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Eel River Preserve

4 Boot Pond Rd, Plymouth, MA 02360, USA

Owned By: Town of Plymouth

Once a cranberry bog, this 130-acre property is slowly reverting to its original form — a white cedar swamp, bordered by forest, with 1.7 miles of river flowing through it. There are about 3 miles of trails. Located at intersection of Boot Pond Road and Long Pond Road. Suitable for horseback riding. Continue your exploration across the street at the Russell Mill Pond Conservation Area. Two other properties with restored rivers nearby are the Foothills Preserve and Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary, both on Beaver Dam Road in Plymouth.

Features

This property was initially preserved when the cranberry bogs at its center were acquired by the Town of Plymouth in 2003, with the help of Community Preservation funds. Massachusetts’ first bog restoration project was undertaken here, with the goal of re-establishing an Atlantic white cedar swamp. The cranberry bog’s ditches, dams and culverts were removed in 2010, allowing the Eel River to flow freely. Deer fence was set in place to protect the cedar trees. Much of what was learned here was applied to later projects, such as the more-recent restoration at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary.

Long before European settlers arrived in 1620, this land was part of Pokanoket, a Wampanoag village governed by Massasoit. Colonists arrived in this area in the mid-to-late 1700s. Dams were placed along the river to power mills for lumber and textile production. Cranberry farming began at this site toward the end of the 1800s.

Trail Description

The property features a total of 2.8 miles of intersecting trails. The primary trail is a long loop around the former cranberry bog, plus there is a shorter loop up and down a forested hillside. Along the way you may see occasional vestiges of the cranberry operation — foundations, borrow pits, etc.

To begin, follow the access trail from the parking lot uphill and through the woods. When you arrive at the cranberry bog, you can turn left or right. The main trail goes all the way around the bog, nearly 3 miles, but there is a shortcut if you prefer not to go so far. Look for the footbridge over the river around the 0.5-mile point. Depending on which way you follow the loop, you will eventually arrive at a series of plank boardwalks, which traverses some wetter sections of the trail. At the far end of the bog, look for an additional loop trail that heads up and over a forested hillside for just over a half-mile. It overlooks Hoyts Pond at a distance, but there is no pond access.

The main trail is mowed occasionally in summer time, reducing the risk of ticks. It is muddy in places, due to seeping springs, but passage is generally not difficult.

Habitats and Wildlife

This property features a restored Atlantic white cedar swamp, as well as ponds and views of the Eel River. It’s a great spot for birding.

According to the 2022 Plymouth Open Space Trail Guide, “The first bog is carpeted with indigenous cattails, pussy willows, pitch pines, mosses and all manner of grasses. This area was mostly left for the shrubs and trees that thrive in wet soil to repopulate on their own. In the second bog we see the results of planting some 17,000 Atlantic white cedars, about 12 to 18 inches tall when first put in. Some saplings died off in the areas too wet or too dry, or were eaten by voles. The drifts of cedars planted in just the right areas have reached well over 20 feet in height in 12 years, and are spreading naturally now through self- seeding.”

“The farthest back bog is filled with well established white cedars interspersed with volunteer white pines, birches, pitch pines and shrubs. You will pass a small, round, very deep pond, where the icy cold water indicates large springs below.”

The Eel River originates in springs upstream of this property and flows a short distance through Plymouth, into Plymouth Harbor, at the base of Plymouth Long Beach. Thanks to the removal of obstacles and the restoration of the streamed, river herring have been spotted west of Long Pond Road for the first time in over 100 years!

4 Boot Pond Rd, Plymouth, MA 02360, USA

Historic Site: No

Park: No

Beach: No

Boat Launch: No

Lifeguards: No

Size: 130 acres

Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Parking: On-site parking area at intersection of Boot Pond Road and Long Pond Road.

Cost: Free

Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium

Facilities:

Shaded bench, interpretive signs.

Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Scoop the poop!

Boat Ramp: No

ADA Access: No

Scenic Views: Yes

Waterbody/Watershed: Eel River

Other Things to Do at This Site