Crane Wildlife Refuge on the Crane Estate
Ipswich, MA
697 acres
Bird Watching Hunting Mountain Biking Not Permitted Sailing/Boating Fishing Walking/Hiking (Moderate) Picnicking Dog Walking Not Permitted Canoeing/Kayaking Historic House or Structure

About Crane Wildlife Refuge on the Crane Estate

This mix of salt marsh and coastal islands is perfect for kayakers and other boaters, who can also follow trails that explore Choate Island and Long Island.

What makes Crane Wildlife Refuge a special place?
Along with Castle Hill and Crane Beach, the Crane Wildlife Refuge was once part of the vast early 20th century summer estate of Chicago industrialist Richard T. Crane, Jr. The Refuge is a patchwork of coastal and island habitats that includes a portion of Castle Neck and seven islands in the Essex River Estuary (Choate, Long, Dean, Dilly, Pine, Patterson, and Round). Surrounding the Crane Wildlife Refuge is the Great Marsh, the largest contiguous salt marsh in New England, covering more than 25,000 acres from Hampton Harbor, NH, to Gloucester.

The largest of the Refuge's islands, the 135-acre Choate Island (formerly Hog Island) supports myriad birds and mammals including deer, fisher, coyote, and otter. The spruce forest planted in the early 20th century attracts golden crown kinglets and sharp-shinned hawks, while Choate Island's grasslands provide critical habitat for bobolinks and Savannah sparrows. Gulls, sanderlings, and sandpipers feed along the Island's shore.

Well before the arrival of European settlers, the Agawam tribe of Native Americans established semi-permanent agricultural villages here, harvesting shellfish in and around the islands in the warmer months. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Choate Island and Long Island, connected by a causeway, comprised a prosperous farming community. The c.1778 Proctor Barn on Long Island and the c.1725-40 Choate family homestead stand as reminders of this agricultural past.

The Refuge was established in 1974 as a gift of Miné S. Crane in memory of her husband, Cornelius Crane; both are buried at the summit of Choate Island.

3.5 miles of gravel roads and mown foot trails lead from the dock to the landmark barn on Long Island, past the 250-year-old Choate House, and up to the Crane burial site at the top of Choate Island. Moderate hiking.

When to Visit
Year-round, daily, 8AM to 4PM. Allow a minimum of 2 hours.

Kayaks/Canoes and other non-motorized watercraft may haul out immediately adjacent to the dock on Long Island. Motorized craft may tie up on the dock, leaving the front space open for maintenance staff.

Regulations & Advisories

  • Dogs are not allowed.
  • Camping is prohibited.
  • Authorized bow hunting, only with written permission, is allowed on this reservation for a limited number of hunters, according to MasssWildlife regulations from mid October through December each year, from ½ hour before sunrise all day until ½ hour after sunset, Monday through Saturday. Hunting is not allowed on Sundays. Signage is posted at the property listing safety precautions, requirements, and rules for the benefit of all visitors. Learn more about hunting on Trustees properties


The Crane Estate/Essex River Estuary
Ipswich and Essex, MA 01938
Telephone: 978.356.4351

Latitude: 42.673
Longitude: -0.758

Access by private watercraft only. Boaters and kayakers must land on or adjacent to the dock on Long Island.


When to Visit
Year-round, daily, 8AM to 4PM. Allow a minimum of 2 hours, 6 hours if also visiting Crane Beach and Castle Hill (including Great House or landscape tour).

Trustees members FREE. Admission charge for nonmembers. Member discount on tours. Visit for details.


Choate Island Day
Every fall, you can enjoy the Refuge during our Choate Island Day. Check our events calendar for details about this and our many other events on the Crane Estate.

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.

Maps and Resources

Literature about events at the Crane Estate, other Trustees reservations to visit in the region, and membership in The Trustees of Reservations is available from the bulletin board at the Long Island dock. We recommend that you dowload a trail map before you visit.

Planning Your Visit

Travel Links
Ipswich Online

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:

  1. 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.

  2. Post a comment about your visit on our Facebook page.

  3. 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.

Submitted by Jen on: August 25, 2010
Been a member for a few years and wanted to give you feedback in two areas. My family really appreciates the service that allows people who are mobility challenged to access the beach. It allowed my mother and aunt to join us at Crane's several times this summer. I did notice this year that the sea gulls were particularly aggressive. I make a big deal out of making sure my kids don't leave their lunches or snacks lying around on the blanket, but even so, the birds were relentless. One late afternoon when we brought pizza to the beach for supper and a swim one bird actually attacked my 50 year old sister and snatched her slice right out of her hands as she was bringing it to her mouth for a bite. Not sure what is making them more there some reason they are more hungry this year? Each time I visited this summer some family next to us on the beach would bring it up and I would have to agree with them. Just wanted to give you that feedback. Love the beach and the amenities!

Submitted by Minihaha on: February 18, 2010
I am from Tahiti and I knew Cornelius Crane dearly well. I loved him very much and still admire him for what he left my mom and me.

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