Parsons Marsh Reserve (Lenox, MA)

Date Of Visit: March 21, 2020

Location: 170 Under Mountain Rd, Lenox, MA (1 hour northwest of Springfield, MA, 2 hours west of Boston, MA, 1 hr and 15 mins northwest of Hartford, CT)

Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free

Parking: There is room for about a dozen cars in the parking lot

Universally Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Trail Distance: .75 miles, 435 acres of wetland

Trail Difficulty: Easy with gentle inclines

Highlights: scenic, wildlife, easy paths, benches, observation platform

Summary: A .60 mile universally accessible boardwalk (both ways) leads to a scenic overlook of the pet friendly Parsons Marsh Reserve.  Along the boardwalk are a variety of trees, plants and wildlife.

Website:    Parsons Marsh Reserve

Trail Map: Parsons Marsh Reserve Trail Map

Established in 2018, Parsons Marsh Reserve is one of the newer hidden gems of New England.  Home to a variety of species and plant life, Parsons Marsh Reserve is the perfect place for a family day or just a walk by yourself.

The reserve is named after John E. Parsons, a New York City attorney and philanthropist who purchased land in 1875 on the west side of Under Mountain Road.  Parsons would go on to build a Gilded Age house and outbuildings along the road. The original house was razed but the barn still stands as part of nearby Stonover Farm (presently a bed and breakfast farther along the road).  But, his memory lives on at the reserve.

As you approach the main entrance and walk along the dirt path, there are antique farm machines and a pond with a very creaky and somewhat shaky board to walk out on.  I did try my luck and it is indeed safe to walk out on.  But it is also not for the feint of heart.   A bench is located in front of the lake for people sit and reflect (within a safe distance of each other of course).  There is also a shed set aside from the pond.  Nothing too interesting was in there.  Just a pair of oars were resting against the wall of the structure.

As you walk along the trail to the pond, you may  notice a work in progress pollinator habitat being built by the Lenox Garden Club and Berkshire Natural Resources Council.  All of the materials being used for the habitat are biodegradable and chemicals are being used for the habitat.  I look forward to seeing it when it is complete.

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The one third of a mile boardwalk along the marsh is an stroll, albeit a bit narrow given these “social distancing times.”  It is also universally accessible.

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The trail, 1,800 feet long, has an 800-foot boardwalk including three bridges. Along the boardwalk there are a variety of plants and trees.  Many of the roots of the trees along the marsh are exposed as a result of the marsh water level dropping.

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There are also large rock outcrops which are the remnants of glaciers from some 20,000 years ago.  But, the highlight of the reserve has to be the outlook platform at the end of the boardwalk.  The outlook offers sweeping views of an open meadow pond at the end of the marsh.

It being early Spring, there was a lot of chirping, screeching and plopping at the reserve (and then there was the wildlife).  But, seriously, there were definite signs of spring evident during my visit.  But, there was no visible activity in the water, save for a few black ducks in the far distance and the birds were elusive.  I do think in a future visit on a warmer day, earlier in the morning I will have better luck finding signs of life there.

Preliminary plans are in the works to create trails that would extend to nearby Kennedy Park in Lenox and parts of Pittsfield.

 

North River Wildlife Sanctuary (Marshfield, MA)

Dates Of Visits: March 16 & 17, 2019

Location: 200 Main St., Marshfield, MA

Hours: Open daily dawn til dusk (office is open Mon-Fri, 9:00-4:00)

Cost: Free for members, Nonmembers: $4 Adults, $3 Seniors (65+), $3 Children (2-12)

Parking: There is free parking for about 30 to 40 cars

Trail Size/Difficulty: 225 acres, 5 miles of trails (universally accessible: 0.5-mile loop)/ Easy.  See website for additional information.

Handicapped Accessible: The Fern Sensory Trail is universally accessible.  But the other trails are not handicapped accessible.

Dog Friendly: No, MASS Audubon trails are not dog friendly

Website: North River Wildlife Sanctuary

Map: North River Wildlife Sanctuary Trail Map

Highlights: wildlife, wide variety of birds, observation deck, sensory trail

Summary: Easy trails, a variety of wildlife and birds (with one special bird), boardwalks and an observation deck are just some of the features of this park

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It’s not everyday that you see an eagle.  At least not in the suburbs of Massachusetts.  But, that’s exactly what happened during a visit to one of the hidden New England treasures in Marshfield, MA.

In trurgh, Marshfield is home to a lot of different wildlife.  You may find beavers in some of the rivers and ponds.  There are coyotes, wolves and deer in the area.  But, eagles are a different matter.

While I was walking along the River Loop Trail, a .5 miles trail that loops around the field across Summer St, I noticed a very large bird soaring above the treetops.  I froze at first, not believing what I had seen.  A Bald Eagle, not a common bird in these parts, was indeed flying above me. It’s unusual to see birds like this in Marshfield.  Later during my visit, one of the workers at the Audubon informed me that an eagle had a nest in that area.

There are a variety of other birds at the sanctuary such as cardinals, blue jays, red winged blackbirds and chickadees.

I have to make a confession though.  I sort of cheated.  There are bird feeders located in front of the office which made it easier to photograph some of these birds.  But, I was able to photograph a lot of the birds on the trails.

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The trails are fairly easy to negotiate.  In fact, the only issue I had walking on them had more to do with the time of the year I visited.  The temperatures had risen melting much of the snow which created mud puddles, then froze over making it it a little icy.  But, this should not be an issue now.

The first trail at the sanctuary is the Sensory Trail.  There are educational exhibits along the trail such as a display that shows examples of needles and bark.  Visitors can touch the display and see the difference between the two materials.  There is an exhibit that shows the lifecycle of a butterfly along the trail.  The sanctuary also has solar panels which they use for energy.  There are boardwalks along the trail as the area is rather marshy.  Unfortunately, I could not access all of the trails on the Sensory Trail due to the flooded and muddy nature of the trail.

There is one tricky part to accessing the other trails at North River Wildlife Sanctuary.  To access the observation deck and the other trails that lead up to it, you must first cross Summer St (see attached link to the ap of the sanctuary for more details).  It can be a busy road depending on when you visit.  Do use caution while crossing the street.

Once you cross Summer Street, you will see a field with a nesting area, which I don’t usually see birds using, and a trail that loops around the area.  You can also view the aptly named North River from the top of the area.

If you’re lucky, you may see a few chipmunks and red squirrels along the Red Maple Loop which is accessible off the main trail (the River Loop trail).

The most popular attraction (besides the eagles) is the observation deck off the again aptly named North River View trail.  The observation deck offers pretty views of the North River and the surrounding Marshfield neighborhood.

As I was leaving the sanctuary I did see one hopeful sign.  Spring is indeed springing!

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Similar Places I Have Visited:

Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary (Marshfield, MA)

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary (Topsfield, MA)