P.J. Keating Woods
Discover a slice of secluded nature along the urban Acushnet River at P.J. Keating Woods, one of the newest properties in the growing Acushnet River Reserve. With 21 acres of woods, wetlands, and waterfront views, this Buzzards Bay Coalition trail offers an interesting walk with excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Set across South Main Street from the quarry carrying the same name, P.J. Keating Woods unveils a natural world that’s hidden just out of sight in the densely developed neighborhoods along the Acushnet River estuary. Step into the woods away from the bustling road to find quiet vernal pools and wooded swamps tucked among the oaks and maples.
At the end of the trail, the woods give way to a wide open view of fields, wetlands, and the Acushnet River estuary. The water view is a study in contrasts: on the Acushnet side, the shoreline is a natural salt marsh, while across the river in New Bedford, factories line the river’s edge. (Because of the ongoing cleanup of toxic PCB pollution, this portion of the river remains off-limits to fishing, shellfishing, and beachcombing.)
After this property was acquired in 2017, the Coalition restored it by removing invasive vines, improving the trail, and adding a river overlook. It’s now part of a developing “greenbelt” along the Acushnet River, together with nearby protected properties like The Sawmill, LaPalme Farm, and Hamlin Crossing. This corridor of conservation and recreation lands helps protect clean water and endangered habitats.
The trail at Keating Woods loops for less than a mile through the forest to a river view. These woods can be wet and there are some small steep hills along the trail, so we recommend you wear boots or waterproof shoes with good traction. (Download trail map)
Start from one of two trailheads: one at the property’s main entrance along South Main Street, and the other behind the Acushnet Council on Aging, which has excellent parking. The trail begins at a restored wildflower meadow before entering the woods. Elevated bog boards cross most of the wettest parts of the trail along streams and swamps. At the end of the trail, climb a set of steep natural steps built into the hillside to reach the river view. (To respect surrounding private property, please stay on the trail and do not cross the fence.)
Habitats & Wildlife
Keating Woods is located on the eastern banks of the Acushnet River estuary. Here, fresh water flowing downstream from the river’s headwaters in Freetown meets the tides of Buzzards Bay rising up from New Bedford Harbor.
As a large protected natural area surrounded by urban development, Keating Woods is a magnet for wildlife. Deer, turkeys, foxes, owls, opossums, and coyotes are just a few of the species that have been spotted in these woods. Keep an eye out on your walk for evidence of these animals, like tracks, scat, feathers, and bones. The river is also a haven for birds: ducks raft on the water’s surface in spring, while hawks and bald eagles perch on the tall electrical poles while they hunt for their next meal.
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.