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This reservation shares a remarkable natural and human history with the city-owned Dogtown Common, which connects to its trails. Enormous glacial erratics rest within a mixed hardwood forest.
The Carter Reservation is a great place to study the glacial geology of New England. This land is among the final resting places for rocky debris left behind by melting glaciers over 10,000 years ago. Today, many huge boulders, which were dragged south from as far away as Newfoundland, still look as if they have just dropped from the sky onto a foreign land.
In this ancient landscape, Indigenous People known as Algonquians hunted deer, set trap lines for fur-bearing animals, made rock shelters, and foraged for amphibians and reptiles in the vernal ponds. Algonquians had special appreciation for turtles, snakes, frogs, and birds because of the way these creatures visibly transform over a lifetime and because they represent spirits of the water world. The people represented spirit animals in stone on the landscape in ceremonial gathering places.
By around 1,000 CE, Pawtucket people living on Goose Cove and Lobster Cove were practicing silviculture on this landscape, managing groves of white pine, for example, to enhance tree growth for their needs, to protect fruit and berry-bearing plants in the understory, and to maintain sustainable habitat for forest animals.
In the mid-1700s, this region was the most populous and prosperous in early Gloucester. As residents moved to the coastline in the mid-1800s, some widows of fishermen and soldiers did stay, keeping dogs for protection and company. Eventually these residents passed on; their dogs became feral, and the area became known as Dogtown.
A dense woodland with mature white pine and hardwood forest. A wetland and stream skirt the trail, fertile ground for lady slippers and Canada mayflower in May and June.
The forest canopy offers a great place to look for woodpeckers and migratory songbirds. The vernal pools beckon the adventurous seeking salamanders and frogs in early spring.
Dennison Street, Gloucester. (Opens in Google Maps)
Latitude 42.651236, Longitude -70.660462
From 128N/Grant Circle in Gloucester:
Take 3rd rotary exit onto Route 127 going north. In 2.2 miles, just after the causeway bridge, turn right onto Goose Cove Lane/Dennison Street. Trailhead and parking are 0.65 miles ahead on the right.
Park at the Greenbelt sign at the end of Dennison Street. Parking is limited to three cars.
82 Eastern Avenue
PO Box 1026
Essex, MA 01929
Greenbelt thanks the photographers whose work is featured prominently on our website: Jerry Monkman, Dorothy Monnelly, Adrian Scholes, David Alden St. Pierre & Neil Ungerleider