The pitch pine–oak woodlands that make up most of the Ice House & Reuben’s Ponds Conservation Area offer sanctuary for both people and wildlife. This is OCT’s longest uninterrupted trail, providing a serene walking experience on even the busiest summer days. There are several looping features of the trail, so walkers should check the map in the kiosk at the Tonset Road trailhead before starting. Heading eastward, you’ll find a bench that overlooks Ice House Pond; near here the trail forks and continues south before circumnavigating Reuben’s Pond. An OCT guided walk is a great introduction to this area.
Just off the Tonset Road trailhead, a Storybook Trail begins. This .75-mile loop contains a children’s picture book that is taken apart and mounted on a series of stations along the gentle trail. Visitors make their way through the story as they walk from station to station. Storybook trails bring together reading and fresh air, with the stations positioned at eye-level for young readers.
Held by: OCT
Location: 245 Tonset Road, Orleans
Trail length: 1.5 mile
Year acquired: 1973–2009 (several parcels)
From the intersection of Rt. 28 and Main Street in Orleans, drive east on Main Street toward Nauset Beach for 0.4 miles. Turn left on Tonset Road at the lights and continue to trailhead on right (1.4 mi). Look for OCT kiosk and sign. Parking is along the roadside.
In 1922, Charles F. Moore Sr. began buying land between Tonset Road and Hopkins Lane, eventually accumulating 27 acres. This land included significant frontage on Ice House Pond—so named for its history of providing ice for residents’ ice houses to see them through the warmer months. In 1973, soon after OCT’s founding, the Moore family donated the first of four parcels eventually preserved with OCT. During that same time, the Wilber and Hopkins families donated an additional 7 acres, expanding OCT’s holdings to 30-plus acres in the heart of the Tonset region. The smaller pond was named for Reuben Hopkins, whose son Stephen laid out the path around that pond and transferred that parcel to OCT in 1978. The conservation area and its trails constitute a rare stretch of undeveloped land in this built-out part of town, with habitat for wildlife and various recreational opportunities for people. Birders enjoy checking in at Ice House Pond throughout the year; it’s an important stopover site for many species of migrating waterfowl. Other species, including wood ducks, are thought to nest by the pond. The surrounding woodlands shelter warblers and birds of prey, frequently seen in the forest canopy. One of the healthier ponds in Orleans, Ice House is also popular with light-tackle fishermen, and in cold winters it’s a favorite for skating or ice fishing.
Recaps of guided walks in Ice House & Reuben’s Ponds Conservation Area
“The pond was always a special place for me. Growing up during the early 1940s, while World War II was in full swing, my boyhood friends and I played heated war games around the pond and in the nearby woods. We had an old rowboat, to which we attached a pole with a large sheet, and sailed down the pond while being bombarded by mud bombs thrown by our enemies on shore.” —Stephen A. Hopkins, reminiscing about Reuben’s Pond