1361 Union St, Marshfield, MA 02050, USA
Owned By: Town of Marshfield
The Town of Marshfield owns this 15-acre conservation parcel, which is located directly on the North River, just upstream of the Union Street Bridge. It is a public canoe/kayak launch with a 2 picnic tables. The property is also the site of the former Brooks-Tilden Shipyard (1701-1848).
Tides at the Marshfield Launch are delayed ~1 -1.5 hours after the Boston high tide. Set off from here to go clamming!
The Union Street Bridge spans the North River from Union Street in Marshfield to Bridge Street in Norwell. On the Norwell side, there is a ramp for boats (residents only). On the water in this area, be aware of swift currents and low bridge clearance. For related information, please see the listing for Union Street Bridge and Norwell Town Landing.This is also the starting line for the NSRWA’s annual Great River Race.
Shellfishing Update: Effective March 15th, 2023, the North River shellfish beds in Marshfield and Scituate are temporarily closed, due to a sewer discharge event in Rockland. They will remain closed for at least 21 days. Check this space for updates. 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. (In 2023, some areas opened on January 1st and others will open on March 1st.) See this recent update on North River Shellfishing for locations.
In 1977, the Town of Marshfield purchased this 15-acre parcel for conservation land, establishing a public canoe launch on site 3 years later. The landings on both sides of the Union Street Bridge are ideal places to launch your canoe or kayak. Be aware that there is a tide delay — 1 to 1.5 hours after the Boston high tide.
No records exist of ships built at this site prior to 1837, but it is likely that it was a shipyard for many years leading up to that point. In 1837, Elijah Brooks and George Tilden built the 106-ton schooner “Huron” here, as well as the 113-ton hermaphrodite brig “Lewis Bruce.” In the years to follow, they built the schooner “Erie” (113 tons), the brig “Michigan,” the schooner “Roanoke,” and the brig “Joseph Balch” (153 tons). Then, in 1843 Elijah Brooks built the brig “Allen King,” which was probably the last ship constructed here.
Dating back even farther, the remains of a North River ferry boat are visible from the northern bank of the river, just upstream from here on the Norwell side, at dead low tide. Look in the third tidal ditch upstream of the bridge. (Water access only.) It’s likely that ferry traffic decreased dramatically after the Union Street Bridge was constructed in 1801, and certainly when the toll bridge became a free bridge in 1850.
There is a gate across the entrance, open from dawn to dusk. Proceed slowly, as the vehicle entrance is a steep downhill. The launch area is surrounded by woodland. After rain, large puddles can form in the unpaved parking area, so be careful of the mud.
A short trail leads away from the parking/launch area, through the woods. Along this trail, look for a wooden “Brooks Tilden Shipyard” sign, placed unusually high in a tree. Just below it is a stone structure that looks similar to a well, but is more likely a relic from the property’s shipyard days. Local amateur archaeologist Paul F. McCarthy theorizes that this is the remains of a fire pit, which might have been used to power a steamer (to make timber more pliable). The shipyard’s former saw pit is nearby. Also likely related to shipbuilding, a wooden structure protrudes from the marsh on the Marshfield side of the river. It can only be viewed at low tide.
Suggested paddling excursions from this location (timing is approximate and depends quite a bit on wind, tide, and your own strength and stamina):
• Put your boat in the water around the time of ocean low tide and paddle downstream to Cove Creek. Explore the creek and then return with the rising tide upstream to your starting place. (2+ hours)
• Put your boat in the water about 2 hours before ocean low tide and paddle downstream to Damon’s Point and the North River estuary. Then ride the rising tide back upstream to your starting place. (2.5+ hours)
• Put your boat in the water 1-2 hours before ocean high tide and head upstream to Couch Beach. Stretch your legs at Couch Beach and then return with the slack/receding tide. (3+ hours)
• Stage a second vehicle at Damon’s Point or Driftway Conservation Park. Return to Marshfield Launch and put your boat in the water 2-3 hours after ocean high tide, then take a one-way trip with the outgoing tide to your second vehicle. (1-2 hours)
• Stage a second vehicle at Pembroke Town Forest or Hanover Public Launch. Return to Marshfield Launch and put your boat in the water 2-4 hours before ocean high tide, then take a one-way trip with the incoming tide to your second vehicle. (3-4+ hours)
Habitats and Wildlife
This property is located directly on the North River.
The North River rises from marshes and springs in Weymouth, Rockland and Hanson. It is approximately 10 miles in length, with its source at the confluence of the Indian Head River (Hanover) and Herring Brook (Pembroke). From there it flows through the towns of Hanover, Pembroke, Marshfield, Norwell, and Scituate to the Atlantic Ocean between Third and Fourth Cliffs, draining approximately 59,000 acres along the way.
Historic Site: Yes
Boat Launch: Yes
Size: 15 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Limited on-site parking.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: North River