Lyman Reserve
Bourne, Plymouth & Wareham, MA
210 acres
Bird Watching Cross-country skiing/Snowshoeing Hunting Mountain Biking Not Permitted Swimming Dog Walking Sailing/Boating Fishing Walking/Hiking (Easy) Picnicking Canoeing/Kayaking Beach

About Lyman Reserve

Follow a tidal waterway from upstream cranberry bogs and woods to its mouth on a sandy beach at Buttermilk Bay.

What makes the Theodore Lyman Reserve a special place?
Home to one of the last remaining native sea-run brook trout fisheries in the eastern United States, the Theodore Lyman Reserve sits at the mouth of 4.5-mile-long Red Brook on Buttermilk Bay. Lyman is popular today with fly fishers, but catch-and-release only as The Trustees work to restore this treasured habitat.

Red Brook, the ecological, cultural, and scenic highlight of the reservation, is a 4.5-mile, spring-fed, coldwater stream that flows from White Island Pond to Buttermilk Bay. One of the few coastal streams in Massachusetts that supports anadromous fish (migratory fish which hatch in freshwater, make their way to sea to grow, and return as adults to spawn), Red Brook is home to one of the last remaining native sea-run brook trout fisheries in the eastern United States. It was one family's love for these "salters" that made the preservation of this special place possible.

In addition to Red Brook, the Lyman Reserve features freshwater wetlands, forested uplands, a sandy beach, and a scenic stretch of coastal shoreline with views of Buttermilk Bay and the Cape Cod Canal vertical lift railroad bridge.

The forested uplands are largely vegetated by mixed conifer and pitch pine-oak forests, with occasional patches of pitch pine-scrub oak habitat. Red maple swamp lines the riparian zone along the margins of Red Brook. Red Brook and the diversity of environments surrounding it provide important habitat for a variety of plant and animal species characteristic of southeastern Massachusetts. Many rare species have also been found, including several species of plants, birds, moths, and reptiles.

The traditional recreation on the property was fly fishing, and this area proves popular to the public today. The more popular areas to cast a fly are from the various old bridge and flume sites upstream and from the marsh near the mouth of Red Brook.

A 1.5-mi. loop trail winds its way from the parking lot to Red Brook, crossing it via rustic wooden bridges, and inviting deeper exploration of the Reserve’s freshwater wetlands, forested uplands, and sandy beach. A scenic stretch of coastal shoreline offers views of Buttermilk Bay and the Cape Cod Canal vertical lift railroad bridge. A 0.25-mi. trail across Head of the Bay Road provides a scenic loop through scrub oak and pine to the beach on beautiful Buttermilk Bay.

When to Visit
Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 1 hour.

Regulations & Advisories

  • Mountain biking is not allowed.

  • Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.

  • Small water craft may be carried to and launched from the beach.

  • Catch-and-release fishing by license holders only.

  • After-hours "off-stree" fisherman's parking is available for surf casting for stripers in season.

  • 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 Trustees reserves the right to photograph or video visitors and program participants for promotional use, and usage of our properties implies consent. Find the full policy here.


Head of the Bay Road and Red Brook Road
Bourne, Plymouth, and Wareham, MA
Telephone: 508.636.4693

Latitude: 41.7640
Longitude: -70.6314

Get directions on Google Maps.

From I-495 South: Follow to Rt. 25 East. Take Exit 3 (to Buzzards Bay, Bourne) just north of the Bourne Bridge. Bear right off ramp. Take immediate right onto Head of the Bay Road. Follow for approx. 3 mi. around the eastern and northern shores of Buttermilk Bay. Parking lot entrance is about 250 feet beyond Packard St. on right hand side.

From Rt. 3 South: Take Exit 1A, Rt. 6 West. Slight right at Bournedale Rd. Continue onto Head of the Bay Road. Follow as above.


When to Visit
Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 1 hour.

FREE to all.

Property History

Named for water tinted red by the iron-rich soil near its source, Red Brook has been used by humans for nearly two millennia. Archaeological studies indicate that the area was an important encampment for Wampanoags some 1,800 years ago. Those who camped at Red Brook used clay cooking pots, sharpened stone blades, and ate seafood, deer meat, and other game.

European settlers had different uses for the land. Pitch pine was processed into tar, herring and alewife were caught during their spring runs, and bogs were mined for iron ore then planted with cranberries. The land was finally settled by Uriah Nickerson in the 1830s. The Lyman house, located across the street from the parking lot, was built in 1840 by the Nickerson family.

The Theodore Lyman Reserve honors the naturalist who, in 1867, first experienced Red Brook during a site visit for the Massachusetts Board of Inland Fisheries. For the next 30 years, Theodore Lyman III (1833 – 1897) worked to protect Red Brook by purchasing parcels of land on both sides from source to mouth. He eventually acquired a total of 638 acres, and for six generations the Lyman family used the area as a fishing camp, drawn by the “salters” that still run this course. In 2001, the Lyman family generously donated the entire Red Brook property to ensure its protection in perpetuity.

Lyman’s legacy is preserved in the form of the 638-acre Red Brook Reserve, which is comprised of the 210-acre Trustees reservation, and the 428-acre Red Brook Wildlife Management Area, supervised by the Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Management for the entire reserve is overseen by The Trustees, Mass DFW, and our conservation partner, Trout Unlimited.

Property Acquisition History
Gift of the Lyman family in 2001.

Maps and Resources

You can find a trail map in the bulletin board in the parking area. Please understand the supplies sometimes run out. We recommend that you download a trail map before you visit.

Planning Your Visit

Travel Links
Cape Cod Visitor Information Network
Destination Plymouth

Community Links
Cape Cod Canal Chamber of Commerce
Cranberry Country Chamber of Commerce 
Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce
Red Brook Water Level Conditions

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