7 Elva Rd, Weymouth, MA 02191, USA
Owned By: Town of Weymouth
A forest-covered gravel ridge and an expansive salt marsh along the Weymouth Back River. Beautiful views of the estuary. Launch your canoe or kayak at higher tides at the Puritan Road entrance.
Great Esker Park, established in 1966, is Weymouth’s largest open space area. Its most remarkable feature is the esker itself, a long, winding ridge that borders the Back River. At 90 feet in height, it is the tallest esker ridge in North America. It was created by a retreating glacier 12,000 years ago.
One of many properties linked by the Back River Trail, Great Esker Park directly abuts Abigail Adams State Park and Osprey Overlook Park. Motorized vehicles are prohibited. Trail, signage, and access improvements are currently underway. There will soon be a connector trail passing under Route 3A!
The Weymouth Back River is also known simply as the Back River. Both Native American and European settlers relied on the it as a source of food, particularly river herring.
Around 1635, European settlers in Hingham and Weymouth established the Back River as the boundary between the two towns. In later years, the river was home to several industries, including a steel mill, a wool factory, and a fertilizer factory. In 1912, the Army Corps of Engineers dug a large channel from the river mouth to the fertilizer factory, deepening and widening the river. A similar project deepened the channel in 1943.
Great Esker Park was originally preserved by the U.S. government. It served as a buffer for the U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot (1903-1971), across the river in Hingham. Military patrols would make use of the high vantage points along the esker ridge to guard the base below. It was sold to the Town of Weymouth, for use as a park, in 1966.
A wide paved trail extends for about 1.5 miles along the top of the esker ridge from Bridge Street to Osprey Overlook Park. In general, it is stroller and wheelchair friendly, although portions are hilly and steep. There is also a network of narrower, unpaved trails through the woods and along the edge of the salt marsh. In total, Great Esker Park offers 6.3 miles of trails.
Habitats and Wildlife
At Great Esker Park, you can enjoy a direct experience with the tidal salt marsh that borders the Weymouth Back River. Some of the park’s trails lead along the bottom of the ridge, at the edge of the marsh. In season, look for ospreys. There are two active nest platforms within the park. Look for river herring swimming upstream in the springtime.
The forest that grows on top of the ridge is composed of oak, birch and cedar, with some sumac and pitch pine. Kettle Hole Pond was formed by a melting chunk of glacial ice. Directly across the river is another excellent place to explore, Bare Cove Park in Hingham.
The Weymouth Back River rises from several ponds and swamps, including Whitman Pond in Weymouth. It flows for about 10 miles, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Hingham Bay, downstream of the park, and just south of Grape Island and Slate Island.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: Yes
Size: 237 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Parking area at the end of Elva Road, plus limited on-site parking on Bridge Street and Puritan Road.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
Fishing pier, benches, trash receptacles, informational kiosks. Nature Center at the Elva Road entrance.
Dogs: Dogs must be kept on a leash of 6 feet or less at all times.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: The Bridge Street entrance offers ADA access.
Scenic Views: Yes