Walden Pond was once home to the renowned author, Henry David Thoreau. Now part of the Massachusetts Forests and Parks system, Walden Pond State Reservation includes 460 acres of protected open space so that visitors may come to experience the pond that inspired Thoreau, as well as hike, swim, fish, canoe & kayak and cross country ski.
In 1845, Henry David Thoreau came to Walden Pond to live. He stayed for just over two years. He didn’t come to inspire a myth or a legend, or to found movements, or to make a name for himself. He came instead for the simplest of reasons: to live simply in nature, and find out what it could teach him.
A replica of Thoreau’s house and the location of his modest accommodations are available for viewing by the public. Year round interpretive programs and guided walks are offered as well as a gift shop/bookstore and the Tsongas gallery.
In March of 1845, Thoreau began planning and building his one room house. On July 4th of that year, he took up residence. He studied natural history, gardened, wrote in his journal, read and drafted his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, a story of a trip taken with his brother in 1839. He also made the first accurate survey of the pond. By no means a hermit, he frequently walked to the village, entertained visitors was his house and hired himself out as a surveyor. In September of 1847, Thoreau completed his experiment in simplicity and became a sojourner in civilized life again.
Thoreau’s sojourn at Walden started a long tradition of people coming to the pond and it surrounding woods for recreation and inspiration. The emergence of Walden as a public park was in keeping with belief that nature is meant to be enjoyed by people. “I think that each town should have a park… a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation,” he wrote in an 1859 journal entry lamenting the deforestation that had taken place around Walden. “All Walden wood might have been preserved for our park forever, with Walden in its midst.”
In 1922 the Emerson, Forbes and Heywood families granted approximately 80 acres surrounding the pond to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with the stipulation of “preserving the Walden of Emerson and Thoreau, its shores and nearby woodlands for the public who wish to enjoy the pond, that woods and nature, including bathing, boating, fishing and picnicking.” Middlesex County was given the responsibility for management of the reservation. In the summer of 1936, some 485,000 people visited Walden Pond, with Sunday crowds numbering as high as 25,000 visitors.
Today, it is estimated that approximately 600,000 people visit the reservation each year. In 1985, a number of additions were made, including the constructing of a replica of Thoreau’s house. In an effort to balance public recreation with protection of these resources, the DCR established a ‘people capacity’ at the park to ensure a positive visitor experience and to maintain the integrity of the resources.
By the time the Commonwealth acquired the property in 1922, much of Walden’s forest had been cut down. The woods have since grown back so that the vegetation resembles the hard and soft wood mix of Thoreau’s day and includes mostly berry bushes, sumac, pitch pine, hickory and oak. Above Thoreau’s house site are stumps of some of the 400 white pines planted by Thoreau and leveled by the great hurricane of 1938.
Much of the wildlife of Thoreau’s time can still be found here. Gray squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits are common. Skunks, raccoons and red foxes are active at night, but can occasionally be seen shortly before sunset or after sunrise. Kingfishers, blackbirds, chickadees and red-tailed hawks can often be seen flying among the trees or over the water. In the spring and fall, migratory ducks and geese pass overhead and land in nearby marshes for food and rest. As noted by Thoreau, the pond “is not very fertile in fish. Its pickerel, though not very abundant, are its chief boast.” The pickerel disappeared around the turn of the century and the pond is now stocked annually. In addition, sunfish, perch and small-mouth bass compete for crayfish.
Walden Pond is a kettle hold, a deep (103 foot) pond formed over 12,000 years ago when the last glacier to cover New England slowly melted away. As it did, large chunks of ice broke off and became surrounded and covered by vast amounts of sand and gravel carried by streams flowing from the glacier. As the it melted, they left behind depressions that eventually filled with water. Because of this geological history, most kettle holes like Walden Pond have no streams flowing into or out of them.
The interpretive staff at the reservation offers a wide array of programs for visitors. Children’s seasonal programs include nature crafts, story time, and the Junior Ranger series. Adult and family activities include poetry readings, tracking programs and Thoreau walks. Accessible hiking and boating programs are scheduled in the spring and summer. School and group tours are available when scheduled in advance. Tour themes focus on the natural history of Walden Pond and Thoreau’s life and his impact on society. Reservations may be made by calling 978-369-3254.
915 Walden St.
Concord, MA 01742
Summer Season Park Hours:
7 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. (Out Gate in Parking Lot closes @ 8 p.m.)
Walden Pond State Reservation is located near Lincoln and Concord in the Greater Boston Area.
From Rte. 95/128: (North & South West of Boston area) Take exit 29B onto Rte.. 2 West, at 3rd set of lights take a left Onto Rte.. 126 South. Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.
From Rte. 93: (North & South of Boston area) get on Rte. 95/128 South, take exit 29B onto Rte. 2 West at 3rd set of lights take left onto Rte. 126 South. Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.
From Mass Pike Rte. I-90: (Boston area & out of state) Get on Rte. 95/128 North, take exit 29B onto Rte. 2 West at 3rd set of lights take left onto Rte. 126 South. Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.
From Rte. 495: (North & South West of Boston area) Take exit 29A Onto Rte. 2 East, at 6th set of lights take a right onto Rte. 126 South. Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.
From Rte. 3: (North of Boston area & NH) Get onto Rte. 62 West, Follow through Bedford center and into Concord, at stop sign there Is a Senkler Real Estate office directly in front of you, take a left, Follow road to the left around traffic circle, take next right onto Main St., take 1st left onto Walden St. Follow Walden Street until you get to the intersection of Route 2. At this traffic light go straight onto Rte. 126 South, (cross over Rte. 2) parking is 200 yards down on left.