Crane Wildlife Refuge
The Crane Estate
The Trustees of Reservations
Essex, Massachusetts 01938
Crane Wildlife Refuge webpage
Crane Wildlife Refuge map
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Along with Castle Hill and Crane Beach, the Crane Wildlife Refuge, a patchwork of coastal and island habitats that includes a portion of Castle Neck and seven islands in the Essex River Estuary, was once part of the vast early-20th-century summer estate of Chicago industrialist Richard T. Crane, Jr. Well before the arrival of European settlers, however, the Agawam 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.
Rolling fields with historic structures are divided by old-fashioned stone walls, while salt marsh, vast intertidal zones, and the islands—Choate, Long, Dean, Dilly, Pine, Patterson, and Round—provide a haven for wildlife. More than 200 species of birds have been seen here and several rare species of plants and animals thrive in the refuge.
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, now 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. Explore the historic remains dotting the landscape, including the circa 1725-40 Choate House and circa 1778 Proctor Barn.
You’ll discover solitude in this immense refuge. Wander three and a half miles of gravel roads and mown foot trails that 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. Choate Island Hikes are offered occasionally, late May through October.
Castle Neck Boat Tours run on select Fridays and weekends from June through October. Tour times are tidally dependent.
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.
Guided hikes, family programs, and other outdoor adventures run year-round at Crane Beach and Castle Hill.
From Crane Wildlife Refuge webpage