2200 Ocean St, Marshfield, MA 02050, USA
Owned By: Town of Marshfield
The South River flows through this historic milling and manufacturing site, which dates back to 1656, when William Ford and Josiah Winslow erected Marshfield’s first grist mill. Now home to a fish ladder, undershot water wheel, and passive recreational park.
The town of Marshfield was founded in 1640. Its first mill, a grist mill, was established in 1654 or 1656, on the South River at the site of today’s Veterans Memorial Park. In Colonial times, churches and mills were the social centers of a community. William Ford and Josiah Winslow were the first to operate a mill at this site. Winslow sold Ford his interest in 1657, and the Ford family carried on the business of both grist mills and sawmills at this location for several generations.
The Duxbury & South River Manufacturing Company opened Marshfield’s first major factory here in 1810 or 1814, producing cotton and woolen goods. The company owned three mills — the other two were at Chandler’s Pond and at the Mill Brook in Duxbury. The mills employed both men and women for such tasks as weaving, spooling and cording. Some workers lived in a boarding house nearby. Later the operation was taken over by the Duxbury Manufacturing Company.
In the 1850s Henry C. Dunham operated a sawmill at the site. After 1900, the location was also used as a boxboard mill, an ice house, a paint shop and for storage. In the 1930s Stanley Baker ran a laundry here, often referred to as “the wet wash.” The mill building was torn down in the 1940s, and Veterans’ Memorial Park itself was created in 1948, to honor military servicemen and women. Traffic lights at this busy intersection were not installed until 1973.
Veterans Memorial Park is part of a longer-term plan for the Town of Marshfield — connecting all of the green spaces along the South River in the downtown area to create a South River Greenway. This would pull together Veterans Memorial Park, South River Park, Pratt Farm, the Keville Footbridge, Dandelion Park and the Rail Trail/Bridle Trail.
This is an open, grassy park with paved walkways, located at the corner of Routes 3A and 139. A gazebo, a waterwheel, and small lagoon with a fountain make it a pleasant spot within the busy Route 139 corridor. The park itself is dedicated to American Veterans everywhere and is used in town events on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Visitors are welcome, but a permit is required for use of the park by groups.
Below Veterans’ Memorial Park, the South River is navigable by canoe or kayak, however the stretch of river between the park and Willow Street may not be accessible at all tides due to bridge clearance or low water. Launching a boat at Willow Street is not recommended, as poison ivy is abundant! Instead, launch at the Francis Keville Footbridge, behind CVS.
Habitats and Wildlife
The South River flows through this property. There is a dam, with a fish ladder to help migrating fish such as herring make their way upstream every spring to spawn. The fish ladder is not well designed. It requires daily manipulations to allow fish to pass. Thus, unfortunately, the South River fish run struggles to survive. Our volunteers often note thousands of fish downstream, unable to make it over the ladder.
In 2018, thanks to the daily assistance of the Marshfield DPW and Conservation Commission, more fish were able to pass the fish ladder, but they typically don’t make it far upstream. Their habitat is limited by additional dams at Chandler Pond in Marshfield, and at Temple Street in Duxbury. Neither of those dams have a fish ladder.
NSRWA is currently working to restore the South River fishway, with support from MassBays South Shore, the state’s Division of Ecological Restoration, the towns of Marshfield and Duxbury, the Veterans, and private dam owners. We are hoping to remove the dams, as they no longer serve their original purpose. Funds for engineering work, to remove the dam at Veterans Memorial Park, were approved by the Town of Marshfield in 2019.
Currently the best time to see fish at this site is in May, and even into June, as the run is predominantly blueback herring, that prefer warmer water temperatures.
Look for birds such as the black capped chickadee in the shrubs surrounding the park. Farther upstream, look for beavers constructing dams. Below Veterans Park, the South River is tidal. Twice per day, the fresh water flowing downstream is pushed back by the incoming salt water tide.
The South River originates deep in Duxbury. Its source is in the Round Pond area, and from there it winds unobtrusively through the woods for several miles. Although one can view it from Route 3, and also from both the South River Bogs and the Camp Wing Conservation Area, it remains a narrow and mostly un-navigable stream until just below Veterans Memorial Park. From there it flows through South River Park, behind the playground of South River School, and under the Willow Street and Francis Keville Bridges. Wider at that point, and navigable at most tides, its course winds through the marshes as it runs parallel to Route 139, all the way to Rexhame. From there the river turns northward. It flows for 3 miles between Humarock and the mainland to Fourth Cliff, where it joins the North River at its outlet to the sea.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Park at unpaved pull-off adjacent to the park on Plain Street (Route 139).
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Benches, gazebo, water wheel, fountain, fish ladder.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes