Thanks to the Marshfield Trailheads, a community organization dedicated to improving access to local open space lands, I have discovered a new nature preserve. While perusing the Trailheads’ ( website, which also provides information on the official Marshfield Trails and Ways Committee, I came across an item on a large conservation parcel that I’d never noticed before, named Puddle Wharf. I was eager to check it out.

According to the Trailheads, the Puddle Wharf Conservation Area is home to Marshfield busiest nature trail, probably because the high school cross-country team uses it for practice. You can see where the team runs because the trees are emblazoned with white paint to mark the way. But both days I visited, my guests and I were the only people on the trails. That’s my kind of “busy” nature preserve!

You can access the Puddle Wharf Trails from School Street. Look for parking just off the roadside (there is no designated parking area) at the bottom of the hill, near the water pumping stations (brick buildings). The trailheads are marked with small round metal plaques – look for them at eye level on the trees.

The Puddle Wharf trails extend for quite a distance on both sides of School Street. If you head south, a walking path leads you through the woods and alongside Puddle Wharf Creek for a short distance. Then the path broadens considerably. One trail veers uphill while the other continues straight ahead.

If you go straight, you will soon encounter a very large sandpit, which is bordered on one side by Forest Street. While not necessarily “pretty” this is nevertheless an interesting landscape to behold. There are spur trails all along the borders of the sandpit, many of which lead to private backyards. It’s probably possible to make your way around the sandpit without hitting a dead end or having to detour out onto Forest Street – but I haven’t yet figured out how to do it! One noteworthy discovery was a stand of “furry” pine-type trees on the perimeter of the sandpit near Forest Street. I’ve never seen anything like them.

Because the trails on the southern section of the property are wide, Puddle Wharf is inviting to cross country skiers. The sandpits are a popular winter sledding spot.

The trails on the northern portion of the property are more wooded and enclosed. Following heavy rains, they can be wet too. The walking path, which was recently improved by Boy Scout Troop 212, winds through the forest, and offers an occasional bench. After a short distance, you will need to cross under the high-tension lines. Go to your right and downhill a little bit, and watch for the trail to continue on the other side of the clearing. It’s my understanding that the trails continue all the way to St. Christine’s Church and Pine Street. On the day I visited this northern side, about 3/4 of the distance into the property there was a giant puddle blocking my way, so I wasn’t able to confirm this.

Puddle Wharf Conservation Area is managed by the Marshfield DPW, the town Water Department, as well as the Conservation Commission. The area is important for protecting the town’s wells and drinking water supply. In fact, five of the town’s wells are located within or adjacent to this property. Marshfield relies on its own groundwater supply (as opposed to water piped in from other sources), so it is essential that these lands be protected from contamination. The property is part of the Furnace Brook Watershed, which drains to the South River.

Motorized vehicles are prohibited from the Puddle Wharf Conservation Area, yet sadly there is plenty of evidence of ATV (all-terrain vehicle) use on the property. There are signs posted that encourage visitors to report any illegal activity. According to the Trailheads, such reporting occurs quite frequently, and the Police Department takes action.

By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein, correspondent
November 2006

Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.