Spring is finally here! This weekend we celebrated the warm weather with a trip to Mass Audubon’s Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Ipswich, MA. Our friends Janet and Greg, and their two little ones – Joshua and Elizabeth, joined us as well.
Date: May 5, 2013
Distance: 3.1 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 128 feet
Our Hiking Time: 2 hours 15 minutes roundtrip
Trail Blaze: none
With over 12 miles of trails on 2,000 acres of wooded lands, wetlands, and open, grassy fields, the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place for little ones to explore nature. We started out at the visitor’s center (which has a great bathroom setup – always a plus when you have a little one in diapers!), and headed down the Rockery Trail. After passing a small meadow peppered with bird-feeders, we climbed down a wide staircase to a wooded area filled with chickadees. We all watched quietly as one flew into Greg’s outstretched hand to eat birdseed.
As we walked along a wooden plank bridge, the girls began spotting all sorts of wildlife. In the shallow water, we saw a snake slithering through the tall grass, several turtles swimming, ducks lazily paddling, and a Canadian goose searching for food. Addie and Elizabeth were delighted! (Who am I kidding – so was I! I didn’t grow up seeing loads of turtles or frogs – I held my first frog just last year – so I am always a little giddy when we see wildlife.)
Further along the Rockery Trail, it merges with the Rockery Loop. We turned left toward the rock grotto where the trail passes through gorgeous rock archways, and loops around to the top of the grotto. The girls had a blast climbing the rocks. Addie showed no fear as she tried her best to keep up with Elizabeth.
We followed the small loop around Rockery Pond, spying more turtles, a frog, snapping turtle, and two blue herons! The girls spent some time climbing on a tree, found some walking sticks, and asked a lot of questions. Joshua had a great time checking out the scenery from the kid carrier. Toward the end of the loop, we came across a beaver dam.
At the end of the Rockery Loop, we took a left onto the Waterfowl Pond Trail, which circled through beautiful wetlands, tall grasses, and pussy willows. In the distance, we could see two beautiful, white egrets. By this time, Addie’s was tired out from all the walking, compounded by missing her afternoon nap, so I scooped her up and carried her in the Ergo. We reached Waterfowl Pond and took a left over a beautiful stone bridge onto Averill’s Island Loop, walking until we found a comfortable bench so Janet could feed Joshua. While he was eating, the girls snacked on yogurt squeezies and crackers.
After everyone had refueled, we backtracked along the trail and returned to the intersection of several trails at the stone bridge. On the way we saw a river otter (at least, that’s what it looked like from our vantage point), and another snake. When we reached the bridge, the girls spotted two turtles sunning themselves on a fallen log.
We headed back into the woods, following the Stone Bridge trail until it intersected with Bradstreet Lane. We took a right, and followed the trail back to the visitor’s center. About halfway along Bradstreet Lane, a Pileated Woodpecker flew across the trail, landed on a tree, and started pecking away. It was amazing!
Though we hiked quite a bit, we barely cracked the surface in terms of exploring the sanctuary. In addition to hiking the trails, you can rent canoes and paddle down the Ipswich River, camp out on Perkins Island, or rent the rustic cabin tucked beyond the visitor’s center for an overnight stay.
Admission to the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary is free to members of Mass Audubon, $4 for non-member adults, and $3 for non-member children ages 2-12. At only $65 for a family membership ($32 for new members), it’s a great option for locals as it includes free admission to the over 60 sanctuaries located around Massachusetts.
From May 1 – October 31, the Visitor’s Center is open Tuesday through Friday, 9 am – 4 pm, and weekends and Monday holidays, 9 am – 5 pm. From November 1 – April 30, it is open Tuesday through Sunday and Monday holidays, 9 am – 4 pm. Trails are open year-round from dawn to dusk Tuesday-Sunday, and Monday holidays.
Directions to the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary:
From Boston and the south: Take Rt I-95 north to exit 50 and follow Rt 1 north. At the junction of Rt 1 and Rt 97, turn right onto Rt 97 south (toward Beverly and Danvers). Follow Rt 97 south and take the third left onto Perkins Row. Follow Perkins Row for 1 mile, and the sanctuary is on the right.
From the north: Take Rt I-95 south to exit 53A and follow Rt 97 south. At the junction of Rt 1 and Rt 97 in Topsfield, stay on Rt 97 south and take the third left onto Perkins Row. Follow Perkins Row for 1 mile, and the sanctuary is on the right.