Mass Audubon's North River Wildlife Sanctuary, 2000 Main St, Marshfield, MA 02050, USA
Owned By: Mass Audubon
Mass Audubon’s 225-acre North River Wildlife Sanctuary features 2.5 miles of trails through field and forest, including a 0.25 mile universally accessible sensory trail. An observation platform on the North River is one of the sanctuary’s many attractions.
This North River Wildlife Sanctuary offers several trails and boardwalks that wind through open fields and oak forest. There is also an observation platform on the North River. The property attracts many different species of animals, such as harbor seals, deer, coyotes, geese, pheasants, red tail hawks, dragonflies, butterflies, and squirrels.
In 2021, Mass Audubon worked with the Town of Marshfield to set aside an additional 13 acres of land adjacent to North River Wildlife Sanctuary. This parcel of mixed pine/oak forest includes a tributary to Hannah Eames Brook, and serves as an important buffer to neighboring wetlands to help reduce the effects of flooding and other climate change impacts. The town owns the property, as conservation land, and Mass Audubon holds a Conservation Restriction on it, which preserves the land in perpetuity.
Four trails ranging in individual length from .25 miles to .75 miles are all easy to navigate, but exposed roots and rocks are common. The universally accessible Fern Loop Sensory Trail trail leads through wet red maple forest, over boardwalks, and through a leafy fern glen. The River Loop Trail circles open an field, and includes two short spurs — one to a boardwalk through a wet red maple forest, and the other to an observation platform on the North River. The Woodland Loop Trail passes through a mixed forest featuring oak, witch hazel, and American holly, and includes a short spur to Hannah Eames Brook. The Hannah Eames Trail, named for an early resident, leads through a glen of lush ferns, and then through a mixed forest. Boardwalks can be slippery when wet. Strollers are welcome but may have difficulty traversing some terrain.
Habitats and Wildlife
Many birds species ranging from turkeys to woodpeckers to Red Tail Hawks call this area home. Listen for black-capped chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches in the woods. Chipmunks often take up residence in the stone walls. Watch for squirrels collecting acorns from the oak trees, and harbor seals frolicking in the water near the riverside platform. At low tide, if you look down into the mud, you may also see blue mussels, which the NSRWA seeded there. Mink can sometimes be spotted at Hannah Eames Brook, as well as deer grazing in the large field. Look for butterflies and dragonflies in the fields as well; it was recently re-planted with nectar plants to encourage their presence. Purple martins nest in the gourds that are hung above the meadow.
Hannah Eames Brook flows through the property, emptying into Murdocks Pond, at the intersection of Prospect and Summer Streets. Macombers Creek leads from Murdocks Pond to 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: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 225 acres, with 2.5 miles of trails in total
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: On-site parking at the office building.
Cost: Free for members; small fee for non-members.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Nature Center, with restrooms, is open Monday through Friday, 9am – 4pm.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Sensory Trail is ADA accessible. The Nature Center is also accessible for an audio tour.
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: North River