Morton Park Rd, Plymouth, MA 02360, USA
Owned By: Town of Plymouth
Plymouth’s largest park, located between Little Pond and the Billington Sea, features 200 acres of forest, wetlands, trails and shoreline, and is a popular location for fishing and birding. Amenities include swimming beaches and picnic areas, as well as seasonal restrooms and food concessions, plus 6.5 miles of trails and roads. During the summer, parking requires a fee and is limited to Plymouth residents in some areas.
Little Pond is popular for swimmers, and welcomes non-motorized boating, such as canoes, kayaks and paddle boards. A deep, coldwater pond, it is stocked regularly with rainbow trout.
Billington Sea, a shallower, warmer pond, welcomes both motorized and non-motorized boating. It is less popular among swimmers.
Also in this area, check out Black Cat Preserve, Crawley Woodlands, Town Brook Patuxet Preserve, and the Town Brook Trail.
According to the Plymouth Trail Guide, Morton Park was established in 1889, with funding from citizens of Plymouth as well as several landowners, including Dr. LeBaron Russell. The effort was led by Nathaniel Morton, for whom the park is named.
Billington Sea is named for Francis Billington, a 14-year-old passenger on the Mayflower, and the son of John Billington. Local lore explains that the younger Billington spotted the pond at a distance after climbing a tree, and believed it to be the Pacific Ocean. He and one of the Mayflower crew members began to explore the area, but turned back when they saw indications of a Native American encampment.
Before the arrival of European colonists in Plymouth in 1620, the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans inhabited this area.
Morton Park features 4 miles of gravel roads, plus 2.5 miles of footpaths. The parking area between the two ponds, on Old Circuit Road, is an ideal place to begin your exploration.
HOSPITAL COVE AND HATHAWAY’S POINT: To explore the southern section of the park on wider paths, look for the metal gate adjacent to the parking area, and begin walking up the gravel road. It leads to Hospital Cove (named for a 1770s smallpox vaccination quarantine site) and Hathaway’s Point, which features excellent views of Billington Sea. To explore on more rugged paths, walk to the edge of the water at the Billington Sea Boat Ramp, and look for the trail that begins at the water’s edge (to your right if you’re facing Billington Sea). This trail also leads to Hospital Cove and Hathaways Point. Various side trails as well as the gravel road will bring you back to the parking area, or you can follow the trail known as Harold Whiting Way out to the Red Springs beach area, a much longer walk.
TOWN BROOK: Also be sure to check out Town Brook and the cedar swamp directly adjacent to it. From the Billington Sea Boat Ramp, face the water and look for a trail to the left, along the water’s edge. It is known as Swamp Path. Follow it until you reach a footbridge. The bridge crosses over Town Brook just below the pond, and it’s a great spot to watch migrating herring in the springtime. If you continue across the bridge, you will be on Side Path, which loops around to Morton Park Road. But perhaps a more interesting route is not to cross the bridge, but to continue on Swamp Path along the edge of Town Brook, along the edge of a red cedar swamp. The trail ends at the intersection of Morton Park and Old Circuit Road.
There are several other trails to explore as well!
Habitats and Wildlife
The park is home to both Little Pond, a 43-acre kettle hole pond with a sandy bottom, and the Billington Sea, a 269-acre pond. The Billington Sea is the headwaters of Town Brook, which flows for 1.5 miles through Plymouth and into Plymouth Harbor. Little Pond has no inlet or outlet.
Some of the fish commonly found in the Billington Sea include: largemouth bass and chain pickerel, as well as smallmouth bass, yellow perch, white peach, bluegill, pumpkinseed, brown bullhead, white sucker, banded killifish, and golden shiner. And of course, alewife herring, who migrate upstream of Town Brook to spawn here in the spring!
Some of the fish commonly found in Little Pond include: brook, brown and rainbow trout, which are stocked in the spring and fall. Broodstock Atlantic salmon and tiger trout are also sometimes stocked here. Largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, smallmouth bass and golden shiner are also found here.
The trees within Morton Park are predominantly white pines, birch, oak, and beech, with some pitch pine, sweet pepper bush and wild blueberry. Snapping turtles and red bellied cooter (turtles) make their home here, as well as numerous avian species, including ospreys, kingfishers and bald eagles.
Town Brook is home to a herring run on the rebound! Every spring, thousands of alewife herring swim upstream, en route to their spawning grounds in the Billington Sea. In 2003, about 7,000 herring were counted here. In 2016, there were nearly 200,000! This is thanks largely to the removal of four local dams that impeded fish passage.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: Yes
Lifeguards: Lifeguards in season in some areas.
Size: 200 acres
Hours: Dawn to 9pm, except summer weekends, when it's Dawn to 5pm
Parking: Several on-site parking areas.
Cost: Free in the off-season. Plymouth Beach Sticker or fee required in Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
Seasonal restrooms and food concessions. Picnic tables, trash receptacles, benches. Launch areas for small boats.
Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Scoop the poop!
Boat Ramp: Unimproved launch area for small boats.
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Town Brook