67 Elm St, Kingston, MA 02364, USA
Owned By: Town of Kingston
Also known as the Kingston State Forest. More than a mile of woodland trails, plus a view of the Jones River, where a dam once stood. The Bay Circuit Trail runs through this property and offers close-up views of Furnace Brook.
The Patuxet, members of the Wampanoag tribe, made their home in the area now known as Duxbury, Kingston and Plymouth. Numerous artifacts have been found throughout the region surrounding the Jones River.
52 acres of this property became public in 1950. An additional 100 acres were purchased in 1963, when the park was named for Elizabeth Sampson. At the time, it was called Sampson Common and Memorial Forest, and was given to the town by Eliza Faunce and the Lot Phillips Company. Additional acreage was acquired later. Look for old stone walls and glacial erratic boulders in the woods.
Elizabeth Sampson was born in Kingston in 1868. Her family was well-established in the area, and could trace its ancestors back to such local historic figures as Gov. William Bradford, Captain Myles Standish, and William Brewster. Sampson left significant bequests to Kington-based organizations and projects, and she is remembered not only with this park, but with the Elizabeth B. Sampson Fund, which provides funding for community improvement projects.
Dams existed at this site for centuries. Originally they were seasonal, removed at times to permit migratory fish to swim upstream. In the 1920s, a concrete dam was installed, both to provide a water supply for the town, and to power milling operations (such as a tack factory, a sawmill, and a clothing mill) across the street at what is now the Jones River Trading Company. The mill was shut down in the 1960s by the Environmental Protection Agency, due to the pollution it caused (releasing fabric dye into the river).
The concrete dam may have helped industry to thrive, but it also harmed the river system, not only preventing fish passage, but also causing “impairments” such as low oxygen, high nutrients, and excessive vegetation. Since its removal in 2019, fish populations are slowly becoming restored and other wildlife now benefits from the increased food supply. Water quality is likely to improve as well.
A trail extends from the parking area, runs along the edge of the marsh, and continues for 1.4 miles through the woods. There are several intersections, with spurs through both upland and wetland, to various points on the perimeter. The main trail, marked with white blazes, is a section of the Bay Circuit Trail. It makes two very sharp turns, but it marked with signs and arrows. This trail eventually passes through an old stone wall and crosses Furnace Brook, a tributary to the Jones River. It extends all the way to the Kingston Water Department off South Street. Be aware of hunting seasons, and wear orange during these times, as hunting is permitted on the property. Also, as of this update (January 2022), there were several fallen trees along the mail trail, requiring short detours.
Habitats and Wildlife
The dam at Elm Street was removed in 2019, thus the riverbed and surrounding wetlands are very much in transition. Some older maps indicate the presence of Jones River Reservoir here, but now that the dam is gone, the river flows freely. Removal of the dam restores habitat for species such as alewife and blueback herring, as well as rainbow smelt. There are 3 certified vernal pools on the property, and numerous wetlands. The forest is primarily pine, with some maple, birch, oak and beech. Far down the main trail, just before it crosses Furnace Brook, there is a large grove of holly. Also of interest, there are at least 2 small outcroppings of quartz along the main trail.
The Jones River finds its source at Silver Lake and other brooks and springs in Pembroke, Halifax and Kingston. It flows for 7.5 miles through Kingston, and drains into the Atlantic Ocean at Kingston Bay.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 200 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Limited on-site parking on Elm Street.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Informational kiosk and signage, picnic tables, benches, pet waste bags, observation platform, and a Little Free Library.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Jones River