85 Willow St, Marshfield, MA 02050, USA
Owned By: Town of Marshfield
37 acres of Marshfield Conservation land along both the mainstem of the South River and Zenas Brook, a tributary to the South River. Trails through woods and wetlands with small sections of boardwalk. The property connects to the Bridle Path and Rail Trail.
Pratt Farm was originally owned by one of Marshfield’s early settlers, Timothy Williamson, who operated the town “ordinary.” In 1663 he gave the town the land for the Training Green and First Congregational Church in exchange for additional property on the northern banks of the South River. These lands (now Pratt Farm) stayed in his family until the mid-1800s. The house was constructed in 1700. Williamson’s descendants eventually sold the land to the Pratts, who kept it for another 120 years. The town purchased the land in 2012 with Community Preservation funds.
Pratt Farm is part of a longer-term plan for the Town of Marshfield — connecting all of the green spaces along the South River in the downtown area to create a South River Greenway. This would pull together Veterans Memorial Park, South River Park, Pratt Farm, the Keville Footbridge, Dandelion Park and the Rail Trail/Bridle Trail.
Trails are well-marked and easy to follow. From the entrance on Willow Street, the (0.35 mile) main trail heads into the woods, then traverses two small bridges over Zenas Brook, and past two concrete floodgates. They are no longer in use, and appear to be vestiges of the property’s agricultural history or possibly were ice ponds. Continue along the edge of the marsh and into the woods. There is another bridge that crosses some wetlands, and then the trail continues through forest. At the eastern end of the property, a tall set of stairs leads up to the Rail Trail & Bridle Trail.
An additional trail (0.15 mile) arcs away from the marsh, and passes directly alongside the historic Pratt Farm house, before re-joining the main trail.
Habitats and Wildlife
The forest at Pratt Farm is relatively young and very flat. It’s easy to imagine how not too long ago, it was farmland. The woods are primarily pine and oak, with some birch, maple, fern and sweet pepper bush, plus greenbrier and the occasional cedar and sassafras. Some sections of the trails feature bright green moss.
Zenas Brook flows into the South River. It is one of the few cold water streams in Marshfield, key habitat for eastern brook trout. The brook is thought to be named for Zenas Thomas, who was born in 1742, and who in 1765 owned the farm (the old Arthur Howland family farm) across the street from where Pratt Farm is today. For many years Zenas Brook was impounded, creating a small pond on Pratt Farm.
The South River originates deep in Duxbury. Its source is in the Round Pond area, and from there it winds unobtrusively through the woods for several miles. Although one can view it from Route 3, and also from both the South River Bogs and the Camp Wing Conservation Area, it remains a narrow and mostly un-navigable stream until just below Veterans Memorial Park in Marshfield. From there it flows through South River Park, behind the playground of South River School, and under the Willow Street and Francis Keville Bridges. Wider here, and navigable at most tides, its course winds through the marshes as it runs parallel to Route 139, all the way to Rexhame. From there the river turns northward. It flows for 3 miles between Humarock and the mainland to Fourth Cliff, where it joins the North River at its outlet to the sea.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 37 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: On-site parking on Willow Street.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Picnic area, informational kiosk.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes