Upper Charles River Valley

Following the Charles River from Boston is a journey through historic sites as well as places of scenic beauty with many opportunities to walk, run, bicycle, or take to the water.  For those who wish to explore the upper Charles River outside the I-95 corridor, some of the most scenic locations can be found in the Charles River Valley with its quiet, wooded trails and scenic open spaces, often referred to as natural “jewels” in the area.

Environmentalist Rita Barron, one of the first executive directors of the Charles River Watershed Association initiated a study of the area and worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to create the Natural Valley Storage area in the 1970s, preserving 8,000 acres of wetlands in the upper and middle watershed for future generations. These marshlands absorb heavy rainfall during storms then release the water during dry periods – providing natural flood control.

Mass Audubon’s Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary

In the Charles River Valley at the midpoint of the River’s course, the Massachusetts Audubon’s Broadmoor Sanctuary is situated in Natick and Sherborn near the meadows of Medfield and Millis and neighboring towns, with the Charles providing a continuous wildlife corridor.

The Broadmoor is one of 56 sanctuaries in Massachusetts protecting a wide diversity of plants and animal wildlife. The Massachusetts Audubon Society was founded in the late nineteenth century to conserve nature, research how best to achieve this, advocate for the environment, and educate the public.

Broadmoor Sanctuary is easily accessible from Route 16 where we pull into a shaded parking lot that is left unpaved to allow rainwater to percolate naturally through the ground. Already we are in a quiet place, this refuge for wildlife, away from the sounds of hurried drivers passing by on local roads or nearby highways, but closer to the sounds of birdsong in nearby meadows or the voices of children gathered in small groups making discoveries. We will begin our visit by walking up to the entrance of a small building retrofitted with solar panels and water-saving devices, a former horse barn on one of the farms that were entrusted to the sanctuary. Beyond the welcome desk where we can obtain a map and request information is a display of informative books and materials and beyond that a large meeting room often with photos or paintings on display and a setting for many indoor activities and meetings.

This 624-acre sanctuary is a wonderful place for nature study, photography, and walking along nine miles of well-marked trails through a variety of habitats from grassy meadows to shady woods with white pines bordered by ferns, along glacial landforms and large stone outcroppings, crossing boardwalks over marshlands and ponds with cattails and pond lilies, and following a footpath along a section of the Charles. Here is a place for all seasons and suited to people of varying ages and diverse abilities either independently or in groups. The experience is open to “All Persons” with trails where one can maneuver strollers, walkers, wheel chairs, and other assistive devices, or seeing-impaired visitors can enjoy descriptive audiotapes while resting on one of the benches.

We may observe beavers near their dams, wood ducks nesting, and painted turtles sunning themselves. One hundred fifty species of birds include the great horned owl, nuthatches, chickadees, herons, and red-winged blackbirds. Some of the mammals that live there are mink, muskrats, fishers, deer, foxes, beaver, and coyotes. The sounds of spring and summer may be those of wood frogs, peepers, and cicadas.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author