204 Long Pond Rd, Plymouth, MA 02360, USA
Owned By: Town of Plymouth
Enjoy views of the Eel River along with 1.5 miles of woodland trails within this 150-acre property. Options include wide cart paths and narrow footpaths. A bridge over the Eel River provides access where a dam once stood! Continue your exploration across the street at the Eel River Preserve. To explore other recently restored rivers, consider Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary and the Foothills Preserve, both on Beaver Dam Road in Plymouth.
Note: This property is sometimes confused with the Russell & Sawmill Ponds Conservation Area on Bourne Street in North Plymouth.
This property, as well as the Eel River Preserve, across the street, was initially preserved in 2003, when it was acquired by the Town of Plymouth with the help of Community Preservation funds. Massachusetts’ first bog restoration project was undertaken at Eel River Preserve, with the goal of re-establishing an Atlantic white cedar swamp. The cranberry bog’s ditches, dams and culverts were removed in 2010, allowing the Eel River to flow freely.
Meanwhile here at the Russell Mill Conservation Area, major progress toward river restoration was achieved when a dam on the Eel River was removed in 2010 and replaced with a pedestrian footbridge. There are still some remains of the 19th- and early-20th century sawmill. In addition, ditches and agricultural structures were removed from a small cranberry bog near the entrance, allowing the bog to naturalize. Cranberry farming began at this site toward the end of the 1800s. The dam is also known as the Glendale Dam.
Long before European settlers arrived in 1620, this land was part of Pokanoket, a Wampanoag village governed by Massasoit. Colonists arrived in this area in the mid-to-late 1700s. Dams were placed along the river to power mills for lumber and textile production. According to signage on site, “based on known history and archaeological evidence,” at least one dam was established here before 1822, and operated until 1830. Although the signage does not make it clear, it might be safe to guess that this was a sawmill. After Nathaniel Russell took ownership of the dam, he leased the mill site to Samuel Bradford, who manufactured wood barrels and boxes.
The signage continues, “In 1869, Charles Stoddard purchased the site and with the Plymouth Batting Company built a shoddy mill here to recycle waste cotton or wool into cheap low-grade cloth. The Batting Company completely buried the earlier dam to enlarge the structure and build a stone spillway, portions of which remain today as a visible reminder of the site’s industrial history. In 2010, the Town, State, Federal and local project partners completed partial removal of the dam, thereby restoring habitat, fish passage, and improving water quality.”
Look for the trailhead at toward the rear of the parking area (right side). It soon leads to an informational kiosk and a pleasant footbridge. Stop here to learn about the mills that once stood on this site, and to enjoy views of the Eel River. Continuing on the trail, you’ll pass through an electrical easement. Soon after, you have options: continue on the narrow trail, closer to the pond (with amazing views but sometimes steep or tricky terrain), or follow the wider cart path for a more leisurely stroll. The two trails intersect a couple more times and ultimately form a loop of about 1.5 miles. Toward the far end of the trail, beneath dense layers of spray-painted graffiti and other vandalism, you’ll find the remains of an abandoned fishing camp.
Habitats and Wildlife
The woods here are primarily white pine, oak and pitch pine. Look for sandy soil beneath the leaf litter. Closer to the pond there is a lot of maple. There is also a small grassy area with some cedar trees.
The Eel River originates in springs upstream of this property and flows a short distance through Plymouth, into Plymouth Harbor, at the base of Plymouth Long Beach. Thanks to the removal of obstacles and the restoration of the streamed, river herring have been spotted west of Long Pond Road for the first time in over 100 years!
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 150 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Ample on-site parking. Look for the property sign at 204 Long Pond Road. Follow the driveway, bearing right, and continue past the small informational kiosk to the parking area.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
Informational kiosks, bridge, bench. Geocache locations.
Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Scoop the poop!
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Eel River