60 Beaver Dam Rd, Plymouth, MA 02360, USA
Owned By: Mass Audubon
This varied 481-acre property features a winding coastal stream bordered by freshwater wetlands. It offers 3 miles of trails through meadows and woodlands, along ponds, swamps, and streams. Also consider the Town of Plymouth’s Foothills Preserve, directly across the street, and Beaver Dam Conservation Area, down the road heading south.
The largest freshwater ecological restoration ever completed in the Northeast took place at this site, converting a working cranberry farm to a wildlife preserve. Among the many benefits were the return of river herring and muskrat back to Beaver Dam Brook, after a long absence.
The previous owners, the Schulman Family, worked with organizations such as the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to reverse over a century of interference, reconfiguring the landscape, restoring natural streamflow, and allow Beaver Dam Brook to flow unobstructed to the sea. As a result, Tidmarsh has become a showcase of change-in-progress. When you walk the trails and observe your surroundings, you’re seeing the forces of nature at work.
The property’s final two dams were removed in 2020-2021, reconnecting Manomet Brook to its headwaters across the street at the Town of Plymouth’s Foothills Preserve, and restoring important habitat for migratory fish such as River Herring and American Eel.
One of the most inspiring things about the Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary is what it means, in terms of the Big Picture. First there was Beaver Dam Brook, and the wetlands that surrounded it. Then came the influence of agriculture and industry, where unfortunately nature took a backseat. The birds went away; the fish and furry creatures found other places to inhabit. Now the original habitats have been restored. The wetlands are capable of serving their natural function once again – to contain floodwaters and support the water supply against drought. As the increasing consequences of Climate Change become more evident, Tidmarsh brings a sense of hope that it is not too late to protect our planet.
Long before European settlers arrived in 1620, this land was part of Pokanoket, a Wampanoag village governed by Massasoit.
Tidmarsh offers 3 miles of trails. From the parking area, follow the Entrance Trail (0.4 miles) past a small pond and through a forest of pine and oak. This will lead you to a large open meadow. You can take the Ridge Trail (to the left) uphill to an overlook that features a spectacular view of the entire property.
Or if you have more time, follow the Meadow Trail (to the right) to either of two longer paths. The Farm Road Ramble takes you over Beaver Dam Brook, along the edge of the wetlands, and eventually to the scenic Madar Loop (about 1.4 miles total). The Volunteers’ Trail, along the wetlands’ opposite bank, runs farther into the sanctuary. You can hike for a mile each way, with many views of the newly-restored wetlands and stream. There are plans in place to eventually connect these two trail systems, so that visitors can tour the entire stream valley in one long loop.
Habitats and Wildlife
A variety of habitats are present at Tidmarsh, including grasslands, Atlantic White Cedar swamp, pine-oak forest, and cold-water streams, where you may be lucky to observe river herring or a muskrat. Common bird species such as red-shouldered hawks and northern harriers have been spotted regularly, as well as more-rare visitors such as king rails, blue grosbeaks and Caspian terns.
Beaver Dam Brook flows through the center of the property. Nine dams were removed to facilitate its flow. Manomet Brook finds its source in Plymouth’s Foothills Preserve, immediately adjacent to Tidmarsh. It flows southeast towards Beaver Dam Road and then northeast through Tidmarsh, to join Beaver Dam Brook. The brook flows east under Route 3A, and eventually empties into the ocean off of White Horse Beach. It is part of the Cape Cod Bay watershed.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 481 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: On-site parking area.
Cost: Free for Mass Audubon members; $2 for non-members.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
Benches, informational kiosks.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Beaver Dam Brook (Cape Cod Bay watershed)