Eel River Preserve
Eel River Preserve is a four-mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Plymouth, MA that features a pond. The trail is good for all skill levels and primarily used for hiking, walking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
The land consists of former cranberry bogs and upland that were purchased by the Town's Community Preservation Committee in 2005. The site was restored to its original, natural state: an endangered Atlantic White Cedar Wetlands, which is of ecological and global importance. The preserve's walking trails link with the existing trails at the Russell Mill Pond Preserve across the street.
The Preserve also extends across Long Pond Road, following the route of the Eel River; here, the Preserve enters wooded upland. A major feature of the restoration project can be seen here as an old dam was removed and a beautiful pedestrian footbridge installed in its place. This bridge provides incredible views of the restored river, as well as opportunities to view wildlife ranging from white-tailed deer, to red-tailed hawks. This bridge also connects the Eel River Preserve to the Russel Mill Pond Preserve while provides miles of additional walking trails.The Russell Mill Pond Conservation Area, is a 68-acre area along the east side of Russell Mill Pond. The Preserve abuts the Eel River Preserve and miles of trails wander through upland woods and along the coast of Russell Mill Pond.
The project restored over 60 acres of habitat and two miles of headwater stream that had been extensively altered and degraded by human use. The restoration has made dramatic improvements to wetland and riverine habitat that resulted in new and more abundant fish and wildlife, helped the local ecology become more resilient to climate change, and enhanced public use of the conservation land.
The project included naturalizing approximately 40 acres of retired cranberry bogs, as well as the removal of Sawmill Pond Dam, a large stone dam located downstream of the bogs. Now known as the Eel River Preserve, the area is managed by the Town of Plymouth for public use and benefit. Restoration techniques employed included stream channel and floodplain reconstruction, fill removal, extensive wetland plantings, rare-species habitat creation and enhancement, dam removals, and culvert replacements. The project took approximately five years to complete.
Restoration activities in the bogs included reconstruction of a natural stream channel, placement of in-stream habitat features, filling of artificial side channels, removal of berms and water control structures, and replacement of undersized culverts to enhance fish passage. Sawmill Pond Dam was removed to allow fish passage, and a new river channel and floodplain naturally reformed in the former impoundment.
Rare wetland plant communities have been reestablished. Over 24,000 plants including more than 17,000 Atlantic white cedar trees have been planted.
The Eel River Preserve was historically a wetland known as "Finney's Meadow." The river once flowed uninterrupted to the ocean and supported an array of wildlife. In the early 1800s, a series of mills and dams were constructed. Cranberry farming began in the late 1800s and continued until 2002. In 2006, Plymouth's Community Preservation Committee purchased cranberry bogs from the Phoenix Cranberry Corporation and converted the entire area to public conservation land.