The David E. Alper Nature Preserve offers highly contrasting experiences.
Location: at the end of Little Herring Pond Road, off Carter’s Bridge Road
Parking: plentiful, at the traffic circle and in three separate areas within the preserve
Activity level: hiking is generally easy, kayaking is easy, except for one of the two boat landing areas
Duration: hiking about one hour, kayaking around the pond about one hour, kayaking down Carter’s Brook to Great Herring Pond and back, about one hour.
Distance: walking paths 1.5 to 2 miles, paddling length of the pond about 1 mile
The David E. Alper Nature Preserve offers highly contrasting experiences. One can enjoy a pleasant woods walk or, with a little effort, one can put in a kayak or canoe and have a delightful one or two hours on Little Herring Pond and Carter’s Brook. This is the public’s only access to Little Herring Pond. Soon after the 43.6 acre preserve was acquired by the town in 2015, the Herring Ponds Watershed Association set to work cleaning up trash and preparing it for the public’s enjoyment. This preserve is a quirky juxtaposition of rough, unimproved tracks and nicely prepared walking trails.
Just beyond the Alper Preserve sign, park and begin the walk. The woods road runs straight along a ridge between Triangle Pond and Little Herring Pond. There is a pleasant loop off of this ridge road at its beginning, which swings down to the outlet of Little Herring Pond, at a disused dam, and back up again, about one-third of a mile in length. The unique Plant ID Trail along the ridge road is a learning experience, with trees, shrubs and ground covers tagged with informative labels. At this time of year, the huckleberries are ripe, and the pepperbushes are fragrant. The path continues through open mixed hardwood and softwood forest to a fork. Bearing right will lead to the end of the Plant Trail and out of the preserve. Bearing left at the fork, and left again will bring you down into a grassy meadow bordering the small, quiet Triangle Pond. At this point, you have left the preserve, so return to your start.
For kayakers, drive straight down the woods road from the traffic circle for about 90 yards. Pull off to the right at the top of the hill to unload and carry the kayaks down a steep hill, bearing left. You will come to a short, very steep incline where you can push the kayak down into a dirt slide, then walk down the adjacent path, retrieve the kayak and continue to the put-in. Remember that returning from the trip, you will have to carry the kayaks back up this hill! If you have a four wheel drive vehicle with a high chassis, it is possible to drive from the top of the hill bearing right down a rough woods road to a level area under tall pines near the pond outlet, where there is an easy ground level put-in.
Little Herring Pond is a 90 acre, shallow, clear water pond with a mostly sandy bottom. No motors are allowed except small electric ones that won’t scatter the wildlife or impinge on the enjoyment of this fine body of water. Although only 3 feet in average depth, the water is quite chilly resulting from hundreds of little springs on the pond bottom, called “colander springs,” especially at the north end. They form tiny “volcanoes” in the sandy bottom, puffing away endlessly, and are a delight to watch. There are always lots of swans on this pond, in addition to great blue herons, osprey, ducks, mergansers, kingfishers and night-herons, to name a few. The clear water makes for interesting fish watching, too.
At the south end of the pond you can glide right on through the old dam into the sweetest stretch of kayaking in Plymouth. This is Carter’s Brook, which connects to Great Herring Pond after about a mile of luxurious, leisurely floating. You ride the shallow, clear water on a snappy current, over a sandy bottom, through a tunnel of green branches. You see turtles, fish and sinuous grasses below, and birds and trees above. Ditches indicate long abandoned cranberry bogs reclaimed by fully grown trees. There are swampy stretches with lily pads and shoreline thickets, and while some areas are close, the channel is fully passable.
About 15 minutes from the dam, there is a dilapidated culvert which is an easy run downstream, although will take more work to get through on the way back upstream. Thirty minutes from the dam, you reach the real obstacle of the Carters Bridge Road. It would have been no problem had the workmen not hung a large sewer pipe below the span of the bridge. Here, you can get out of the kayak, shove it through the tunnel, cross the road on foot and catch it on the other side. Short or limber people can scrunch down in the kayak and “walk” under the pipe. Or portage. Or turn around and head back.
Just a few yards beyond the bridge, the brook pours out into Great Herring Pond, where the chilly water blends in with the warmer water of the big pond. Here, in times of low water, there is a pristine sand bar for sitting. In high water, it is shallow enough to ground the kayak for a little rest. Now is a great time for a refreshing dip. This pond is “fully recreational,” meaning motor boats, jet skis and water skiing will lessen the kayakers’ peaceful experience. Plus, there are often stiff winds barreling up the length of this huge pond. A very different scene here, so head back upstream.
The trip back up Carter’s Brook is much less leisurely, but 30 minutes or so of steady paddling will get you back to Little Herring Pond without too much effort. Some may have to portage around the broken culvert, but it is possible to charge through it against the current. Once beyond the dam and back onto the pond, bear to the left until you find the put in.
Isn’t it remarkable how much heavier the kayak is at the end of a trip!
This series seeks to highlight the forests, bogs and meadows that the town of Plymouth acquires which provide recreation for us citizens, benefits for wild life, safe guards of the aquifer, and cleaner air. These nature preserves are there for you and your family to enjoy!