Norris Reservation

18 Dover St, Norwell, MA 02061, USA


Owned By: The Trustees

This 129-acre parcel with more than a half-mile of river frontage is owned by the Trustees (formerly Trustees of Reservations). Second Herring Brook passes through the property, and flows into the North River. There are two miles of trails, plus a boat house with views of the river. Stroller-friendly in some sections. Don’t miss the view from the boathouse.


This property offers a variety of natural features: plus a mill pond, boardwalks that traverse wetlands, cart paths and narrow footpaths through forests of pine and oak, and views of the salt marsh, Second Herring Brook, and the North River. Watch for large glacial erratic boulders along the way.

Be sure to stop at the boat house, which offers a captivating view of the North River, just above The Rapids, a section with a particularly swift flow. You can walk straight through the boat house to a deck perched directly above the water.

The mill pond was created in 1690, when John Bryant built a dam and erected a grist mill on Second Herring Brook. Around 1770, either Thomas Sylvester or Hawkes Cushing erected a sawmill on the site. Around 1805, David W. Turner tore down the sawmill and replaced it. After a 1927 fire, the mills ceased operations. Beside the bridge by the mill pond, some vestiges of the mill works remain.

Mrs. Albert Norris donated the original parcel to The Trustees in 1970. The property was expanded in 1992 with a gift of land from the McMullen family, and again in 2000 with a gift of land from the Gordon Family.

This land is within the region of the Massachusett (or Massachuseuk) Native American tribe. For thousands of years, the land that today is known as Norwell was inhabited by indigenous people who grew crops, foraged, hunted, and fished in the Assinippi and North River areas. Circa 1617, a major outbreak of disease decimated an estimated 90% of the native population in New England, including the Massachusett and Wampanoag tribes that inhabited the South Shore. There are still descendants of these original inhabitants living here today. They are known as the Mattakeesett Tribe of the Massachusett Indian Nation , the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag, and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.

Trail Description

The main trail from the parking area leads to a former mill pond. Second Herring Brook flows through this pond. A wide bridge crosses the brook, and offers up-close views of the bubbling (and sometimes gushing) stream. From the pond, there are trails to the left and to the right, part of an extensive network of cart paths and narrow footpaths. Both trails lead eventually to the North River, through upland and wetland, with the occasional boardwalk. The Gordon’s Pond boardwalk leads across and around a large pond-like section of Second Herring Brook.

Habitats and Wildlife

Pine and oak forest, with some maple, hickory, and beech. Look for brook, tiger, and rainbow trout in the ponds, and striped bass in the North River. Ducks are a common sight on Gordon’s Pond. Take a seat on a trailside bench, or at the boathouse, and be on the lookout for wading birds, hawks, and kingfishers. It’s common to see osprey and red-tailed hawks here, hunting for fish and small animals. In the wetlands, look for beaver dams and fiddlehead ferns. Toward the end of the day, listen for the hooting of owls and the peeping of frogs. In the cooler months, especially on sunny days, don’t be surprised if you see harbor seals in the water, or sunning themselves on the rocks near the boat house.

Second Herring Brook flows through the Norris Reservation. It originates north of Cross Street in Norwell and flows south through Turner Pond and Torrey Pond. Below Torrey Pond, it is joined by Trout Brook. Second Herring Brook continues through Norwell Center and the Norris Reservation, and then empties into 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.

Herring swim up the North River and into Second Herring Brook to spawn. This run is now fairly depleted, and not monitored. The best chance of seeing herring at this site is in May, look for blueback herring in the flowing waters downstream of the Gordon Pond dam (they run later in the season than alewives). Stand on the dam and look downstream, and let us know if you see any! Unfortunately, expanding the spawning area above the dam is not advisable at this time. The pond is beloved, and the dam is not appropriate for a fish ladder.

Some of the lands that border Second Herring Brook within the Norris Reservation are defined as an acidic shrub fen — acidic peatlands dominated by deciduous shrubs.

18 Dover St, Norwell, MA 02061, USA

Historic Site: No

Park: No

Beach: No

Boat Launch: No

Lifeguards: No

Size: 129 acres

Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Parking: Limited on-site parking. Look for the parking lot on Dover Street, across from the Norwell Post Office.

Cost: Free

Trail Difficulty: Easy


Benches. A boat house directly on the North River (tie-ups not permitted). Geocache locations.

Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Scoop the poop!

Boat Ramp: No

ADA Access: Accessible only from the parking area to the mill pond.

Scenic Views: Yes

Waterbody/Watershed: Second Herring Brook, North River