677 Temple St, Duxbury, MA 02332, USA
Owned By: Town of Duxbury
This 37-acre Duxbury Conservation property is located on Temple Street. Next door is Cedar Crest. Together they provide 154 acres of conservation land, with a 2.2-mile network of cart paths and trails that extend through the woods and around cranberry bogs, ponds, vernal pools, and wetlands. Harlow Brook flows through the property and eventually into the South River.
Whiton Woods features old stone walls, bubbling streams, at least one wooden footbridge, large outcroppings of rocks, swampy lowlands, even a vernal pool or two. It was purchased by the Town of Duxbury in 1970 from Harry Hunt Whiton, a long-time summer resident (1950s+).
Whiton Woods is located in North Duxbury, a village sometimes known as the Crooked Lane neighborhood, because of the winding road that once connected each of the homes there. Settlers – often the sons and grandsons of Duxbury’s original grantees – began to arrive in 1685. Samuel Delano received an early land grant at Temple Hill, between Enterprise and Temple Streets. Isaac Simmons built a home farther north on Temple, just before Laurel Street, and Joseph Peterson’s farm was even farther north.
Additional settlers arrived in North Duxbury around 1700, with a number of 30-acre grants at the intersections of Lincoln, Franklin and Temple Streets. But even though well-established paths led to other parts of Duxbury, settlers in this area tended to be more connected to Marshfield. They attended church there, and also did their milling, and patronized Marshfield’s stores. North Duxbury once petitioned the General Court to be annexed to Marshfield, but the petition failed.
North Duxbury was largely a farming community. While in other parts of town, dams were constructed on brooks to power mills and factories, the village’s primary waterway, Harlow Brook, remained a quiet stream flowing west through lowlands and eventually into the South River. Some of those swamps and shallow ponds produced bog iron ore, which could be raked up and forged into functional metal.
Prior to European contact, the Mattakeeset band of the Massachuseuk (or Massachusett) Native American tribe lived for thousands of years in the North River watershed. Their village included most of today’s Pembroke and Hanson. Meanwhile the Patuxet band of the Wampanoag tribe inhabited the Jones River watershed, and the area now known as Kingston, Plymouth and Duxbury. This property lies within the upper portion of the South River watershed — right between those two territories. It’s possible that both tribes utilized the area.
A large cedar tree marks the trailhead. Follow the entrance trail a short distance, and you will arrive at the start of the Whiton Woods loop trail (to the left), which extends for 1.2 miles altogether. Or continue on the entrance trail to the next intersection. Turning right will bring you into another conservation property, Cedar Crest, where you’ll find two additional loop trails. The entrance trail eventually ends at the property’s boundary. Please respect private property.
Habitats and Wildlife
There is an abundance of white pine on the property, as well as some oak and holly. Because of a brutal storm in 2019, many of the pines are now either snapped in half or lying flat on the forest floor. Harlow Brook flows through this property and eventually into the South River.
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 Bog 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
Size: 37 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Parking for three cars on Temple Street.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash or under control at all times. Scoop the poop!
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Harlow Brook (South River watershed)