Together, Cowassock Woods and the Ashland Town Forest span more than 500 acres and are rich in both human and natural history. These lovely properties are composed of a mosaic of mixed-hardwood forest types, wetlands, vernal pools, and stream corridors.
The mixed-hardwood forest features oak and hickory tress, and there are patches of naturally occurring coniferous species including white pine and eastern hemlock. The center of Cowassock Woods includes a large area of planted white pine and a smaller area of planted red spruce and red pine.
Cowassock Brook begins at the maple swamp in the northern section of Ashland Town Forest 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.
- 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.
- 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.