Wednesday, July 12, 2017

New Boat Launch on the South River!

A view of the new South River launch with the bench in the foreground.
 I’m so excited to share this news! Thanks to the combined efforts of the Town of Marshfield, Goodwill Hunters, and the North & South Rivers Watershed Association, there is a new launch site for canoes, kayaks, SUPs and other small boats on the South River. Until this spring, those who wanted to paddle the upper navigable portion of the South River had to risk such challenges as steep inclines, unsure footing, and poison ivy. But not anymore! This is a prime example of our Community Preservation funds being put to good use.

Many are unaware that the South River originates deep in Duxbury. Its source is in the Round Pond area, and from there it winds unobtrusively through the woods for several miles. Although one can view it from Route 3, and also from both the South River Bogs and Camp Wing conservation areas, it remains a narrow and mostly un-navigable stream until it makes its first “public” appearance at Veterans Memorial Park in Marshfield. From there it flows under Route 3A, through South River Park, and behind the playground of South River School, emerging again at Willow Street. But due to fences, dense vegetation, traffic, and general navigability none of these are ideal places to access the river by boat.

Just downstream from Willow Street, however, is the Francis Keville Footbridge, the location of the South River’s new boat launch. This is the upstream addition we river enthusiasts have been hoping for! Finally, there is relatively easy access to this portion of the river!

The Keville Footbridge was constructed in 2001. You can get there via a 0.15-mile path that extends behind the CVS on Ocean Street, as well as a 0.25-mile trail that originates on South River Street. Both access points are along a de-commissioned section of the Old Colony Railroad. Paddlers should be aware that launching a boat here requires carrying it first -- a bit of a distance. It’s worth it, though!

There is a gate in the middle of the bridge that opens onto a tall metal ramp. The ramp is steep, but it has railings and a non-slip walkway . . . and it is wide enough to accommodate a person carrying a kayak. The ramp leads down to a wooden float, which sits on the water’s surface.

Once you get your boat on the water, you are in for a treat. This is a quiet section of the river – bordered on both sides by salt marsh. Those familiar with the lower portion of South River at Humarock and Rexhame will find this section to have significantly less traffic. Especially in the summer, when the reeds have grown tall, it’s hard to believe that civilization is close-by. You’re likely to see all sorts of wildlife – turtles sunning, river otters playing, any number of fish and fowl going about their daily routines.

After passing through the center of Marshfield, the river tucks back into the marshes. One can view it remotely from various locations along South River Street, and in the Southport and Rexhame neighborhoods. Downstream from there, it completely changes character. Its final three miles, along the barrier beach of Humarock, are very much out-in-the-open.

One of the many nice things about the lower portion of the South River is that it is wide and deep enough to be navigable at any tide. The upper portion is another story. You can still launch a canoe or kayak from the Keville Bridge at low tide, but you are likely to encounter some obstacles as you proceed. (With a SUP, you should be able to glide around or over even the shallowest sections). I was surprised to discover, on a recent excursion, that the upper portion of the South River has a number of sandbars!

Thus, be sure to consult a tide chart before you go, and bear in mind that when it’s high tide at the ocean, it will be another 3-4 hours before it’s high tide at the Keville Bridge. The height of the tide itself, and the amount of rainfall in the days and weeks prior, also affect water level. Unlike other sections of the river, it’s hard to know with much certainty how much water there will be at a given time. But that’s part of the adventure, right?

Another important thing to bear in mind: the Town of Marshfield is still fine-tuning the wooden float at the new launch site. At present, it sits rather high on the water (probably to accommodate the very heavy metal ramp). Getting into and out of your vessel could present an  unexpected challenge. That said, the river is shallow enough – at least at lower tides – that you can easily stand in the water beside the float. The Town of Marshfield hopes to have this situation remedied soon.

Even if you’re not interested in launching a boat from the Keville Bridge, it’s worth visiting. Goodwill Hunters (who also provided funding) has installed a granite bench at the water’s edge – a tribute to the late Drew and Anjuli Hunter -- and the view from there is really something. The organization is a big supporter of river access. (Watch for its annual Duck Derby this fall!) In addition, there are efforts underway to post signs and construct an informational kiosk along the trail behind CVS. There have also been murmurs of PFDs and wheeling mechanisms being available to lend across the street at Levitate.

A Note About Parking: At present the town advises that you drop off your boat or board at the trailhead behind CVS, and then move your car across the street to the municipal lot next to Levitate. In the future, they are hopeful that parking will be available closer to the launch.

Upcoming Event: Let NSTWA show you how to navigate the new South River kayak/canoe launch! Join us for a paddling trip on Thursday July 14th from 5-7pm. Registration is required at

by Kezia Bacon
June 2017

Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit To browse 20 years of nature columns, visit

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Marshfield's Bridle Trail and Rail Trail

A view of the South River from Marshfield's Rail Trail.

Marshfield is one of those towns where it isn’t always easy to get from Point A to Point B. The presence of four tidal rivers as well as a significant amount of conservation land can make crossing town an indirect endeavor. There is simply a lot of territory – salt marsh, woods, wetlands – that when traveling by car, we have to go around. We get used to it. We drive the roads and don’t really think about what lies between our starting point and our destination. Until we look at a map and see that – for example – Rexhame Beach and Humarock are only a stone’s throw apart (via the Rexhame Dunes).

I’m following my dad’s footsteps and becoming a long distance runner. It’s a great way to experience the town. Moving at 5 miles per hour offers a very different perspective from what I can see in a car or on a bike. As my training runs grow longer, I’m compelled to seek alternate routes -- to keep things interesting. Sometimes this leads to discoveries or re-discoveries. This past month I remembered the Bridle Trail, something I’ve known about for decades but barely ever utilized. It turns out it’s a quick way to get from one side of town to the other. How could I have forgotten?

If you want to drive from the center of town to Marshfield Hills, your best option is to follow Route 3A, which crosses the South River and then winds around the Carolina Hill conservation area, eventually crossing the North River as well. But if you’re traveling on foot, or on a bicycle that can handle unpaved paths, there is a short cut. You can pick up a trail directly behind the CVS on Ocean Street. Heading north, you soon cross the South River via the Keville Footbridge, and then a quarter mile farther, you reach South River Street. Keep going, and about 2.5 miles and two additional road crossings (Clay Pit Road, Ferry Street) later, you’re at Pinehurst Road and Summer Street. This is the Bridle Trail, named as such because some wise citizens years ago deemed that it should remain open to equestrian access in perpetuity.

Much of the Bridle Trail is wide and evenly graded. It runs along what used to be a railroad bed and is predominantly flat, bordered primarily by woods. There are sections that are narrower, and here and there you need to watch your step, but for the most part it’s an easy, quiet trail through the heart of Marshfield.

In the Town Of Marshfield’s report, “Promoting Connection and Protection: A Comprehensive Trails Plan,” which was published last year, the Bridle Trail is likened to a “spine stitching together many of the other trail system(s), open spaces and neighborhoods,” and cited as “the most important existing trail resource in town.” Not only is it easily accessible to walkers, runners, mountain bikers and horseback riders, it provides connections among our commercial, residential and recreational areas.

The report outlines some proposed improvements to the trail, to promote safety and accessibility. Grading, brush clearing, signage and benches are the baseline recommendations. Further considerations would be widening and (partial) paving to accommodate wheelchairs, road bikes, inline skates and strollers. Having experienced similar trails in other parts of Massachusetts (see previous articles on the Cape Cod and Mass Central Rail Trails), I’m excited about these prospects, even though I know that significant funding and permitting hurdles exist.

Technically, the Bridle Trail extends only from South River Street to Pinehurst Road. Although it runs along the same former railroad bed, the portion of the trail south of South River Street doesn’t have the same “grandfathered” equestrian access and thus is known simply as The Rail Trail. Right now it ends at CVS, but there are vestiges of the old railroad bed through the woods along Webster Street and adjacent to Black Mount. However private homes and paved roads break up the trail, and it is so overgrown in places that passage is nearly impossible. One of the proposed “Future Connections” in Marshfield’s report involves major improvements in accessibility along this stretch, in order to link it to the southern section of the Rail Trail, which extends nearly to Duxbury.

At present, you can pick up the Rail Trail again in the middle of the Black Mount neighborhood, at the intersection of Stagecoach, Steamboat and Fletcher Drives. Like the Bridle Trail, it’s a wide, mostly-flat path through the woods, extending a little over a half mile to Careswell Street at South Point Lane. Along the way, there are several junctions with additional trails – leading through Crowder’s Woodlot and into the Hoyt-Hall Preserve – plus the historic Pilgrim Trail that once extended all the way to Rexhame.

If you’d like to visit the Bridle and Rail Trails, and you’re not traveling on foot, it’s important to know where to park. Official parking for the Bridle Trail is on Ferry Street, where there is room for several cars in an unpaved area just off the road. None of the other trailheads offer parking per se, but there is room for a car or two along the roadsides at Pinehurst, South Point and Stagecoach, as well as at the utility substation on South River Street. Commercial parking in the center of town is another option. Trail maps and other important information for both of these trail systems is available on the Marshfield Conservation website

by Kezia Bacon
May 2017

Kezia Bacon'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 or visit To browse 20 years of nature columns, visit