Camp Denison Conservation Area

84 Nelson Street
Georgetown, MA 01833
978-352-5744

Camp Denison Conservation Area is forty-four acres of conservation land located in the Town of Georgetown, MA. Camp Denison Conservation Area is open to the public during daylight hours for the purpose of providing quality passive recreational and environmental experiences at no charge.

At Camp Denison. individuals, families, scout troops, organizations can enjoy:

  • campsites
  • miles of trails
  • bird watching
  • bike rides
  • canoe and kayak
  • snowshoe and cross country skiing
  • playground
  • fishing and small carry in boating
  • observation benches
  • LetterBoxing Trail
  • picnic
  • shuffleboard
  • horseshoes
  • b.b. court
  • grill
  • gazebo

As you enter the first eight hundred feet of entrance driveway from Nelson Street in Georgetown, you pass on the right, farm pastures and pastured woodland. During the growing season, grazing sheep can usually be observed close to the fence. As you move deeper into the forest the growth becomes dense and closer to the road until suddenly, the forest opens up to tall magnificent pines. Further down the gravel drive you arrive at the Great Hall Lodge and Baldpate Pond.

In general, the outside area including the Herb Hubbard Pavilion is available for your enjoyment at no charge and no permit for your use is required.

Great Hall Lodge is situated overlooking Baldpate Pond and can be used for a variety of scheduled special permit group activities, meetings, events, parties. To find out more information about renting Great Hall Lodge or obtaining permits for use, please visit Camp Denison's website: campdenison.com

History

In 1931 Denison House, a non profit corporation dedicated to improving the lives of inner city youth, leased 5 acres on Baldpate Pond in Georgetown. The intent was to provide a healthy outdoor experience for children from the inner city. By 1935 Denison House had purchased a combined 36 acres in Georgetown and Boxford for that purpose.

During 1937, Georgetown's Alfred Tidd Builders constructed the "Great Lodge" at Camp Denison Conservation Area. It is a tribute to his skills that the rustic lodge remains in the same shape as the day it was built. A large chimney that contains two large natural stone fireplaces is the focal point of the historic lodge.

In 1965 Denison House and several other organizations combined to create the Federated Dorchester Neighborhood Houses Inc. Programs continued in Georgetown that emphasized outdoor recreation, conservation, quality of life and understanding the habitat. As many as 2000 campers per season would attend annually. One area was developed for handicapped children operated throughout the year. Unfortunately, as the years went by the camp was utilized less and less, and fell into disrepair and vandalism.

In the late 90’s The Federated Dorchester Neighborhood Houses, Inc offered to sell the buildings and land to the Town of Georgetown. In June of 1997, the voters of Georgetown unanimously approved authorizing the purchase of the Camp Denison Conservation Area property, including the ten acres in Boxford.

The Town of Georgetown formally acquired the property on February 25, 1998.

The land was purchased through a grant from the Commonwealth on Massachusetts, and placed under the supervision of the Conservation Commission. A Camp Denison Conservation Area Committee was formed, reporting to the Conservation Commission, this committee is responsible for the day to day operation and maintenance of Camp Denison.

Work began immediately on restoring the buildings and grounds, including creating walking trails. The work continues to this day. For more information on the management of Camp Denison Conservation Area, and it’s fundraising support group, The Friends of Camp Denison Conservation Area.

History of Baldpate Pond Area

Baldpate Pond has had many names over the centuries. In the mid-17th Century it was known as Rainer Pond, after Humphrey Rainer, the only ruling Elder of record in the early Rowley church and the owner of substantial holdings here when the area was part of Rowley.

In the 1700s, when The Perley Family lived nearby, the pond was called Perley's Pond. One family member, Jacob, lived in an unusual lean-to house with the oven chimney opening to the outside. It was said that meals left cooking Saturday night for Sunday dinner were occasionally stolen. Eliphalet Perley who lived during the early 19th century was known to mow his fields at night when there was sufficient moonlight.

William Perley, who built his home on the southern shore of the pond, was captain of the Boxford minutemen and served at Bunker Hill. In 1847, his farm was sold to the Town of Boxford for use as an almshouse. The Boxford town Farm operated as a self-sufficient means of supporting needy townspeople until 1912. Thereafter it was used as a summer camp by the Lawrence Tuberculosis League. Fine paneling and furnishings from the old home (which had burned down) are on permanent exhibit at the museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The woods here were cut for timber in the past. Commercial logging operations are still ongoing.

Natural Features of Baldpate Pond Area

Ten thousand years ago Camp Denison Conservation Area was covered by an enormous glacial ice sheet carrying gravel, boulders, and debris. As the glaciers began to recede, blocks of ice were left behind in the outwash plains. One of these blocks of ice melted to form the basin of what is now Baldpate Pond. The runoff from Baldpate Pond flows to the northeast through Penn Brook and eventually feeds into the Parker River.

Nearby Baldpate Hill is a drumlin, another glacial landform. A drumlin is a smooth, rounded hill that is rarely more than 250 feet above the surrounding land. Drumlins were formed when moving ice sheets pushed together masses of sticky glacial till and molded them into their characteristic oval shape.

The presence of old stone walls and abandoned fields attest to the agricultural past of both Camp Denison Conservation Area and the adjacent Baldpate Pond State Forest in Boxford. Agricultural land use in New England peaked in the mid-1800s; thereafter the number of farms and cultivated acres declined steadily. Many young New England farmers left the region for the flat fertile lands of the Midwest.

The vegetation growing in the old fields of the area and elsewhere offers clues to past agricultural practices. The bare ground that results from cultivation provides perfect conditions for many annual plants that are commonly considered weeds. The number and variety of these plants increase during the first few years after the field is abandoned. Common species include crabgrass, ragweed and pigweed, all of which prefer sunny conditions and possess a deep root system to withstand drought. Many of these are old world plants that have followed the spread of farming. The annuals are followed by sun-loving perennials including goldenrod, aster, milkweed, pokeweed and brambles. In wetter areas vines such as wild grape, morning glory, bindweed, poison ivy and bittersweet can form continuous cover over large areas and slow down reforestation.

Hours: 

Open Daily

Admission: 

Free

Driving Directions: 

Camp Denison Conservation Area is located at 84 Nelson Street, Georgetown, MA. Take the Rt. 97 North exit (Exit 53B) off of Rt. 95 towards Georgetown.

Site Notes & Advisories: 

Please visit campdenison.com for trail maps and up-to-date information about Use Permits / Rules / Rates.

Flags: 

  • Family Friendly
  • Handicap Accessible
  • Parking
  • Pet Friendly
  • Self guided

Categories: 

  • Birding
  • Camping
  • Swimming & Boating
  • Winter Sports
  • Walking & Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Cultural Resources
  • Historic Resources
  • Natural Resources
  • Parks
  • Gardens
  • Recreation & Tours
  • Scenic Vistas

Property Owner/Organization: 

Town of Georgetown/Friends of Camp Denison
Essex Coastal Scenic Byway
Rail Trail
Rail Trail Trailhead