Just minutes from busy shopping centers in Wareham, Horseshoe Mill provides a quiet escape for hikers, paddlers, and anglers. Take a walk along the water’s edge and up into the woods, where a scenic river overlook awaits. Kayak up the placid river, or cast a line from the shore with your kids in search of perch and sunfish. It’s all part of the Weweantic River Reserve, a network of conserved land that protects Buzzards Bay’s largest freshwater river.
Horseshoe Mill gets its name from Standard Horseshoe Co., a large factory that operated here in 1890. Several iron works were located here in the 19th century, including Murdock & Howland Nail Factory and Wareham Nail Co.
Along with the adjacent Birch Island Conservation Area, Horseshoe Mill has a growing network of trails through the Weweantic River Reserve. Altogether, you can spend an hour or more exploring these two neighboring properties. (Download trail map)
Starting at the parking area, walk past the metal gate on a wide, flat gravel path. As you walk, look down at your feet – the dark, metallic pieces of “slag” you see littering the ground are left over from iron ore processing that once took place here. It’s one of many signs of the site’s industrial history that you’ll see in the woods.
You’ll soon reach the river, at the head of tide, where the Coalition removed a dam that blocked the river from flowing freely to the Bay for centuries. Cross the bridge at the site of the former dam to continue on the main trail, or wander down to the banks of the river. You can also launch a kayak here and paddle upstream, where the river gently bends around Birch Island.
The scenery begins to shift as you hike uphill on the main trail into an upland pine forest. Explore a short loop trail to the left, or keep walking to find a right turn that will lead you to a quiet river overlook. Beyond this point, the trail traces Interstate 195 and ends at private property, so turn around and retrace your steps to return to the entrance.
Habitats & Wildlife
Horseshoe Mill is situated at the “head of tide” on the Weweantic River – the special spot where fresh water flowing downstream from Carver, Middleborough, and Rochester meets the salty tidal waters rising up from Buzzards Bay. This mix of fresh and salt water creates one of the most unique and important ecosystems in our region. Rare wetland plants grow along the river’s edge, and birds, frogs, and turtles thrive among the woods and water.
The Weweantic River is home to the most diverse community of migratory fish that remains anywhere on Buzzards Bay. Perch, American eels, river herring, and sea lampreys are a few of the numerous fish species that migrate up the river past Horseshoe Mill. The rocky riffle just downstream of the bridge is a prime spot for spawning rainbow smelt each spring.
By protecting this land and restoring the river, the Coalition is working to revitalize these tremendous natural resources for all of us to enjoy.
The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and sustainable use and enjoyment of our irreplaceable Bay and its watershed.