Cow Tent Hill Preserve - Duxbury, MA
Off Route 3A (Tremont Street)
Bernice Bumpus, 1999
Rt. 3 to Exit 11. Turn right onto Rt. 14 East toward Duxbury. Bear right to stay on Rt. 14. At lights, turn left on Rt. 3A North.
Preserve is just ahead on right. Google Directions here
Parking area off Route 3A.
Bordering both sides of Duck Hill River in the Millbrook section of Duxbury, Cow Tent Hill Preserve offers secluded tidal marshes and hilly wooded uplands. It is especially pleasant to walk here in summer, when breezes from the nearby bay cool the beautiful white pine forest. This land was once part of a small village on the river, the site of the first gristmill in Duxbury, established in 1640, and of a textile mill that produced sailcloth during the War of 1812.
Follow the trail through the southern section of the preserve as it gently descends to the edge of Duck Hill River. From river’s edge, look for red-wing blackbirds and marsh wrens among the reeds and grasses. The trail rises and falls over a series of knolls as it ascends to the crest of Cow Tent Hill, then loops back to the preserve’s entrance. Remain on the trail, as poison ivy is abundant in the forest. At one time, most of the preserve was open field. Cedar posts and wire fencing are reminders that much of the preserve was once pasture land. The preserve’s name is from the 19th-century practice of setting up canvas to shade grazing cows.
Across Duck Hill River, which flows into Duxbury Bay, pine and hardwood forest and secluded marshes comprise the northern section of the preserve. There, hills provide views across the Duxbury Marsh, a large area of salt marsh and tidal streams at the head of the bay. In Pilgrim days, the river was referred to as Stoney Brook, became Mill Brook later in the 17th century, and eventually acquired the name Duck Hill River. The first segment of the trail leading from the parking area to the river’s edge is barrier-free and there is a bench located here for a rest and the enjoyment of nature.