505 Ferry St, Marshfield, MA 02050, USA
Owned By: Town of Marshfield
This railroad right-of-way, owned by the town of Marshfield, extends from just south of Summer Street, along one side of Carolina Hill Reservation, and behind the Marshfield Fairgrounds. It continues through Pratt Farm and over the Francis Keville Footbridge to Ocean Street at Dandelion Park. In total, it runs about 3.5 miles, with 5 informational kiosks and occasional, well-marked road crossings. Stroller-friendly. Note: The section of the Rail Trail between Dandelion Park/CVS and South River Street is temporarily closed, due to construction. (March 2023)
Beginning in 1871, a branch of what became the Old Colony Railroad traveled from Quincy to Kingston, passing through the towns of Hingham, Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield, and Duxbury. In 1938, a hurricane severely damaged the tracks at the North River, which were subsequently removed, putting an end to rail service from that point south.
The railroad entered Marshfield at Damon’s Point, traveled down today’s Damon’s Point Road (Marshfield Hills Station), and then along today’s Summer Street and Station Street (Seaview Station). It continued along the eastern base of Carolina Hill, across Ferry Street (Center Marshfield Station), and eventually across the South River near today’s downtown area (Marshfield Station). Continuing south, it crossed the Green Harbor River on Webster Street and passed into Duxbury just after the Webster Place Station. Much, but not all, of the railroad bed has been converted to trail.
The Bridle Path & Rail Trail is part of a longer-term plan for the Town of Marshfield — connecting all of the green spaces along the South River in the downtown area to create a South River Greenway. This would pull together Veterans Memorial Park, South River Park, Pratt Farm, the Keville Footbridge, Dandelion Park and the Bridle Path & Rail Trail.
This land is within the region of the Massachuseuk (or Massachusett) Native American tribe.
The newly-extended trail begins at Station Street, just south of Summer Street, for a relatively short distance to Pinehurst Road.
The 2.5-mile section of the trail between Pinehurst Road and South River Street is known as the Bridle Path. Years ago, the Town of Marshfield declared that the trail would remain open to equestrian access in perpetuity. It extends through the woods and at the edge of farmland to the Carolina Hill Reservation.
Continuing along the base of Carolina Hill, the Bridle Path crosses Ferry Street and soon after, also crosses Clay Pit Road and South River Street. Along the way, it skirts the boundaries of some sand & gravel pits as well as the Marshfield Fairgrounds.
Much of the Bridle Path is wide and evenly graded and finished with stone dust. It runs along the former railroad bed and is predominantly flat, bordered primarily by woods. Some sections are yet to be upgraded; here and there you need to watch your step. But for the most part it’s an easy, quiet trail through the heart of Marshfield. Informational kiosks were installed 2023.
In the Town Of Marshfield’s report, “Promoting Connection and Protection: A Comprehensive Trails Plan,” the Bridle Trail is likened to a “spine stitching together many of the other trail system(s), open spaces and neighborhoods,” and cited as “the most important existing trail resource in town.” Not only is it easily accessible to walkers, runners, mountain bikers and horseback riders, it provides connections among Marshfield’s commercial, residential and recreational areas.
The half-mile section of the trail between South River Street and Ocean Street is known simply as the Rail Trail. From South River Street, the trail passes along the eastern edge of Pratt Farm, a Marshfield Conservation property. A quarter mile farther, it reaches the Keville Bridge, which crosses the South River. And after another 0.15 miles, the trail terminates at Dandelion Park. Look for a kiosk directly behind the CVS on Ocean Street.
Trail access at Station Street, Pinehurst Road, Carolina Hill Reservation, Ferry Street, Clay Pit Road, South River Street, Pratt Farm, and Ocean Street/Dandelion Park. The Francis Keville Bridge crosses the South River. The section of the Rail Trail between Dandelion Park and the Keville Bridge is ADA accessible.
Habitats and Wildlife
The forests bordering the Bridle Trail and Rail Trail are predominantly pine and oak. The trail crosses the South River at Keville Bridge, where a bench offers a beautiful view downstream. Especially at the northern end of the trail, between Ferry Street and Pinehurst Road, look for blackberries and grapes in the summertime.
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.
Historic Site: Yes
Boat Launch: Yes
Size: 3.5 miles
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Park in the dirt lot beside the Bridle Path at Ferry Street, or in Library Plaza. No parking on Station Street.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Benches, 5 informational kiosks. The Keville Bridge crosses the South River, offering a beautiful view. Also at Keville Bridge, there is a launch ramp and float for canoes and kayaks. Numerous geocache locations along the trail, such as this one.
Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Scoop the poop!
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: South River (North & South Rivers watershed)