses the trail that leads to Couch Beach. Vernal pools are vital to the amphibian population in Massachusetts. Many different species of mammals, reptiles, and birds can be found the woodland. Some of the fish commonly found here (depending on the season and the tide) include striped bass, eels, white perch, trout, largemouth bass.
Warren Winders from Trout Unlimited offers these notes for anglers:
During the early season (June), striped bass, for instance, move back and forth in the river with the tide. Couch Beach is a nice place to wait for something to turn up. This method works best for bait anglers, but the alternative is to cast occasionally with a fly or lure while watching the water for some activity. Bass often give themselves away with a boil or swirl on the surface.
The fact that fresh and saltwater don’t always mix makes the river an interesting cornucopia of fresh and saltwater fish. I’ve seen sunfish at the Norwell canoe launch. There’s always the possibility of a trout or a largemouth bass, both species being quite tolerant of brackish water … but the largemouth bass will have to retreat before a slug of high salinity. White perch will try to avoid the striped bass and may get pushed upstream, but you never know, because, like the bass they move back and forth.
Water temperature is a factor. Bigger striped bass are uncomfortable in water over 68. Schoolies will tolerate up to 70 and beyond. Once things warm up, Couch might be better for night fishing. In fact, if you’re camping, spending the night, it is a good idea to listen to the river. You may hear bass feeding. They can be noisy, so it’s not a bad idea to keep a rigged rod next to the tent.
The river is a dynamic system. There’s not much that stays put for long. You can look for the fish in a boat, kayak or canoe, or you can wait. At some point something will swim by if you wait long enough.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 20 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Limited on-site parking via 629 Union Street, Marshfield. Look for the small paved parking area about 2/3 of the way into Couch Cemetery, on the right. There is a large metal gate at the trailhead. Do not park on the grass, or on any gravesite.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Concrete benches create a circle around a fire pit on the upland behind the larger beach area. Fire permit required, from Marshfield Fire Department.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes