It's no wonder visitors "flock" to the largest wildlife sanctuary managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society as part of the Eastern Essex County Interior Forest Bird Area. The varying ecosystems found in this parcel of protected land allow for numerous bird species to find space to feed, rest, or raise chicks. Not to mention the other diverse wildlife that visit this area like deer, turtles, turkeys, and everyone's favorite, horseflies (long sleeves and pants help a lot).
This loop hike heads north from the Visitor Center to the Rock Grotto and Rockery Pond Loop
before continuing along Mile Brook toward Fox Field and returning along the Ipswich River with a visit to the Waterfowl Pond before heading back up Bradstreet Hill.
Members - Free; Non-members - $6 Adults, $4 Seniors (65+), $4 Children (2-12).
From the Visitor Center, head north through the open field on the Rockery Trail
as it ducks into the woods. Continue straight (north) across the Drumlin Trail
and then again across the Waterfowl Pond Trail
to find the Rockery Pond Loop
. Head in either direction around the pond with the Rock Grotto on the west side. For visitors short on time or looking to accommodate a group of varying ages and/or abilities, this out-and-back can be a lovely hike all by itself.
Continuing along this recommended hike, head back to the Waterfowl Pond Trail
, this time heading left (east) through the marshland toward the Waterfowl Pond and bridge. Turn left onto Mile Brook Trail
at the bridge and head north through the woods separating Hassocky Meadow to the east and Mill Pond to the west.
Look to the right (east) for the White Pine Loop
, which you can take immediately or continue to the north a few hundred yards more toward Fox Field and then head back to the right (southeast) along the eastern half of the loop. Continue onto Averill's Island Loop
as it heads toward the namesake Ipswich River before returning to the Waterfowl Pond.
To explore new trails on the final stretch back to the parking area, head left (south) onto the Stone Bridge Trail
to link up with Bradstreet Lane
. Or to lengthen your hike, continue south to visit the Wisteria Arbor, Observation Tower, and Vernal Pool.
This land has some good examples of eskers and drumlins, which are results of the glacier that formed what we see today. An esker is an elevated, usually winding formation of gravel or smoothed rock, often used by animals or people as trails or roads. They form when water melts from a retreating glacier, creating a sub-surface stream. Similarly, drumlins are oval-shaped hills whose formations are still debated but generally are due to compressions in the earth made by glaciers and moving ice.
The Rock Grotto was constructed in 1905.