Castle Neck River Reservation: Expansive Views, Spectacular Birding, Salt Marsh
Standing atop the knoll at Greenbelt’s newly-opened Castle Neck River Reservation in Ipswich, one can see so much more than the 115-acre landscape with nearly a mile of frontage on the Castle Neck River, along with farmland and associated wetlands.
Looking to the north, the view expands across Maplecroft Farm, all the way to Heartbreak Hill. In the distance are the white pines atop Willow Hill at the Donovan Reservation in Hamilton. These signature landscapes are at the nexus of an even larger greenbelt that extends from the interior forests of Boxford to the Great Marsh and Crane Beach.
Castle Neck, formerly known as Pony Express, is now open to the public with an 8-space parking area and an approximately 1,000-foot all-access gravel trail enabling all visitors to take in the expansive views, watch birds and enjoy nature from the lookout point.
The official ceremony to mark its opening will be on September 18 from 5-6:30pm. There will be remarks, refreshments and a guided walk.
The trails beyond explore hayfields, woodlands and salt marsh along the tidal Castle Neck River.
The woods are dominated by cedar, hemlock, hardwoods and white pine allowing for fine broad paths carpeted in layers of pine needles for walking or horseback riding.
The river is a great place to see red-breasted merganser and snapping turtles, or fishing for trout. Deer and other woodland mammals are common, as are owls in the dark woodlands.
Located at 107 Essex, the property, which borders Route 133 and Candlewood and Chebacco Roads, has prime farmland soils, some of which continue to be used for haying.
The agriculture, however, is managed so that it remains among the best birding land in Essex County, with a spectacular level of grassland nesting birds including Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks. It is now listed as an eBird Hotspot.
The Town of Ipswich, Greenbelt and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife combined to buy the former horse farm and polo fields in March of 2017.
Greenbelt owns a core of 32 acres that is a part of the larger 115-acre conservation and recreation area, the remainder of which are owned by the town and the state.
Greenbelt is grateful to several professional and staff photographers whose work is featured prominently within our website.
Thank you Jerry Monkman / ecophotography.com, Lynne Holton, Kindra Clineff, Adrian Scholes and John Raleigh.