By TOM RICHARDSON/ecoRI News contributor
In the heart of the Mattapoisett River valley lies an unexpected oasis of forests and freshwater wetlands called the Mattapoisett River Reserve. With 300 acres to explore, the property, just minutes from Interstate 195, offers the public a unique outdoor destination for hiking, birdwatching, mountain biking, fishing and hunting.
The Mattapoisett River valley also is home to the aquifer that supplies drinking water to residents of Fairhaven, Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester, Mass. The Mattapoisett River Reserve helps protect the water that the residents of these communities drink.
It’s important to protect clean water in all communities in the Buzzards Bay region, according to Rob Hancock, vice president of community engagement for the Buzzards Bay Coalition, which owns most of the property in the Reserve.
That means protecting marine waters along the coast, as well as upstream areas such as the Mattapoisett River Reserve. By keeping local streams, wetlands and groundwater healthy, the fresh water that flows into Buzzards Bay will be cleaner.
When you enter the Mattapoisett River Reserve at The Bogs, one of two public entrances along Acushnet Road, you quickly see how the property got its name. A sweeping view of cranberry bogs stretches for 50 acres. Trails crisscross the bogs, leading visitors deeper into the Reserve.
These bogs were actively managed and harvested for 80 years, until the Buzzard Bays Coalition bought the property in 2011. Although the bogs are now retired from commercial production, cranberries still grow in a few patches. Over time, these bogs will be restored to natural habitat as they slowly revert back into wetlands.
At the back edge of the Reserve lies a freshwater swamp teeming with wildlife. Colorful wildflowers grow along the edge of the swamp in the summer, and turtles laze on logs. You’ll see lots of different types of birds, from osprey soaring high above your head to great blue herons silently stalking their prey in the shadows. Waterfowl such as mallards, black ducks and wood ducks paddle past, dabbling for food in the rich, shallow water.
The Mattapoisett River Reserve is a wonderful destination for hiking and walking. The trails are wide and fairly even, and dogs are welcome, as long as owners keep them under control and clean up after them.
The Reserve’s trail network leads through the cranberry bogs and past the swamp into a forest of tall pines. As you walk through the woods, you can listen to the sound of birds and water flowing down Tripps Mill Brook, a tributary of the Mattapoisett River. If you’re lucky — and quiet! — you may catch sight of a deer or a flock of wild turkeys.
At the northern edge of the Reserve lies Tinkham Pond, a freshwater pond that feeds into Tripps Mill Brook. The property hugs the southern shore of Tinkham Pond, offering an access point for visitors to go fishing for bass, sunfish, yellow perch and other freshwater species.
With a convenient parking area across the street on Acushnet Road, Tripps Mill is an excellent place to cast a line or enjoy an afternoon picnic. You’ll also find a trailhead here, where you can head south through the woods toward The Bogs.