Cowassock Woods, Framingham and Ashland
May 2020: Trails on SVT lands are currently open, but please note the following:
- Dogs must be leashed.
- If a trail is marked "closed," Do Not Enter. (We may need to close some trails, and our trails often cross lands owned by others.)
- Please follow all federal and state orders regarding public activities.
- See SVT Trail Policies During the COVID-19 Crisis as well as our standard Trail Policies.
Our staff continues to maintain the trails during this crisis. If you encounter a hazard, such as a downed tree that is blocking a trail, please contact us at [email protected] or 978-443-5588.
SVT is a nonprofit conservation organization that protects land for the benefit of people and wildlife.
Ashland and Framingham
SVT’s Cowassock Woods is nestled in the much larger Ashland Town Forest. Together, these lovely properties span more than 500 acres and are rich in both human and natural history.
As you walk the entrance trail at Cowassock Woods, you can still see signs of a development that was planned for the site; SVT acquired the 50-plus acres of Cowassock Woods in two stages in 1984 and 1992, after the plans fell through.
Cowassock Woods and Ashland Town Forest are composed of a mosaic of mixed hardwood forest types, wetlands, vernal pools and stream corridors.
Sixty- to eighty-year-old mixed hardwood forests – mixed oak and oak/hickory forest types - are the dominant natural communities. These communities differ in structure and species composition depending on the dryness of the sites. Rocky outcrops on the property create the driest sites with more black birch and smaller oaks.
There are patches of naturally occurring coniferous species including white pine and eastern hemlock. There is also a large area of planted 70-foot white pine and a smaller area of planted red spruce and red pine in the center of Cowassock Woods.
There is a large red maple swamp on the northern section of the Ashland Town Forest and several smaller wetlands on the town property. Cowassock Brook begins at the maple swamp and runs southeast though the SVT portion of the property. This creates a rich corridor of red maple, highbush blueberry, skunk cabbage and a large diversity of sedges and wildflowers. In many areas, even the upland forest contains some wetland indicator species; there is most likely a ledge or high water table creating relatively moist upland soil.
- Cowassock, “place of the pines” in the local Algonquian language, was a spring and summer campground for Magunkook Indians. Evidence of Native American occupation includes spear and arrow points, as well as documentation of their sale of land to early colonists.
- Colonial history here is fascinating. Families fleeing the Salem witch trials sought refuge in this wilderness, and it is believed that one family lived in the caves (now collapsed) in the Ashland Town Forest, just south of the water tower.
- Woodpecker, woodcock, wood thrush, red-tailed hawk, turkey vulture, and ruffed grouse have been seen here. One inhabitant of particular interest is the blue-spotted salamander, a species of special concern in Massachusetts.
- A portion of one of the trails in Town Forest has been designated as part of the Bay Circuit Trail (BCT), which stretches 200 miles through eastern Massachusetts, from Plum Island on the North Shore to Kingston on the South Shore. The BCT is marked by white trail blazers; markers of other colors identify the rest of the trail system.
With mapping software or a mobile app, search for this address: 886-890 Salem End Road, Framingham, MA.
If driving south on Edgell Road, cross Route 9 and take an immediate right onto High Street. Go 0.3 mile. The road’s name changes to Salem End Road. Go about 1 mile to a three-way intersection. Take the middle option to stay on Salem End Road. Go about 0.8 mile. Parking and trail access is on the left between 886 and 890 Salem End Road.