Gowing's Swamp, Concord




5.7 Acres

Trail Map

PDF icon Gowing's Swamp Trail Map Brochure

Consider how remote and novel that [Gowing’s Swamp]. Beneath it is a quaking bed of sphagnum, and in it grow . . . plants which scarcely a citizen of Concord ever sees. It would be as novel to them to stand there as in a conservatory, or in Greenland . . . .—Henry David Thoreau, August 30, 1856

This smaller bog-within-a-bog, or a quaking bog, is historically known as Thoreau’s Bog in honor of Henry David Thoreau’s scientific and philosophical interest in the site. He referenced Gowing’s Swamp in 37 entries in his Journal, in Walden, and in his essay “Walking.”

The bog formed when plants that lived on the edges of the pond began moving out deeper into the water as the subarctic climate warmed. Their thick tangle of roots, along with sphagnum moss, built up over many years, forming a layer strong enough to support the weight of small mammals.

  • The trail head is located at the Playscape at Ripley, a nature park for all ages and abilities.
  • Gowing’s Swamp lies in a kettle hole that depends solely on rainwater for its recharge. The swamp lacks the nutrients required by more common wetland plants and organisms.
  • The bog’s extreme acidity, combined with low mineral and nutrient availability and a protective topography that favors a cool microclimate, accounts for a locally rare and thriving community of northern and bog-loving plants. These include pitcher-plant, bog rosemary, pale laurel, small and large cranberries, and black spruce.
  • Due to the glacial carving of the Gowing’s Swamp landscape, an unusual number of vernal pools coexist in a relatively small area. These include Gowing’s Swamp itself and three other pools. All four pools provide critical habitat for amphibians and certain aquatic invertebrates, such as fairy shrimp.

Gowing’s Swamp Natural Area has long been threatened by non-native invasives such as glossy buckthorn. In 2016, the Swamp’s collective landowners—the Playscape at Ripley, the Concord Land Conservation Trust (CLCT), and SVT—embarked on a multiyear effort to fight the invasives and enhance access to the trail. Cherrie Corey, a local botanist, designed a control plan that includes mowing , cutting , and herbicide applications.

We extended the plan to neighboring properties with the consent of the Meriam Close Trust and the Holy Family Parish. The Town of Concord contributed $14,000 of Community Preservation Act funds, and we raised additional funds from SVT members, the CLCT, and the SuAsCo CISMA partnership (Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord River Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area).  Read More


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120 Meriam Road, Concord, MA

From the center of Concord, take Route 62 East and follow 1.5 mile. Turn right onto Old Bedford Road and continue 0.3 mile. Turn right on Meriam Road and continue to the parking area for the Playscape at Ripley.