When the temperature drops, go take a hike!
Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
The Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary offers 1.5 miles of interconnected trails through pristine marshland overlooking Barnstable Harbor. Tucked in the western end of the harbor, Great Marsh consists of 113 acres of marshlands, woods and beach, and boasts spectacular scenery. The marsh is connected to Sandy Neck, a 3,800-acre barrier beach ecosystem situated in both Barnstable and Sandwich.
“Great Marsh is an incredible place,” says Joshua Wrigley, education coordinator for Mass Audubon’s Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary. “It is part of a large area of undeveloped and beautiful shoreline.”
The marsh features five separate trails: Cedar Trail, Otter Trail, Sandy’s Trail, Cow Path, and Cooper Pond Loop. Wrigley, who coordinates programs for visitors including guided hikes of the marsh, which Mass Audubon oversees, says the area is an important ecosystem for many local species. The shallow water in the marsh helps keep larger fish and other predators away, making it a good nursery for young birds, fish, crabs and other crustaceans. (Continued on next page)
“It’s a great place to talk about how ecosystems function,” Wrigley says. “It’s a very resilient and vibrant marsh.” When the weather turns cold, Wrigley says walkers may spot numerous species of birds and owls as well as eiders, buffleheads and long–tailed ducks. One may also stumble across different species of marsh grass—low salt meadow cordgrass, and the taller smooth cordgrass. Another type of vegetation commonly found in the area is pickle weed; in fall, the weed changes from a bright green color to a striking deep red, mixed with orange and yellow.
Barnstable Great Marsh is located near 2444 Main Street (Route 6A) in Barnstable, across the street from the Barnstable/West Barnstable Elementary School. No sign marks the entrance to the sanctuary, but a driveway leads to a small parking lot for visitors. The trail is open year-round, from dawn to dusk, and trail maps are available at massaudubon.org.
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