We’ve all seen a friend or two post beautiful photos clambering up suspension bridges, walking down the boardwalks, or sitting on one of the many perfectly placed benches, but few the name where those photos were taken, the story behind the land, or what to really expect when visiting Cornell Farm. Cornell Farm is a property that came to being in 2009 when The Trustees of the Reservations and the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust worked in partnership to acquire and preserve the property for conservation and public access. Before preservation, the land had been owned by its namesake, the Cornell family, and had most recently served as a dairy farm, and the remnants of the Farm stretch throughout the property.
The property contains marvelous woodlands, and stunning scenic views over its wetlands and salt marshes as part of the Little River watershed. Cornell Farm is joined with the DNRT property Frank Knowles-Little River Reserve and the Dartmouth Town owned “McBratney” Property to create an over 500 acre Conservation Area with miles of trails stretching throughout the property.
“But how do I get to the cool stuff?” you may be asking. Well, to enter directly onto the Frank Knowles-Little River Reserve, there is a parking area and trail head on Potomska Road in South Dartmouth, just before getting to the Lloyd Center for the Environment. Be prepared however, to get to those spectacular bridges and board walks that you see here, you’ll be walking for at least a mile, with some climbs over the remnants of stone walls. During the wetter and warmer times of the year, you may have to traverse some very soft ground, and if your looking to spend some serious time out there, Bean Boots might be warranted. That’s not to say the walk isn’t worth it. The trails from this entrance are much more numerous (always take a map), with great forested views, old home and farmsteads (some seen here), and small bridges and brooks. Starting from Potomska Road is just the more adventurous path.
The easier walk, while offering some of the best views in the Reserves is the entrance through Cornell Farm, off of Smith Neck Road. While the long boardwalks are technically on the DNRT property, they are much easing and seemingly quicker to get to this way. The trails are well established, at a smaller grade, and well-groomed, if only a little muddy (you may have to put the Bean Boots to use if it rains, but otherwise you should be fine), but thankfully boards are stretched over the largest puddles.
As you can see, the views alone are worth any amount of walking on these properties. And while you can’t hear them, its a wonderful place to birdwatch, as you see plenty of foul, shore and song birds, and maybe a bird-of-prey, but often with the attention that the landscape demands, you’ll hear them first.
Before embarking please remember that dogs must be on leash at all times, and all waste (yours included) must be taken with you. Remember to use bug spray, especially in the warmer months, and always look out for ticks while walking the property. Finally, on the “McBratney” Property and when permitted specially by the Trustees on Cornell Farm, hunting is permitted in season, so dress accordingly with 500 square inches of blaze orange.
Finally, what should you do once you get off the trail, now that you’re a little warm from the walk. Well the added bonus of parking and entering from Cornell Farm, you can stop by Salvador’s Ice Cream, located less than 2 minutes to the south on Smith Neck Road. Open in the summer season from 11:30AM-9:00PM daily, and cash only, who doesn’t want to stop and get ice cram from a giant milk jug? Overall, the trip to Cornell Farm in South Dartmouth is worth the views, and maybe some ice cream when you’ve worked hard to get them.
More information about the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust visit dnrt.org
Written by: Scott Mason
Photography by: Scott Mason
to see more of his work @scottarthurmason
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