A desert on Cape Cod? Don’t be fooled – the broad expanse of sand you see at Breivogel Ponds Conservation Area is actually full of life for you to explore. This former gravel mine is being restored to rare habitat known as sandplain grasslands. These broad plains are a fantastic place to sit with a picnic and watch for the many birds that flock to this space. Walkers, hikers, and cross-country skiers will find ample space to wander across the sand and on the trails through the surrounding forest.
If you’re seeking water views, head down to the two man-made freshwater ponds on the east side of the property. The pond’s cool, shallow waters are a favorite spot for dogs to splash around, as well as a good place to dip your feet after a hike on a warm day. In the spring, the shallow depressions south of these ponds become vernal pools. Here, you can view floating egg masses from fascinating amphibian species.
A mile and a half of trails begin at the Breivogel Ponds parking lot on Blacksmith Shop Road. After crossing over a power line corridor and through an old gate, the trail splits to form a loop. This mile-long loop passes through the center of the sandplain grasslands, through the woods around the two ponds, and along the edge of a bluff with great views of the vernal pools. Side paths lead off this trail down to the vernal pools and to the edge of the freshwater ponds. (This property does not yet have a map for visitors, so please keep to established trails.)
If you’d like to extend your walk, continue onto a half-mile loop that diverts from the first trail and into the surrounding pine and oak woodlands. You can enter this loop from the north side of the sandplain grasslands, or by turning off of the woodland trail at its northeast corner.
Habitats & Wildlife
Two fascinating habitats sit right next to each other at this unique conservation area. Sandplain grasslands are among the rarest habitats in the world. They only occur naturally where salt spray from the ocean prevents them from returning to woodlands. Within these sandy fields you’ll find many uncommon plants and insects, as well as birds that nest or overwinter in grasslands. Barn and tree swallows are a particular favorite here as they swoop and twirl playfully over the sand. Keep an eye out for American kestrel — the smallest falcon in North America — around the nest boxes installed to attract these tiny raptors.
Just south of the sandplain grasslands, The 300 Committee created five shallow depressions that fill with water in the spring, forming temporary vernal pools. These pools are important habitat where amphibians like spotted salamanders and rare spadefoot toads lay their eggs. Because vernal pools are very delicate, please keep away from their edges and keep dogs outside of the fenced area.