Greenbelt, Essex County’s Land Trust
Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930
Tompson Street Reservation webpage
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Experience an exceptional example of Cape Ann’s unique rugged landscape with exposed granite bedrock in one of Greenbelt’s largest reservations. Stunning views of Gloucester Harbor and Ipswich Bay await those who climb Sunset Mountain and Eagle Rock. Vernal ponds, a red maple swamp, and diverse natural communities thrive.
Indigenous people explored the diverse terrains represented at Tompson Street Reservation. Sunset Mountain, with its exposed bedrock and at an elevation of 161 feet, would have had spiritual significance for the Algonquians who lived here prior to English settlement. Such places touched the sky world and were believed to be the homes of the guardian wind spirits of the four cardinal directions.
Split Rock and Eagle Rock would have been places for prayer and contemplation. A trail off Old Thompson Street Cart Path leads to a prominent jumble of Avalonian boulders that Indigenous people and others used as a rock shelter. Evidence of countless campfires darkens the rock wall overhang.
Shamans collected medicinal plants from the hillside, such as the sassafras that still grow there. The ancient rocks feature edible lichens known as rock tripe. Algonquians collected lichens to serve as emergency food and to give to young children to stave off hunger between meals.
You will notice the sweet spicy scent of sweet pepperbush growing near the red maple swamp in late spring and early summer. The white, bell-shaped flowers of teaberry abound in late spring and early summer. Red berries with a wintergreen scent are found on these bushes in autumn and winter.
Several vernal pools exist here. Look for salamanders, fairy shrimp, and wood frogs in spring along with migratory songbirds, such as warblers, flycatchers, and thrushes as they return to breed. Turkey vultures can be seen riding air currents above Sunset Mountain all year. Tracks of deer, coyote, and fox are easily spotted in the snow.
From Tompson Street Reservation webpage