720 State St, Hanson, MA 02341, USA
Owned By: Town of Hanson
A small but fascinating property — beautiful, and rich in history. Four contiguous parcels totaling 13 acres, located directly on the Indian Head River and Rocky Run Brook. Owned by Hanson Conservation Commission and Plymouth County Conservation Commission. More than a mile of trails, with a direct link to the adjacent Tucker Preserve.
The Rocky Run Conservation Area is small, but it’s a very beautiful spot, and well worth the visit. There are captivating views of both the Indian Head River and Rocky Run Brook. Narrow footpaths extend up and down ridges along the water’s edge. Wider cart paths explore the property’s interior. Deep within the parcel are the remains of a stone/earthen dam, revealing the brook’s industrial past.
The brook itself flows from Hanson into the Indian Head River, a little bit downstream of Cross Street (Hanover) / State Street (Hanson). One of Jesse Reed’s tack factories was located on this brook, and before that a mill operated by Isaac Buck that produced wooden ware such as bowls, trays and skimmers.
Look for Dwelly Rock, an enormous boulder. A good way to find it is — if you enter the property from State Street — after you cross Rocky Run Brook on the bridge of flat rocks, continue on the trail and look to your right for a large, long oval-shaped boulder. Climb up on top of it, and you’ll find the words “Dwelly 1875” engraved there. Dwelly once operated an iron forge nearby.
From the parking area on State Street, look across to the pond. While it is relatively quiet today, historically it was a very busy spot. According to Barry’s Historical Sketch of Hanover, in 1720, Capt. Josiah and Benjamin Stetson were granted 2 acres to erect a dam on the Indian Head River and establish a forge and finery here. It was known as Barstow’s Forge, and later Sylvester’s. According to Barbara Barker’s “Focus on History” column, in 1853, E. Phillips & Sons established a large tack factory on site. There were more than a dozen buildings and two furnace stacks. This was succeeded by the WWI-era Atlas Tack Company. The factory buildings have all been torn down except for the one that currently (2020) houses Myette’s store. The original dam was destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938.
Together with the Tucker Preserve, the Indian Head River Trails, and Luddam’s Ford Park in both Pembroke and Hanover, the Rocky Run Conservation Area is part of a network of trails that leads up one side and down the other side of the Indian Head River. The 4-mile hike can be physically demanding — some of the ridges are steep! It can also be confusing, as some of the trails are not well-marked. However, once you know the route, it is a fascinating place to explore.
Within Rocky Run, the loop trail is marked with red blazes. The upland trail extends for about 0.6 miles. There is an unmarked but well-trod trail through the lowlands as well, of about equal length.
Habitats and Wildlife
Rocky Run provides refuge for forest species typical to the South Shore. Otters, mink, and fisher cats like to be in or near water like the Indian Head River, where they can scavenge for food like herring and freshwater mussels. Animals like deer, opossums and coyotes make their homes in the rocky outcrops and crevices.
The Indian Head River rises from the Drinkwater River and Factory Pond in West Hanover. Rocky Run is one of its many small tributaries. Farther downstream is Luddam’s Ford, and beyond that is a spot called The Crotch, where the Indian Head joins Pembroke’s Herring Brook to create the North River.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 13 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Limited on-site parking-site parking. Small lot immediately adjacent to the bridge over the Indian Head River on State Street at Hanover/Hanson town line.
Trail Difficulty: Medium
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes