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Carter Beal Conservation Area

Birding in Massachusetts

Carter Beal Conservation Area
Bournedale Road
Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts 02532
Carter Beal Conservation Area webpage

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Barnstable County

Carter Beal Conservation Area
Coordinates: 41.7760447, -70.5631577
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About Carter Beal Conservation Area
Explore both ancient and modern history in the landscape at Carter Beal Conservation Area, a town of Bourne property that’s just a skip away from the Cape Cod Canal. It’s a particularly interesting place in spring, when you can watch river herring splash their way up the Herring River fish ladder.

Peer across the Herring River’s quiet surface from Carter Beal Conservation Area in Bourne. This small bridge crosses the river at the fish ladder, where you might see herring migrating upstream in spring.

The fish ladder at Carter Beal Conservation Area attracts local outdoors enthusiasts each spring when you might catch a glimpse of river herring migrating upstream. This is the site of a former grist mill that was built in 1695 – the first dam on the Herring River. You’ll see remnants of that dam in the hand-cut granite fishway near the park entrance.

There’s more to explore beyond the fish ladder at Carter Beal. Hike sandy ridges that were deposited by glaciers as part of the Sandwich Moraine. The steep slopes and large boulders along the trail are signs of this glacial activity. For paddlers, the snaking Herring River mill pond is a tranquil place to discover on a canoe.

Carter Beal’s mile-and-a-half loop trail begins at the small parking area on Bournedale Road. Take the path to the right to begin your journey along the Herring River.

If you’re looking for more of an adventure, head left from the parking area to hike up the steep ridge of the moraine. Although the trail is very hilly, you’ll be rewarded at the top of the ridge: here, you’ll find a cleared pipeline right-of-way with views of Buzzards Bay.

The river herring that migrate through Carter Beal each spring are on a mission: they’re swimming upstream from the fish ladder at Herring Run Recreation Area to Plymouth’s Great Herring Pond. There, they’ll spawn before returning to sea in the summer.

The presence of all these small fish attracts many other species. Look for birds like ospreys and herons along the Herring River’s swampy shores, searching for their next meal. Keep an eye on the water, and you may spy the gleaming head of an otter or mink cruising past.
From Carter Beal Conservation Area webpage