Misty Meadows Conservation Area, 34 Ingham Way, Pembroke, MA 02359, USA
Owned By: Town of Pembroke
153 acres of Pembroke Conservation land, including upland forest and freshwater wetland. One trail leads to a bench overlooking Herring Brook. Another leads to the Willow Brook Farm Preserve. This is an excellent place to experience the rare tidal freshwater marsh of the Herring Brook Valley, renowned as one of the most diverse and interesting inland natural areas in Southeastern Massachusetts.
The Misty Meadows Conservation Area is bordered on one side by Herring Brook. In earlier times, Herring Brook was known as Barker’s River, and also the Namassakeeset River. Namassakeeset means “place of much fish.” The name was often used by local tribes to refer to the lands that became the town of Pembroke. Long before Pembroke was incorporated in 1711, there was a large Native American settlement on the north side of Herring Brook. Today Herring Brook is home to the second largest herring run in Massachusetts.
Herring Brook is also part of the historic Wampanoag Commemorative Canoe Passage, which extends for 70 miles from Scituate/Massachusetts Bay to Berkley/Narragansett Bay. It was originally a water trail used by the Native American tribes who inhabited our region, and was re-established by the Plymouth County Development Council and local officials for educational and recreational purposes.
Herring Brook itself rises from Furnace Pond in Pembroke, and flows through the town for a few miles before it merges with the Indian Head River, to form the North River, at a place called The Crotch. Far upstream, at Furnace Pond, a smelting furnace and iron works was erected in 1702 by Mark Despard and the Barker Family. Their raw material was the naturally-occurring iron at the bottom of the pond, as well as in numerous bogs in the area. The furnace was on Herring Brook, just a few rods downstream of the pond.
A quarter mile downstream there was a dam with a sawmill and grist mill, established by Nathaniel Ford around 1820. Later the same spot was home to a box factory owned by John Gorham and Jarius Howland, but it was destroyed by fire. Simeon Chandler also operated a mill at this site.
Below this spot, Herring Brook flows through Pembroke’s Herring Run Park, and as it passes through the Willow Brook Farm Preserve, Pudding Brook flows in from the east. Shortly thereafter, Cedar Swamp Brook flows in from the southwest. In 1837, there were several mills on Pudding Brook, including a cotton mill, a cupola furnace, two tack factories, and two shingle mills. Goods produced included satinets, shoeboxes, bombards, water pails, covered buckets and mackerel kitts.
The final section of Herring Brook, as it runs through Misty Meadows, and before it joins the Indian Head to form the North River, is a large freshwater marsh and swamp.
The Misty Meadows Conservation Area is accessible by land and by water. In a canoe or kayak, you can paddle up Herring Brook and hop out at the end of the property’s North River Trail. Look for a wooden bench at the water’s edge. By land, the access point is on Ingham Way, near #34. Look for two rock pillars and a granite marker, and beyond them, a metal gate and an informational kiosk. The main trail is straight ahead. It leads through the a mature oak-hickory forest and eventually tilts downhill, through a grove of hemlock, ending with a bench on Herring Brook and a view of the freshwater tidal marsh. This half-mile trail is known as the North River Trail. If this seems confusing, it’s because a little farther downstream, Herring Brook and the Indian Head River flow together to form the North River. From the informational kiosk, you can also take a trail to the left. This extends for quite a distance — about 1.5 miles — to the Willow Brook Farm Preserve.
Habitats and Wildlife
Abundant wildlife make their home here in the Herring Brook Valley. Even though it lies 11 river miles upstream of the ocean, the water level in the freshwater marsh still rises and falls with the tides, with a 3-foot difference between high and low.
More than 2,000 acres of undeveloped land and freshwater swamp provide an ideal habitat for mammals, amphibians, and birds — both common species and also those deemed “at risk” by Partners In Flight. Listen for the hooting of owls. Look for painted turtles basking on fallen logs, and great blue herons hunting the shallow waters. You might even spy a river otter! In the woods, you might see deer, red or gray fox, coyotes, fishers.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 153 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Trail access from a gravel road off Ingham Way, or through the Willow Brook farm Preserve. No formal parking area.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Informational kiosk. Bench with a view of the Herring Brook.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes