47 Wareham St, Middleborough, MA 02346, USA
Owned By: Town of Middleborough
Also known as the Middleborough Herring Run, the Wareham Street Dam and Bridge, and the Wareham Street Fish Ladder. This small park on the Nemasket River is a perfect spot for viewing the annual alewife herring run. Stop by in mid-to late March and early April to see thousands of herring making their way upstream toward their spawning grounds at Assawompsett Pond. The Wampanoag word “Nemasket” is generally understood to mean “place where the fish are.” This is one of the largest herring runs on the Eastern Seaboard.
River access for paddlers is available here as well. See Trail Description below, for details.
Prior to European settlement, this spot was very likely the location of a Native American fishing weir, later used by colonists as well. In 1687, all weirs along the Nemasket River (except one, farther downstream) were ordered to be removed. The taking of herring was strictly regulated in colonial times. Herring were mostly used by Europeans as fertilizer, and to feed the poor.
In 1762, a dam was erected here, powering a forge, a grist mill, and a shovel factory. The location became known as the Upper Factory Site or New Factory site. Later there was a sawmill, a cotton mill, and a box factory. All enterprises were required to maintain a passage for fish.
When the Wareham Street Bridge was rebuilt in 1867, a new fish ladder was constructed as well. The fish ladder has been rebuilt and redesigned numerous times through the years. After a sharp decline in herring population in 1965, a jointly-funded project by the town, county and state created a new bridge on Wareham Street with automatic gates under the road to encourage fish passage. More recently, in 1996, the fish ladder was widened and deepened. The park was built in memory of two local residents.
Middleborough has a long-standing history of protecting the herring run. The town website offers a fascinating account. This park, and many others nearby, is overseen by the volunteers of the Middleborough-Lakeville Herring Fishery Commission.
The park features brick and crushed stone walkways, totaling about 0.1 miles.
River access is available here, for paddlers. To head upstream, cross Wareham Street and put your boat into the water at the end of the herring run/fish ladder. It’s a 3.2 mile journey to Assawompsett Pond. If you’re heading downstream, use extreme caution as the next 3/4 mile involves quick water and a Class I whitewater drop, where the river goes through a breached canal wall. See the Upper Nemasket Map Guide for details. Do not paddle under the bridge!
Habitats and Wildlife
Every spring, the alewife herring you’ll see here begin their 23-mile journey from the ocean at Mount Hope Bay, between Fall River, MA and Bristol, RI. They travel up the Taunton River to the Nemasket River, and all the way to their spawning grounds in the Assawompsett Pond Complex. Seagulls follow the migration, so if you see them overhead, it’s a pretty good indication that the herring are running. During the herring run, it’s also common to see herons perched in the trees and fishing in the waters downstream of the dam.
The Nemasket River flows for 11 miles through Lakeville and Middleborough, from the Assawompsett Pond Complex to the Taunton River. Some of the other fish commonly found in the river include American shad, American eel, rainbow smelt and striped bass. Deer, foxes, coyotes, river otters, raccoons, skunks, and opossums are also common.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: Yes
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
Parking: Limited on-site parking. Additional parking across the street at the Middleborough DPW headquarters.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Picnic tables, benches, informational kiosks, trash receptacles, herring run/fish ladder.
Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Scoop the poop!
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Nemasket River (Taunton River watershed)