204 Union St, Hingham, MA 02043, USA
Owned By: Commonwealth of Massachusetts
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: 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
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.
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 is ADA accessible.
Suggested Hike 1: (Healthy Heart Loop) From the Visitor Center Parking Lot off Union Street, take the bike path to N12, then turn left on the Landing Strip to N1,1 and return to the Visitor Center. Distance = 1 mile.
Suggested Hike 2: Park at the Transfer Station, on Union Street, within the park. Follow the Beechwood Street paved trail from E13, past E16 to the boat/kayak launch area for a view of the Aaron River Reservoir. Backtrack a little, then follow the paved trail to E17 and then R9. Follow the woodland trail along the edge of Heron Pond to E18 an E15, then follow the paved trail back to the starting point. Distance = about 2 miles.
Suggested Hike 3: From the Visitors Center parking area, proceed to N2 then follow an unpaved trail to, N11 and N16. The take the unpaved trail to N17, N20, N23, N24, and N25. Cross the paved trail, then continue on the unpaved trail to N31. From there, follow another unpaved trail to C8, then the paved trail to C7. From there, look for the unpaved trail beside Wildcat Pond, and follow it to N33 and N32. Then return to the Visitor’s Center via the paved trail past N14, N12, N3, and N2. Distance = about 4 miles. It’s a great introduction to the park!
More Suggested Hikes coming soon!
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.
This park is the site of the Burbank Boulder. This rock, a remnant of the glacial period, balances itself at three points equally distant from each other. Also, the park contains the highest point in Hingham: Prospect Hill.
Accord Brook flows through this side of Wompatuck, through Triphammer Pond, and into the Weir River. Formed at the confluence of Crooked Meadow River and Fulling Mill Brook, the Weir River flows for a mile or so north through Hingham. Farther downstream, it turns northeast and flows for another 1.4 miles, through Weir River Farm and eventually into Foundry Pond. The Weir River Estuary, designated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as an Area of Critical Concern, begins just below the manmade dam at the pond. The mile-wide estuary forms the border between Hingham and Hull, and empties into Hingham Bay.
Many of the waterways within 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: Yes
Size: 3526 acres
Hours: Sunrise to sunset, plus overnight camping with reservation.
Parking: On-site parking at the Visitor Center, with additional parking at the Transfer Station, much farther into the park. Additional entrances with parking at Leavitt Street in Hingham, Doane Street in Cohasset. Pedestrian access with limited roadside parking on Prospect Street in Norwell. Additional pedestrian access from Mount Blue Street in Norwell, the Aaron River Reservoir in Cohasset, Whitney-Thayer Woods in Cohasset, Brass Kettle Conservation Area in Cohasset, South Pleasant Street in Hingham, and Grove Street in Norwell.
Cost: There is a fee for camping.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
Visitors Center, 400 campsites, non-motorized cartop boat ramp, paved bike paths, picnic areas, restrooms & showers, Trailer/R.V. hookup & dumping.
Boat Ramp: Yes
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Aaron River (Gulf River watershed)