The Artichoke River was named for the explorer Samuel de Champlain’s 1603 account of sunflower tubers. Champlain wrote that they tasted like artichokes. The sunflowers, native to New England, were being cultivated by the Indigenous horticulturalists who lived here, who used the sunflower seeds as well as its tubers.
They were also growing corn, squash, beans, and tobacco in their gardens. Puritan settlers, believing they were building a new holy land, later named the sunflower tubers Jerusalem Artichokes and gave the Merrimack River tributary its name.
The history of deeded land along the Artichoke River dates back to the earliest colonial settlers in what is now West Newbury. In 1635, 23 men and their families sailed through Plum Island Sound and up the Parker River landing in Newbury. As more settlers arrived, land in Newbury became scare and some, including Edward Rawson, John Emery and Francis Brown, moved westward to the Artichoke River. Town records show that parcels of land around the river were granted beginning in 1638.
The most-recent landowner, Preston Rogers, traces his family’s history to 1883 when his great-grandfather purchased 50 acres that included a 1738 farmhouse.
The property protects a critical drinking water supply for Newburyport and West Newbury.
Flora & Fauna
The land teems with wildlife, including red fox, gray fox, deer, turkeys, fishers, bobcats, weasels, mink, owls, wood ducks, pileated woodpeckers, and coyotes. Amid the mature forests of pine, oak, hickory and juniper trees are about a mile of well-preserved stone walls that were constructed in the mid-1800s to fence in cattle.
Greenbelt was able to purchase the property in 2021 with funding from West Newbury CPA funds, the City of Newburyport, a Drinking Water Supply Grant, the Massachusetts Division of Conservation & Recreation, Fields Pond Foundation, Massachusetts Conservation Partnership, ECCF Essex County Land and Environment Initiative Grant, and individual donors.
Artichoke River Woods is located opposite 443 Middle Street in West Newbury. Pull-off parking for 2-3 cars at this time along the road. Note that the bridge just East of the reservation on Middle Street may be closed and you will need to approach from the West.
Town: West Newbury Total Acres: 46 Year Conserved: 2021 Difficulty: Easy