433 Grove St, Norwell, MA 02061, USA
Owned By: Commonwealth of Massachusetts
The newest (2022) access point to Wompatuck State Park! Look for the entrance diagonally across the street from the Hornstra Farm sign on Grove Street. This is an excellent alternative to the unofficial Prospect Street entrance, around the corner, which lacks sufficient parking.
This 3,500-acre Massachusetts state park served as the Hingham Naval Ammunition Annex from 1941 to 1965. It stretches into four towns – Hingham, Cohasset, Scituate and Norwell. The park features numerous seasonal campsites, plus fishing and non-motorized boating on the Aaron River Reservoir. There are 12 miles of paved bike paths, plus off-road trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. Stroller-friendly in some sections. There are many rocky outcroppings and glacial erratic boulders throughout the park.
Other access points include: Main Entrance, Hingham • Leavitt Street Entrance, Hingham • Triphammer Pond Conservation Area, Hingham • Whitney Spur Rail Trail, Cohasset • Whitney & Thayer Woods, Cohasset • Doane Street Entrance, Cohasset • Aaron River Reservoir and Dam, Cohasset • Brass Kettle Conservation Area, Cohasset • Prospect Street, Norwell • Mt. Blue Street, Norwell
The land at Wompatuck State Park originally belonged to Wampanoag chief Josiah Wompatuck. English settlers purchased the land from Wompatuck in 1655. In the 1700s, early settlers and ship captains held title to the area, but the land was never extensively developed. During the 1800s, families maintained woodlots and grazing lands here, and the streams powered the Stockbridge Shingle Mill. Water from Mt. Blue Spring was commercially bottled.
In 1941, the United States government established the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot Annex (known by locals as the “Cohasset Annex”). Land was acquired from private homeowners for the purpose of expanding the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot nearby. It remained in use until 1965, and served both World War II and the Korean Conflict.
Scattered throughout the property are over 100 decommissioned military bunkers, which were used to store ammunition. Explosives such as TNT-loaded depth charges, bombs, fuses, projectiles, and cartridges were produced and stored here. Many of these bunkers have been backfilled, but some remain exposed. There are several old military buildings on the property, as well as an abandoned railroad. Most buildings have had their roofs and windows removed, and are open to the elements.
The U.S. Navy deactivated the Cohasset Annex in 1963 and declared the land “surplus.” The Commonwealth of Massachusetts took possession of the land in 1966, and began developing it as a public park the following year. The park itself opened in 1969. Since then, 725 acres have been added.
A rail spur, the Whitney Spur, once connected the Ammunition Depot to the Old Colony Railroad’s Greenbush Line. In 2003, the DCR sold the land for the Cohasset commuter rail station and parking lot to the MBTA, in exchange for the construction of a rail trail on the former rail spur. The 1.5-mile Whitney Spur Rail Trail now connects the Cohasset MBTA station to Wompatuck State Park.
This entrance features a new ADA trail that connects via a boardwalk and a crushed stone pathway to established trails within the park. A section of the now-aging chain link fencing that once demarcated the park’s boundaries can be found a short distance down the trail. Not all maps have been updated to include this entrance. It’s helpful to know that the trail from the parking lot leads to marker S27.
There are numerous woodland trails within the park for hiking, dog-walking, horseback riding, cycling, and cross-country skiing. For mountain bikers, the park is home to one of the longest section of switchbacked singletrack in the state.
Habitats and Wildlife
Much of the park is undeveloped and is heavily wooded. Trees include Atlantic white cedar, American holly, chestnut oak, shagbark hickory, mountain laurel, pink dogwood, white pine, American beech, and hemlock — some estimated to be 175 years old. Wildflowers and flowering shrubs also grow in abundance. Among the most common are swamp azalea, solomon’s seal, white geranium, ladies slipper, and sheep laurel.
Land and water creatures abound in the park. Common species include: muskrat, raccoon, cottontail rabbit, skunk, painted turtle, bullfrog, coyote, deer, bobcat, fisher cat, red & grey fox, yellow spotted salamander, yellow spotted turtle, box turtle, woodcock, bass, pickerel and sunfish. There are over 250 bird species in the park, including: blue jay, great blue heron, gosshawk, red tail hawk, yellow warbler, ruffed grouse, and quail. Fish commonly found in the 136-acre Aaron River Reservoir include bass, pickerel, sunfish, and perch.
The Aaron River is relatively close to this entrance. You can find it by navigating to S30 and S31 on the trail map. The loop trail connecting these two points to S11-S14 crosses the Aaron River twice.
This section of the park, and many of the waterways elsewhere in the park, drain to the Aaron River, which flows northeast to the Aaron River Reservoir. The dam that holds the reservoir in place was constructed from 1976-1978. Below the dam, the river continues to flow through Cohasset. It joins with Brass Kettle Brook and eventually empties into the Gulf River in North Scituate. The Gulf River flows into the ocean at Cohasset Harbor.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 3500 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Ample on-site parking (35 cars)
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Informational kiosk (still under construction February 2022), bench.
Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Scoop the poop!
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Aaron River (Gulf River watershed)