Among many OCT properties with waterfront access and important habitat, our Henson’s Cove Conservation Area is perhaps the crown jewel. The preserve occupies a beautiful site encircling Henson’s Cove on a bend of The River, flowing through the heart of Orleans to Pleasant Bay. In 2009, with the aid of a $100,000 state grant, OCT restored the property to a primarily open-field habitat and created nesting gardens for the threatened Northern diamondback terrapin. Nesting sites are monitored by volunteers from the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Sanctuary. Residents and visitors enjoy walks on the short trail, which passes through open woodlands and meadows; once a year, OCT invites members to help “plant” baby terrapins in the marsh to sustain their population. OCT asks visitors to drive slowly on Henson’s Way, park only where designated, and respect the neighborhood’s tranquil character.
Held by: OCT
Location: 33 White’s Lane, Orleans (off Monument Rd. and Henson’s Way)
Trail length: About 1 mile
Year acquired: 1982–2021
From the intersection of Route 28 and Main Street in Orleans, head east on Main Street towards Nauset Beach for .4 miles. Take the third right onto Monument Road and follow for .4 miles. Take a left onto Henson’s Way (dirt road) and follow to the end. Parking will be straight ahead.
The Henson’s Cove Conservation area is made up of five separate gifts of land spanning the period 1976–1996, plus 1.7-acre and 3.74-acre parcels purchased by OCT in 2017 and 2021 respectively. The largest single gift was donated in 1989 by George and Louise White. This parcel contained more than 7 acres, including 1,000 feet of frontage on The River. When OCT learned that abutting lots might be sold for development in 2017 and again in 2020, we launched a successful campaign to purchase each lot, with over 150 contributions received from residents and visitors. Individual gifts were augmented by grants from private foundations and the state. A major project to restore grassland habitat adjacent to the salt marsh was completed in about 2012, and the results made Henson’s Cove an important place in the regional effort to preserve diamondback terrapins. Since 2014, volunteers have documented hundreds of terrapin hatchlings born on the site. Volunteers have also recorded numerous hawk species, box turtles, and songbirds—including bluebirds, which love the open habitat. See a terrapin hatchling release event here.
Expanded eco-restoration: Beginning in 2021 OCT began planning to restore about an acre of newly acquired land on Henson’s Cove to a warm season grassland, which would further benefit the terrapins and a host of other species. After getting the permits, work began late in 2022 to clear out non-native invasive shrubs, vines, and trees. After nonnative vegetation removal and seeding, the area will be managed to encourage grasses and wildflowers and to maintain open habitat along Henson’s Cove and the abutting saltmarsh. The newly acquired land will include a trail that allows the public to see the restored habitat and Mass Audubon volunteers to monitor diamondback terrapin activity on the newly restored land.
Recap #1 of guided walks in Henson’s Cove Conservation Area Recap #2 of guided walks in Henson’s Cove Conservation Area Recap #3 of guided walks in Henson’s Cove Conservation Area Recap #4 of guided walks in Henson’s Cove Conservation Area Newsletter articles “The Terrapin Report” “More Room to Roam at White’s Lane [now Henson’s Cove]”
“Our Henson’s Cove preserve is important in so many ways: to neighbors and residents and visitors who walk here, to boaters who enjoy this pristine shoreline along The River, to the woodland creatures living here, and especially to the nesting terrapins. Not to mention its role in helping to sustain clean water flowing into Pleasant Bay.” – Kevin Galligan, president of OCT