On Thursday, July 17, Kris Ramsay, Director of the Orleans Conservation Trust (OCT), led a walk through and around Namequoit Bog, a 22.5 acre parcel, while touching on interesting details and historical facts about the property. 17.5 acres of this parcel is recognized as a wetland, which had been actively farmed as a cranberry bog up until the 1950s. The drainage ditches and sluiceway associated with cranberry cultivation are still visible today, but when the farming activities ceased, the rest of the wetland, left unmaintained, grew in with dense thickets of briars. Since the mid-2000s, OCT has been determinedly working to remove the monoculture of briars and encourage the re-establishment and growth of native freshwater wetland trees, such as the Atlantic White Cedar, shrubs, sedges, rushes, and grasses.
Around 10:00am, despite the downpour of rain the previous day and the remaining ominous clouds above, a group of eight walkers arrived at the Paw Wah Pond Conservation Area parking lot off Namequoit Road. Not deterred by the threat of rain, the group followed Kris from a beautiful overlook of Paw Wah Pond and Little Pleasant Bay to Namequoit Bog’s sluiceway. During the introduction Kris mentioned that until the current sluiceway was installed in 2010, this parcel’s wetland had been in a state of “disarray” due to the ineffectiveness of the previous sluiceway. The old sluiceway was not effectively controlling the water levels within the bog as desired for native wetland species to redevelop. Controlling the water levels and a variety of other management activities such as clearing vegetation from the ditch lines has since helped the re-establishment of common wetland species, such as Cattails and Water Willows. Preventing the monoculture of briars has also given way to a healthier habitat for mammals like white-tailed deer and coyotes as well as many bird species like Red-Winged Blackbirds.
After giving a brief history on past management activities, including the most recent AmeriCorps Cape Cod projects on the property, Kris led the group on the newly-mowed path that primarily follows the old ditch lines. Evidence of wildlife wa seen and heard while the group walked within the bog: sparrows, chickadees, catbirds, and red-winged blackbirds sang in the trees and flitted about overhead; coyote and deer scat were noticed on the new path; bullfrogs croaked in the slough; and a deer darted out of the way as the group ascended to Viking Road. Plucking something from the side of the path, Kris showed everyone a dead Red Maple stump and pointed out an unusual feature: the higher water levels in the bog had caused new roots to sprout out of the maple’s trunk, above the original root system.
Near the largest stand of Atlantic White Cedars—a majority of them dead, but some individuals still holding on—Kris drew attention to several large piles of brush: the remains of vegetation cut back by previous management projects. In the winter, when bird nesting season is over and vulnerable box turtles have moved on, these piles will be burned, giving way to space for swamp grasses, reeds, and even room for the propagation of more cedars. Though a lot of dead Red Maples have been removed from the area, several dead trees still remain standing: they provide excellent perching opportunities for birds of prey, house insects which are delicacies for woodpeckers, and offer nesting habitat for chickadees and other small songbirds.
As the group shifted to a dirt roadway off Viking Road, Kris pointed out a massive “borrow pit” at the northeast edge of the bog. The sand “borrowed” from this pit would most likely have been spread on the old cranberry bog as a means of deterring other vegetation from growing within the cranberry crop. Kris mentioned that this particular borrow pit is one of the largest he has seen on Cape Cod.
By the time the group moved back into the bog halfway down Viking Road, the sun had peeked through the dissipating clouds and the humidity slowly rose. Retracing their steps, the hikers returned to the sluiceway and the Paw Wah Pond overlook, the water now glistening in the sunshine.
If you missed this walk, join us for our next walk at the Christian Property Conservation Area on Thursday, August 11th at 3:00pm—this educational walk will take roughly an hour. Hikers are asked to park at 80 Portanimicut Road in South Orleans. This parcel contains one of the rare Atlantic White Cedar swamps and serves as one of the Town’s open space properties protecting the waters of Pleasant Bay.
Directions: From the intersection of Rt. 28 and Main Street in Orleans, follow MA Route 28 towards Chatham for 2.5 miles. Turn left onto Quanset Road and veer left at the Y to stay on Portanimicut Road. Follow Portanimicut Road to the trail head entrance on the left (0.6 miles). Entrance is a small dirt driveway. Look for a white Ford Ranger and orange cones.