Conservation Park, Driftway, Scituate, MA, USA
Owned By: Town of Scituate
This 334-acre Scituate Conservation property features a panoramic view of the Herring River and its salt marshes. In the 1930s, Boston Sand and Gravel owned the property and mined it for projects such as the construction of Logan International Airport. You can still see vestiges of the wharf that was built to aid in the transport of sand via barge to Boston.
Walking trails, a fishing pier, a small trailered boat launching ramp, an open field, and picnic benches allow for public use of this popular site. Convenient access to the Driftway Multi-Purpose Path, which continues in one direction to Herring River Trail, the James Landing Walkway, and Widow’s Walk Golf Course, and in the other direction to the Scituate Dog Park and beyond. Launch your kayak, canoe, or paddleboard here and explore the Herring River and its marshes, but avoid the river mouth beyond The Spit.
Tide Math: High tide at the Driftway Conservation Park is about 45-60 minutes after the Boston high tide.
NORTH, SOUTH, & HERRING RIVER SHELLFISH BEDS REMAIN CLOSED! Due to a recently-enforced (2020) federal regulation regarding proximity to wastewater treatment plants, the North, South and Herring Rivers will not re-open this year. Historically, you could set off from here to go clamming. (See the North River Shellfishing Map for locations.) The clam flats in both the North and South Rivers are typically open from November 1 to May 31st. If there is a Red Tide, they may close sooner. They are not open this year.
Don’t miss the 1.65 mile A. J. McEachern Memorial Trail network — a variety of paved, gravel, and sand paths — a fantastic place for dog walkers and bird watchers … or just to get away for a while.
The public parking lot can be busy in the summer due to the property’s popular boat launch. Lookout Hill, close to the parking lot, is the highest point in the park. It offers a panoramic view of Third and Fourth Cliffs, Wood and Bear Islands, and the mouth of the North River (New Inlet). This property is also a great place to view Scituate’s wind turbine.
Bear in mind that hunting is permitted on this property during the various statewide hunting seasons. A sign in the parking lot spells out many of the details. Please proceed with caution, especially in the marshes, during these times.
Beginning in 1914, the Boston Sand and Gravel Company undertook an extensive earth removal project on this site and beyond. Colman’s Hill once stood on the inland side of today’s Driftway, from the Greenbush railroad station north to Kent Street, offering a broad view of the entire estuary. Little by little, Boston Sand and Gravel carted away the material that made up the hills — first by steam-driven sand scows, then by tugboats and barges, and later by trucks and trains. By 1963, over 14 million tons of sand and gravel had been removed and the hills were gone. That year, a dramatic fire destroyed the sand & gravel company. Later, the Town of Scituate purchased the land.
To find the trailhead for the A. J. McEachern Trail, head into the park, following the paved walkway along the water for about 0.1 mile. After you pass the wooden fishing pier, you will see a sign for the trail. In general, the trail is well-maintained, flat, easy terrain. Many sections are stroller-friendly, and there are occasional benches. The trail leads into the woods to a memorial stone, which serves as a useful landmark.
• If you turn right at the memorial, and then go straight ahead, you will soon find yourself on a wooden pier with ample bench seating and views of the Herring River and its marshes. Truly a lovely spot.
• If you turn right at the memorial, and then take a quick left onto the blue trail, you will pass through a forest comprised primarily of maple, cedar, oak, cherry, pine and birch, with plenty of ferns and sweet pepper bush. The trail is mostly narrow and flat, but occasionally there are steep and/or uneven sections. This trail eventually offers the option to loop back around, heading back to the memorial, as well as to the red trail. Another option is not to loop back yet, but to continue out into the marsh, where there is a small island, as well as “Carol’s Perch,” a bench that looks out across the marsh. This is the yellow trail; it may be flooded during higher tides. There are several side trails in this section, most of which eventually reconnect with the main trails of the McEachern network. Some offer up-close views of Scituate’s windmill.
• If you turn left at the memorial, you can follow the red, yellow, and green trails through woodlands and sandy clearings, generally with wider paths. Not all trails are clearly marked, and they all seem to circle back onto each other eventually.
Habitats and Wildlife
The woodland here is relatively new. It began growing after a dramatic 1963 fire resulted in the cessation of sand & gravel mining operations. In the sandy areas, look for beach heather, little bluestem grass, and bayberry. The forest itself is home to high bush blueberry, pussy willow, and arrow wood. Trees include red cedar, American holly, black cherry, crabapple, oak, pine, red maple, and quaking aspen. Watch out for poison ivy! The salt marsh is made up primarily of black grass and spike grass, with some sea lavender, goldenrod, and glasswort.
Numerous bird species favor this marshy conservation land, due to its proximity to the river. Look for egrets, yellowlegs, willets, and sandpipers at low tides. Just downstream of the pier, look for bank swallows nesting in holes in the riverbanks. Bald eagles have been spotted here. Kingfishers sometimes nest here. Also, you may see fox and deer along the trails.
The Herring River flows into the North River near The Spit.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: Yes
Size: 334 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: On site parking.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Porta-potty at park entrance. Numerous benches plus 12 picnic tables. Trash and dog waste receptacles. Two wooden piers for fishing and wildlife observation. Geocache location.
Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Scoop the poop!
Boat Ramp: Yes
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Herring River (North River watershed)