No matter how you like to get outside, you’ll find something to do at Hartley Reservoir Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The centerpiece of this WMA is its seven ponds, created from former cranberry bogs built almost a century ago. Freshwater fish are abundant here, and the ponds’ shallow waters and many open banks make this a perfect place to introduce young kids to angling. When water levels are high enough, these interconnected ponds are great to explore by canoe and kayak, which you can launch from Snipatuit Road. In fact, the WMA’s easternmost pond – known as Grandma Hartley’s Pond — serves as the starting point for the annual Rochester Memorial Day Boat Race, which runs down the Mattapoisett River.
If you’re looking for an adventure on dry land, look no further than the stunning loop trail around Hartley’s ponds. This path is a great place to walk, trail run, cross-country ski, or mountain bike, offering incredible water views and great opportunities to spot wildlife.
Because the Division of Fish & Wildlife manages this property, hunting for waterfowl is also permitted here. Walkers and accompanying dogs should wear orange and take caution during hunting season.
A 0.75-mile long loop trail cuts around and between the ponds in the southwest section of the Hartley Reservoir Wildlife Management Area. Starting just behind from the parking lot, the trail crosses through mature forest and rich wetlands, as well as between the ponds themselves. (Download trail map)
This trail is flat along most of the system and can be easily followed, but there are several overgrown side trails that may confuse explorers. When in doubt, stick to the path closest to the water’s edge. For some of the best views, we recommend following one of the small, elevated trails that cut directly across the ponds. These trails are the remnants of service paths for the former cranberry bogs; today, their banks grow thick with interesting marsh plants and flowers, and offer stunning 360-degree water views.
Habitats & Wildlife
Wildlife thrives around Hartley’s shallow ponds. The seven ponds are a popular place to spot birds, from hawks, wild turkey, songbirds, and woodpeckers to water-loving species like blue heron, kingfisher, and migratory ducks. In the spring, several pairs of swans nest and raise their young in these waters.
Hartley Wildlife Management Area is usually relatively quiet, giving careful explorers the opportunity to spot shy species like foxes and deer. Black racer snakes are a common sight, basking in the sun or darting out from the undergrowth along the trail. In the ponds, you may be lucky enough to spot turtles, swimming muskrats, and even river otters.