489 Prospect St, Norwell, MA 02061, USA
Owned By: Commonwealth of Massachusetts
IMPORTANT: While many state parks remain open, the Visitor Center at Wompatuck State Park will be closed until further notice. Many DCR-managed facilities are included in Massachusetts’ closure of non-essential businesses. Visit http://www.mass.gov for details.
This alternate — and unofficial — entrance to Wompatuck State Park is located on Prospect Street in Norwell, very close to the Hingham town line. It’s an excellent access point for a hike to the top of Prospect Hill. It’s also great spot to begin a mountain bike ride through the park. With no vehicle access, it is not recommended for those wishing to use the park’s campground.
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, non-motorized boating and seasonal ice skating 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.
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”) and the site. 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 along with the assembly of rocket motors. Many of these bunkers have been backfilled, but some remain exposed, including one which housed parts of the Navy’s first nuclear depth charge in the 1950s. There are several old military buildings on the property, as well as an extensive network of 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 as 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.
There are numerous woodland trails 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. The Wompatuck Trail, accessible from the Main entrance in Hingham, is ADA accessible.
Close to the Norwell entrance to the park is the highest point in Hingham: Prospect Hill. To get there, follow the trail from Marker S32 to S33 to S 34, and then onward to S3 and S4.
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, goss hawk, 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.
Close to the Cohasset entrance of the park is the Burbank Boulder. This rock, a remnant of the glacial period, balances itself at three points equally distant from each other. To get there, follow the trail from Marker S32 to S33 to S 34, and then onward to S3 and S4.
The Aaron River finds its source within Wompatuck State Park and 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: 3526 acres
Hours: Sunrise to sunset, plus overnight camping with reservation.
Parking: Two roadside parking areas, each for 3-4 vehicles, on Prospect Street in Norwell, close to the Hingham town line.
Cost: There is a fee for camping.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
This entrance features the occasional bench and information kiosk. Facilities available at the Main Entrance include the Visitors Center, 400 campsites, boat ramp, paved bike paths, picnic areas, restrooms & showers, Trailer/R.V. hookup & dumping.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes