Transcend back in time to a place seemingly untouched by industrial influences. Encircled by the obscurities of nature and the euphonious chirping of crickets in the summer. The rustling of crisp leaves charred by the waning sun in autumn, and the isolated growls and groans of the winds in winter. Every season at the, seemingly obscure, William Forward Wildlife Management Area of conservation land, recites a novels worth of knowledge about the network of salt marshes, and the native vegetation and wildlife.
Stretching over twenty thousand miles from Salisbury in the North to Gloucester in the South, on the shores of Massachusetts, is the Great Marsh. The William Forward Wildlife Management Area is only a part of the Great Marsh, spanning only one thousand nine-hundred and forth acres from Rowley to the adjacent town, Newbury, combining Kents Island and Mill Creek Wildlife Management Areas. Owned by the Department of Fish and Game, the area was named after a naturalist, William (Bill) Forward, an employee of the Parker River Wildlife Refugee, who became friends with the locals. The land is generally used for hunting, fishing, and trapping, but also, for hiking, boating, and bird-watching.
Kents Island was named after a very early settler who passed ownership of the acreage onto their descendants. Eventually, in 1935, the land was bought by John Marquand, a Pultzer Prize winning author, and a distant descendant of the Kent family. A few years after Marquand’s death in 1960, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game purchased the distinctive property in 1974, and has owned the land ever since.
At the entrance to the William Forward Wildlife Management Area is the Nancy E. Begin Newbury Marsh Overlook, beckoning travelers and hunters onward with a stunning glimpse of the salt marsh as bait. Breathtaking views accompany the journey over the bridge, spanning Kents Island, part of a restoration project meant to restore tidal flow and provide safe access for visitors and management. The overlook was named after the recently deceased pioneer in wildlife conservation work, and artist, Nancy Begin.
If you take a trip further down Hay Street from the Nancy E. Begin Newbury Marsh Overlook, you will come across Newman Road, on the left, which cuts directly through the marsh and goes up the one-hundred and sixty eight foot hill known as Old Town Hill, formerly called, Quascacunquen by the Indigenous people. The hill has a few panoramic views of the marsh and New Hampshire’s Isle of Shoals, and roughly six miles of trails.
Truthfully, to delight in the stunning vista of the William Forward Wildlife Management Area, it is advised to travel at least once every season to achieve the full panoramic experience, sense the magnetism, and comprehend why the Great Marsh is vital to the the costal ecosystem and our economy.
Love to birdwatch? Over three-hundred species of bird have been sited in the Great Marsh and seventy-five rare species.