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Enjoy unique terrain, habitat and special features while exploring three different trails, passing through mature forests and connecting with the larger trail system of Bradley Palmer State Park.
At the time of English settlement, Indigenous people known as the Pawtucket or Agawam were fishing here before there was a dam. They fished for alewives (river herring), shad, and other anadromous species on their spring runs, as well as for catadromous Atlantic eels.
Eels were a culinary delicacy and had other important uses. Crushed eel skeletons were added to baby food as a kind of protein powder, and the cured skins were used as soft strong cradleboard ties, moccasin laces, and tumplines.
Look for Greenbelt’s fish ladder that allows passage of migrating fish around the Willowdale Dam, which once powered a former woolen mill.
The Southern Trail passes through mature hardwood forests and the Riverside Trail follows the banks of the river upstream and also leads you off property into the Bradley Palmer State Forest.
The Willowdale Mill Reservation protects 1,500 feet along the Ipswich 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 try your luck fishing for trout. Deer and other woodland mammals are common, as are owls in the dark woodlands.
Winthrop Street, Hamilton. (Opens in Google Maps)
Latitude 42.658342, Longitude -70.890415
From intersection of Route 1 and Ipswich Road in Topsfield:
Go east on Ipswich Road, which becomes Topsfield Road in Hamilton. In 2.4 miles, turn right onto Willowdale Road/Winthrop Street. Trailhead and parking are 0.1 miles ahead on right, just beyond the bridge.
From intersection of Route 1A/133 and Market Street in Ipswich Center:
Go west on Market Street, which becomes Topsfield Road in Hamilton. In 3.3 miles, turn left onto Willowdale Road/Winthrop Street. Trailhead and parking are 0.1 miles ahead on right, just beyond the bridge.
Park in the dirt pullout at the corner of the field, just across the bridge. Do not block the gate, which provides emergency and fire access to Bradley Palmer State Park. Parking is limited to 4 cars.
82 Eastern Avenue
PO Box 1026
Essex, MA 01929
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Greenbelt thanks the photographers whose work is featured prominently on our website: Jerry Monkman, Dorothy Monnelly, Adrian Scholes, David Alden St. Pierre & Neil Ungerleider