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Take in sweeping views at the top of the knoll from the all-access portion of the trail. The trails beyond explore hayfields, woodlands and salt marsh along the tidal Castle Neck River in Ipswich.
Wide swaths of prime farmland soils support active hayfields - home to nesting Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks from May through July. The fields transition to woods, and eventually to the tidal Castle Neck River headwaters, where you can find feeding herons, egrets and waterfowl. Part of the Great Marsh, this property was identified as an important climate-resilient parcel by The Nature Conservancy.
From the knoll, looking to the north, the view expands across Maplecroft Farm, all the way to Heartbreak Hill. Looking to the south, in the distance are the white pines atop Willow Hill at the Donovan Reservation in Hamilton.
One of the best birding locations in Essex County, Castle Neck River Reservation is listed as an eBird hotspot.
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 try your luck fishing for trout. Deer and other woodland mammals are common, as are owls in the dark woodlands.
This land was the site of the ancient Indigenous village of Agawam and the principal residence of its leader at the time of English contact—the Pawtucket sagamore Masconomet.
Pawtucket cornfields lined Argilla Road when it was an "Indian" trail, and Agawam Village was in the crook of the river where it joins Essex Bay. Masconomet conducted diplomacy on Castle Hill and had a fort on Castle Island in the Castle Neck River. The fort defended the village and cornfields against enemy raiders from the north. Masconomet and his wife were buried at Sagamore Hill in South Hamilton, making the reservation a history corridor as well as a nature corridor between Maplecroft Farm and the John J. Donovan Reservation/Sagamore Hill Conservation Area.
A part of the so-called “South Eighth,” referring to the original colonial land divisions of the town, this land was granted at settlement in 1636 to John Perkins, Sr., Thomas Howlett, and John Fawn.
For more than 240 years, generations of the Brown family owned this land that was part of a vast farm extending south of Chebacco Road and into Hamilton. The farm included the “Wilderness Hill Pasture” which is part of Greenbelt’s John J. Donovan Reservation to the south.
Since the early 1980s, Robert Daniels owned the land and kept it in agricultural use as “Pony Express Farm,” a polo training field.
The Castle Neck River Reservation was acquired by Greenbelt, in partnership with the Town of Ipswich and the Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game, in 2018 and 2019. We are grateful to the generous individual donors and partners who made this project possible.
107 Essex Road, Ipswich. (Opens in Google Maps)
Latitude 42°39'18.8", Longitude -70°48'46.3
Use between sunrise and sunset.
From intersection of Route 1A and Route 133 in Ipswich:
Go east on Route 133. Castle Neck Reservation is 1.6 miles on your right.
From intersection of Route 128 and the Route 133 Exit 50:
Go west on Route 133 for 6.3 miles. Castle Neck Reservation is on your left.
There are eight parking spaces available.
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