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

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 river. Stroller-friendly in some sections.


This property offers a variety of natural features: 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.

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. Watch for large glacial erratic boulders along the way.

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.

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 kingfisher. 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 runs through the Norris Reservation. 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, as the fish are bluebacks that run later in the season in the flowing waters downstream of the Gordon Pond dam. 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 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).

Dogs: Yes

Boat Ramp: No

ADA Access: No

Scenic Views: Yes

Other Things to Do at This Site