Furnace Brook Watershed Conservation Area

1295 Main St, Marshfield, MA 02050, USA

Town of Marshfield: (781) 536-2500

Owned By: Town of Marshfield

Furnace Brook Watershed Conservation Area is a 257-acre property in Marshfield that protects five town well sites. Furnace Brook flows through the long, narrow parcel from north to south. There is a 1.5-mile network of trails in the northern section, between Pine and School Streets, and a 1.3-mile loop trail in the southern section, between School and Furnace Streets. In addition to being a public walking trail, the southern loop is where the Marshfield High School Cross Country team practices and sometimes competes.


The Furnace Brook Watershed was the Town of Marshfield’s first major conservation land acquisition. Efforts began in 1971 and culminated with the purchase of 224 acres in 1973. This involved separate negotiations with 40 different land owners! The property contains old stone walls that provide evidence of its agricultural past. The brook itself was known as Puddle Wharf Brook in earlier times.

Furnace Brook was home to industry, especially in the 1800s, but it took place downstream of the conservation area. From about 1838-1868, the Bonney family operated an iron furnace on Furnace Pond, making use of natural bog iron ore deposits nearby. It’s likely that this furnace gave the brook its name. Farther downstream, near today’s Parsons Pond, Jesse Reed operated an elaborate nail manufacturing complex, which included a factory, a forge, a water wheel and a canal system.

This land is within the region of the Massachusett (or Massachuseuk). To learn more about local Native American tribes, we encourage you to interact with their members. The Mattakeeset band of the Massachusett, and the Massachusett tribe at Ponkapoag, both share information on their websites. 

Trail Description

Trailheads are located on School, Pine, Forest, Furnace, and Main Streets. Parking is not permitted at the School Street Pump Station. Carrying a map is strongly advised. There are large loops on both the north and south sides of the property, with spur trails leading to each of the trailheads, as well as to Furnace Brook. Some sections of the trail are wide, flat and sandy; others are rocky and rooty.

• The 1.5-mile northern loop is most easily accessed via the parking area at St. Christine’s Parish on Main Street (Route 3A). A bridge was installed in 2023.

• The 1.3-mile southern loop — between School, Forest, Furnace, and Main Streets — is best accessed from Forest Street. Look for the Marshfield Cross Country sign across from the entrance to the high school complex, and then continue a short distance north. You’ll soon find an unmarked semi-paved road to the right. Several spur trails lead to the loop itself. The trail encircles a large sand & gravel pit in a fairly uniform oval, and runs alongside Furnace Brook for a short distance. It is marked with occasional white/green arrows. There are additional spur trails off the loop that lead to School Street, Old Main Street, Furnace Street, and private homes off Forest Street. There are also two spur trails that lead directly to additional views of Furnace Brook itself.

• The spur trail that extends from the southern loop heading north to School Street is a great way to access the northern loop. After crossing School Street, continue on the trail, passing through a power easement (where you can view Furnace Brook again) and into the woods. The 1.5-mile loop trail on this side of the property is a much more hilly and circuitous than the southern loop.

• For a quick visit to Furnace Brook itself, look for the small parking area on Furnace Street. Follow the semi-paved road into the property and look for the trail that leads off to the left, running more-or-less parallel to Furnace Street. After about 0.1 mile, you will arrive at an old bridge where you can view the brook.

Habitats and Wildlife

Furnace Brook finds its source in springs north of Pine Street. It flows south along the base of Carolina Hill, through Furnace Pond and Parsons Pond, and eventually into the South River at a tiny conservation property known as South River Junctions, just upstream of Veterans Memorial Park. Much of the land surrounding the brook is protected, either for conservation or water protection.

The Furnace Brook Watershed Conservation Area contains numerous white pine trees. Dotted among the pines are the occasional oak, holly, maple, cedar, hickory, black walnut, cherry and yellow birch. In the southern section, around the sand & gravel pit, there’s also some pitch pine. Shrubs such as blueberry, raspberry, viburnum, and swamp azalea are also common, as are ferns and sweet pepper bush. Most of this property is damp, so there’s also a lot of moss. Watch for the occasional outcropping of granite — or even quartz!

The South River originates deep in Duxbury. Its source is in the Round Pond area, and from there it winds unobtrusively through the woods for several miles. Although one can view it from Route 3, and also from both the South River Bog and the Camp Wing Conservation Area, it remains a narrow and mostly un-navigable stream until just below Veterans Memorial Park. From there it flows through South River Park, behind the playground of South River School, and under the Willow Street and Francis Keville Bridges. Wider at that point, and navigable at most tides, its course winds through the marshes as it runs parallel to Route 139, all the way to Rexhame. From there the river turns northward. It flows for 3 miles between Humarock and the mainland to Fourth Cliff, where it joins the North River at its outlet to the sea.

  • A photograph of a rustic property sign in a woodland.
  • A photograph of a footbridge over a stream, in a forest setting.
  • A photograph of an uphill trail in a misty pine forest.
  • A photograph of an old stone wall in a forest with a yellow tree.
  • A photograph of a stream flowing through a forest, with fall leaves.
  • A photograph of a trail through a forest featuring trees with yellow foliage.
  • A photograph of a wooden bench beside a trail.
  • A close-up photograph of autumn leaves on a forest floor.
  • A photograph of a grey birch tree beside a forest trail.
  • A photograph of a wide forest trail.
  • A property sign at the edge of the woods.
  • A photograph of a property sign and a paved entrance trail.
  • A photograph of a paved entrance trail with scattered trees and a grassy clearing in the distance.
  • A photograph of a forest stream flowing through a culvert.
  • A photograph of a wide forest trail, with blue sky.
  • A photograph of a grassy area surrounded by trees.
  • A photograph of a wide forest trail, lines with logs.
  • A photograph of a property sign at the edge of a forest.
  • A photograph of a wide forest trail.
  • A photograph of a painted starting line for a road race, in a forest setting.
  • A photograph of pine trees growing in a sand and gravel pit.
  • A photograph of a hilly forest trail, with one trail marker.
  • A photograph of a snowy forest trail with a setting sun.
  • A photograph of picnic table in a grassy spot next to a forest.
1295 Main St, Marshfield, MA 02050, USA

Historic Site: No

Park: No

Beach: No

Boat Launch: No

Lifeguards: No

Size: 287 acres

Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Parking: Trailheads on School, Pine, Forest, Furnace, and Main Streets. Large informal parking area off Forest Street, across from Flames Road. Small parking area with minimal trail access on Furnace Street. Additional trail access at St. Christine's Parish on Route 3A.

Cost: Free

Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium


One bench, one picnic table, informational kiosk, footbridges. Geocache location.

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

Boat Ramp: No

ADA Access: No

Scenic Views: Yes

Waterbody/Watershed: Furnace Brook (South River watershed)