The Fort River Birding and Nature Trail is a mile-long, fully accessible trail that allows visitors an up-close and personal look at diverse wildlife and habitats.
The trail is aptly named for the prominent body of water flowing through the refuge, The Fort River.
The aesthetic value of the trail is a highlighted and prominent feature. The trail is designed for “clockwise” travel, meandering through a variety of successional habitats from grasslands, to lowland floodplain, and upland forested areas. The trail is designed to resemble a ribbon as it passes through these diverse habitats, enhancing the visitor’s experience. The winding of the trail allows visitors to continually see nature in front of them, while also creating a curiosity about what’s beyond the next bend. One of the trail walkways was specifically designed to allow the passage of the state listed wood turtle, and other small animals that need access to critical habitat.
Two overlooks on the trail provide a clear view of the Fort River. Another overlook on the trail presents a view of the Mount Holyoke Range, which is one of only two east to west mountain ranges on the east coast. The location of this overlook affords visitors beautiful vistas, with opportunities for wildlife observation, photography, and artwork.
As with these overlooks, all the trail overlooks provide visitors an opportunity to be immersed in nature, with the solitude to engage their senses in an outdoor setting.
Three prominent wetland ponds at the refuge provide habitat for a large variety wetland plant and animal species. On any given day, numerous turtles can be seen basking on logs in the sun, while a green backed heron sits waiting in search of its next meal.
The trail provides a number of educational options, with information posted in the kiosk, interpretive signs at the large pollinator garden, and a story book trail that leads visitor around the loop.
The trail is designed for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy. It is a perfect spot to spend time with family, or take a quite walk in solitude. The trail is open daily, year round from one half hour before sun up to one half hour after sun down.
Please note, visitors can access the trail via the intersection at Bay Road. The South Maple Street intersection with Moody Bridge Road is closed to through traffic.
Photo and editorial credit: Jennifer Lapis, Visitor Services Manager, Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge