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.
Habitats & Wildlife
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.