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Stunning views of a breathtaking New England salt marsh, with an open field, bordered by hedgerow on the edge of a tidal estuary in the Great Marsh ecosystem.
Nature enthusiasts, dog walkers, painters, and birders visit throughout the seasons to enjoy the views of expansive salt marsh and open fields, and significant wildlife habitat. Green in the spring and summer, as the days grow shorter the marsh turns an amber color best appreciated in the autumn sunlight.
Indigenous people known as the Pawtucket or Agawam lived and farmed here prior to English colonization in the 1600s. They found everything they needed in the salt marsh, the river, and the woods. The river headland called Clamhouse Landing is an eroding shell heap begun by Indigenous clam diggers 2,500 years ago or more. A grove of red cedar trees has recently grown up through the midden, with shell shatter brought up among the roots and emerging from the trail.
The people dug clams throughout Essex Bay, transported them by dugout canoe, and processed them in places like this on the Chebacco (Essex) River. Chebacco (Jebaccho, roughly “separate area between” the Annisquam and Ipswich river systems on either side) was named for a principal Pawtucket village, located where the Essex River drains Chebacco Lake.
The people used lap anvils and hammer stones to break open clams to extract the meat, or opened them with special clam knives made of local stone. They would spread the meats on the rocks to sun-dry, to store for winter stews or to trade inland. For inland trading partners, reconstituted clam meats were a delicacy. The people also dug marine clays from the banks of the river for their pottery, and tempered the clay with ground shell.
The property was settled by 1648 as a colonial salt marsh farm and for more than 350 years was a dairy farm and apple orchard. Greenbelt headquarters is located here and serves throughout the year as a venue for many Greenbelt events such as the annual Art in the Barn exhibition.
Launch a canoe/kayak on the Essex River at Clam House Landing, 0.3 miles from the parking area. Drive down to the Landing, drop off your boat and gear, and return your car to the parking area. Be mindful of the tides.
0.8 miles of easy terrain
Dogwood, cherry, pear and apple blossoms make for a fragrant spring while hickory, sumac and goldenrod create a golden aura in autumn.
Shorebirds feed on the mud flats, and osprey, herons, egrets and kingfishers dine richly in the salt marsh. The old hayfields surrounding the house and barns are home to bobolinks, meadowlarks, and bluebirds.
Greenbelt has two honey bee hives at Cox Reservation which we keep for educational purposes and for honey. Read about Greenbelt's Pollinator Program
The property was donated to Greenbelt by noted muralist Allyn Cox, whose work graces the U.S. Capitol Building. In 1940, Cox bought our current property as his summer home and made the barn into an art studio. He donated the property to Greenbelt in 1974.
The original circa 1785 farmhouse and 1863 barn became Greenbelt’s heaquarters in 1974. The farmhouse was renovated in 2007 into a green building with solar power, and was awarded gold-level LEED certification.
Charging stations are available for electric vehicles.
82 Eastern Avenue, Essex, MA 01929 (opens in Google Maps)
Latitude 42.633830, Longitude -70.764614
From Route 128/Exit 50/School Street:
Go north on School Street/Southern Ave. towards Essex. In 3 miles, turn right onto Route 133/Eastern Avenue. In 0.5 miles, turn left at the Greenbelt sign. Trailhead and parking are 0.1 miles ahead.
From intersection of Route 22/Route 133 in Essex:
Go east on Route 133/Main Street. In 0.5 miles, bear left onto on Route 133/Eastern Avenue. In 0.5 miles, turn left at the Greenbelt sign. Trailhead and parking are 0.1 miles ahead.
82 Eastern Avenue
PO Box 1026
Essex, MA 01929
e. Contact by Email
Greenbelt thanks the photographers whose work is featured prominently on our website: Jerry Monkman, Dorothy Monnelly, Adrian Scholes, David Alden St. Pierre & Neil Ungerleider