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Coronavirus Update from The Trustees
Crane Wildlife Refuge on the Crane Estate
northeast Ipswich, MA
This property is currently closed. For a list of open properties, please click here. For more information about our response to COVID-19, please click here.

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.


Outdoor Adventures
Castle Neck Boat Tours run on select Fridays and weekends from June through October. Tour times are tidally dependent – see Castle Neck Boat Tours page for current availability.

Choate Island Hikes are offered occasionally, late May through October.

Kayak Trips to Choate Island and around the Crane Wildlife Refuge run from late June through October.

Choate Island Day is an annual celebration of Choate Island – the environment, people, and history that make it special. Join us for Choate Island Day 2019 on September 7.

Guided hikes, family programs, and other outdoor adventures run year round at Crane Beach and Castle Hill

Private guided experiences, group tours, and corporate events are available upon request. Contact for information.

All programs require pre-registration online or at the Great House guest services desk.  Find more information about upcoming events at

  • Summer Camp
  • Bed & Breakfast
  • Regulations & Advisories
  • Programs
  • History
  • Conservation & Stewardship
Announcements & Alerts

Advisory: Authorized bow hunting is allowed on portions of this reservation with prior written permission from the property superintendent. Please stay on marked trails. See Regulations and Advisories at left for more information.

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