About Norris Reservation
Hike past a former mill pond, cross a wetlands boardwalk, and explore a forest of pine and oak on your way to a boathouse on the banks of the tidal North River.
What makes the Norris Reservation a special place?
We think it’s the varied natural environment, which features a mill pond, stands of white pine and oak, salt marsh and the tidal North River, the center of colonial-era shipbuilding in New England. A herring brook wends along the western edge of the reservation, which also boasts boulders left by the glacier, a riverside boathouse, and several prime picnic spots.
You can choose from several loop or out-and-back routes along carriage roads padded with generations of pine needles. For many walkers, reaching the lovely curve in the North River is ample reward; currents can be especially dynamic at this stretch of the meandering tidal stream. Stop at the boat house or at an overlook bench and wait for wading birds, hawks, and kingfishers – and the occasional boater – to pass by. Within the reservation’s interior, the Gordon’s pond boardwalk can put kids at a water bug’s level. Look for crumbling beaver dams in the wetlands or listen for an owl’s hoot.
Trout rise in the mill pond beyond the parking lot, while striped bass course along the North River on the far edge of the property. In between, treetop birds and wetland frogs compete in a songfest.This suburban oasis boasts a pond and the remains of a water mill, a gurgling brook and surrounding wetland, pine forest, and frontage on the meandering North River.
2 miles of trails. Easy walking.
When to Visit
Daily, sunrise to sunset.
Benches. Boat House overlooking North River (tie-ups not permitted).
Regulations & Advisories
Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
Norwell, MA 02061
Get directions on Google Maps.
From Rt. 3, take Exit 13 onto Rt. 53 North. Follow for 0.6 mi. Turn right onto Rt. 123 (Main St.) and follow for 3 mi. towards Norwell center. Just before entering town center, turn right onto West St. and follow for 0.3 mi. until it dead ends into Dover St. Entrance and parking area (12 cars) are straight ahead on Dover St.
Free to all. On-site donation welcome from nonmembers.
Shipbuilders operated on the North River within 30 years of the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth, 20 miles south. Over the next two centuries, the river and the communities it flowed through would comprise a major center of New England maritime industry. More than a thousand boats were built along the North’s banks, until after the Civil War. During that era, the land where the Norris Reservation now sits and adjacent properties supported several shipyards.
White pine and oak, species still found at Norris, supplied timber for masts and hulls. Among the renowned ships built at the riverside yards were the Beaver, of Boston Tea Party fame, and the Columbia, which explored the Pacific Northwest and for which the Columbia River was named.
The reservation preserves more than vestiges of its shipbuilding past, however. The pond and dam on Second Herring Brook once helped power the saw mills and grist mills that operated here; a mill shaft still sits in the brook. Nearby rests a round stone once used to crush grain. A network of thick, carefully constructed stone walls, now lichen covered and crumbling, served to define property lines and separate pasture from crop land.
In the 1920s, Albert and Eleanor Norris began purchasing land along the North River, a National Natural Landmark and a Commonwealth of Massachusetts Scenic River. They eventually built a cottage, cut a trail system, opened up the shady forest to attract wildflowers and ferns, and created a haven for woodland and riverside wildlife.
Property Acquisition History
Original acreage a gift of Mrs. Albert F. Norris in 1970 in memory of her husband. Additional land given in 1982. Additional land given by Richard K. McMullan, Caroline McMullan Burke, and A. Dale McMullan in 1992, and by Ralph D. and Elizabeth W. Gordon in 2000.
Interpretive tours and programs for families and adults are offered throughout the year. Check our events calendar for details on programs and activities at Norris Reservation and other reservations.
Conservation and Stewardship
Management Planning for Our Properties
Since 1891, The Trustees of Reservations have worked to protect special places in Massachusetts and maintain them to the highest standards. To ensure these standards are met, a program of careful planning and sound management is essential. Comprehensive property management plans are created for each reservation and are completely updated approximately every ten years. We often work with volunteers, property users, and members of the community to carry out this planning, which typically involves several steps:
- Describing in detail the site’s natural, scenic, and historical resources; identifying management issues related to the protection of those resources.
- Describing how visitors use the property; outlining the opportunities that the property provides for people to become involved in the work of conservation and caring for their community.
- Developing a detailed list of management recommendations, a work plan, and a description of financial needs for implementing the actions.
- Developing a prescribed routine management program for the reservation that will guide staff work plans, volunteer involvement, and the allocation of human and financial resources.
View Norris Reservation management plan (Part 1).
View Norris Reservation management plan (Part 2).
Maps and Resources
Printed trail maps are distributed free from bulletin boards in parking areas. Please understand that supplies periodically run out. We recommend that you download a trail map before you visit.
Planning Your Visit
Before You Go
We encourage you to visit as many Trustees properties as you can.
Wherever your travels take you, please observe all posted regulations, follow special instructions from property staff, and keep in mind the Stewardship Code:
- Protect wildlife and plants.
- Guard against all risk of fire.
- Help keep air and water clean.
- Carry out what you carry in.
- Use marked footpaths and bridle paths.
- Leave livestock, crops, and machinery alone.
- Respect the privacy of neighboring land.
- Enjoy and share the landscape with others.
Click on links below for further visitor information:
Before Setting Out
Enjoying Trustees Reservations
About Hunting on Trustees of Reservations Land
Tell Us What You Think
We’d love to hear about your visit! Here are three easy ways to let us know what you think:
Take our visitor survey. If you have a question for us, you can ask us in the survey and we’ll get back to you.
Post a comment about your visit on our Facebook page.
Share your experiences with other visitors on our website. Simply fill out the form below, and we’ll post your comment right here on this page.