About Walden Pond State Reservation

May 15, 2015

Walden Pond was once home to the renowned author, Henry David Thoreau. Now part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Forests and Parks system, Walden Pond State Reservation comprises 335 acres of protected open space, where visitors come to experience the pond that inspired Thoreau. They also come to 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 create movements, or to make a name for himself. He came instead for the simplest of reasons: to live simply in nature and to discover what it could teach him.

In March of 1845, Thoreau began planning and building his one-room house. He moved in on July 4th of that year. He studied natural history, gardened, wrote in his journal, read, took long walks, and drafted his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, a story of a paddle 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 Concord village, entertained visitors at his house and hired himself out as a surveyor. In September of 1847, Thoreau completed his experiment in simplicity and returned to live in Concord.

Thoreau’s sojourn at Walden started a long tradition of people coming to the pond and its surrounding woods for inspiration and recreation. The emergence of Walden as a public park was in keeping with the belief that nature is meant to be enjoyed by people. Lamenting the deforestation that had taken place around Walden, Thoreau wrote, “I think that each town should have a park…a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation” in an 1859 journal entry.  ”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 700,000 people visit the reservation each year.  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 hardwood and softwood mix of Thoreau’s day, including berry bushes, sumac, pitch pine, white pine, hickory, black birch, and oak. Stumps of some of the 400 white pines planted by Thoreau and Emerson, leveled by the great hurricane of 1938, used to be found above Thoreau’s house site.

Wildlife of Thoreau’s time can still be found here. Gray squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits are common. Skunk, raccoon, and red fox are active at night, but can occasionally be seen shortly before sunset or after sunrise. Kingfishers, blackbirds, chickadees, blue herons, and red-tailed hawks can often be viewed flying among the trees or over the water. In the spring and fall, migratory ducks and geese pass overhead and land in nearby wetlands 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 with trout. In addition, sunfish, yellow perch, and small-mouth bass compete for crayfish.

Walden Pond is a 102-foot kettle hole pond formed over 12,000 years ago when the last glacier to cover New England slowly melted away. It is Massachusetts’ deepest natural body of fresh water. As the glacier melted, large chunks of ice broke off and became surrounded with and covered by vast amounts of sand and gravel carried by streams flowing from the glacier. As the blocks 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.

A replica of Thoreau’s house, constructed in 1985, and the location of his modest accommodations are available for viewing by the public. Year-round interpretive programs and guided walks are offered. Visitors can enjoy the new state-of-the art visitor center to open in 2017, and drop into the Shop at Walden, run by the Thoreau Society.

The interpretive staff at Walden Pond State 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 and walking programs, and Thoreau talks. Tour themes focus on the natural history of Walden Pond and Thoreau’s life and his impact on society. Accessible hiking and boating programs are scheduled in the spring and summer. When scheduled in advance, school and group tours are available.  Reservations may be made by calling 978-369-3254. Only service dogs are allowed, and there is no bike riding within park grounds (there are bike racks to lock your bike on arrival). Walden Pond is a carry-in, carry-out facility. Please don’t litter.

The Walden Pond Trail Map for 2010 and a Walden Pond Historical Pamphlet is available here.



915 Walden Street
Concord, MA 01742
(978) 369-3254

PARK HOURS:  Please call Walden Pond State Reservation (978.369.3254) to obtain current park hours as opening and closing times change with the seasons.

Walden Pond State Reservation is located in the towns of Concord and Lincoln in the Greater Boston area.

From Route 95/128 (north and southwest of Boston area):  Take exit 29B onto Route 2 West. At 3rd set of traffic lights turn left onto Route 126 South. Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.

From Route 93 (north and south of Boston area):  Get onto Route 95/128 South. Take exit 29B onto Route 2 West. At 3rd set of traffic lights turn left onto Route 126 South.  Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.

From Mass Pike Route I-90 (Boston area & out of state): Get onto Route 95/128 North. Take exit 29B onto Route 2 West. At 3rd set of traffic lights turn left onto Route 126 South.  Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.

From Route 495 (north and west of Boston area): Take exit 29A onto Route 2 East. At 6th set of traffic lights turn right onto Route 126 South. Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.

From Route 3 (north of Boston area & New Hampshire):  Take exit 26 onto Route 62 West. Follow through Bedford Center and into Concord. At stop sign there Is a COLDWELL BANKER/Senkler Real Estate office directly in front of you; turn left. Follow road to the left around traffic circle, take next right onto Main Street, then take 1st left onto Walden Street. Follow Walden Street until you get to the traffic light at the intersection of Route 2. Cross Route 2, continuing straight onto Route 126 South (still Walden Street). Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.

Junior Rangers Return in August 2017

August 3, 2017

Let’s Travel Back in Time at Walden Pond!

Register for one or more sessions in the series! Call 978-369-3254 or email us at walden.pond@state.ma.us. Children ages 7-12 can become naturalists as they travel back in time. They will join park interpretive staff as we conduct hands-on experiments and activities to learn about plants and animals as Henry David Thoreau did. All Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Session #1Monday, August 7, 9am-10:30amWho was Henry David Thoreau? Meet Henry (as portrayed by Richard Smith) and become a nature detective while roaming Walden Woods.

Session #2Tuesday, August 8, 9am-10:30am-Pieces of the Past! Learn to use 1800 era tools. Meet and greet a Mounted State Trooper horse patrol protecting Walden Pond.

Session#3Wednesday, August 9, 9am-10:30amWhat Lies Beneath: Walden “Ponding” Adventure-activities examining past and present pond inhabitantss with aquatic biologists

Session#4Thursday, August 10, 9am-10:30amIce in August-hands-on experiments explaining glacial formation of Walden Pond and the 19th Century ice trade.

Registrants earn the Junior Ranger Activity Guide. Attend two sessions to earn a Junior Ranger Certificate. Attend three sessions to earn a Junior Ranger badge. 4 sessions, earn a chevron.

Regular parking fees apply.

About Walden Pond

August 1, 2017

Snowflake Beauties Craft, Monday, Dec. 26 & Wednesday, Dec.28, 2016, 11am-12pm

December 18, 2016

Did you know that no two snowflakes are alike? Both Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) and Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) loved to observe snowflakes! “Snowflake Bentley,” as Wilson was called, was even the first person to photograph them! Come celebrate these “six-rayed snowy stars” by joining park staff in some snowflake making. This activity will be held inside the new Walden Pond Visitor Center. The program is good for all ages.

Thissnowflake bentley 4.jpg is a free program, but there is an $8 parking fee for MA plates, $10 out-of-state. All children must be accompanied by and adult. No pets, only working guides. For more information at (978) 369-3254. Reasonable accommodations upon request.

Winter Solstice Walks: Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday, December 20-22, 2017, 11:30am to 12:30pm

December 18, 2016

Beat the winter blues with our annual Solstice celebration! Join us at the new visitor center for an inspirational walk at Walden Pond during solar noon. If you have a drum, please bring it along. Please wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather. This is a program for vSunisitors of all ages.

This is a free program but there is a $8 parking fee for vehicles with Massachusetts plates, $10 for vehicles with non-Massachusetts plates. All children must be accompanied by an adult. No dogs permitted unless they are working guides. Park programs are sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. For more information call park staff at (978) 369-3254. Reasonable accommodations upon request.

Civil Disobedience: Sunday, January 15, 2017, 12:30-2:30pm

December 17, 2016

martin-luther-king-jr-SmJoin local historians and Walden park staff for the 23rd annual program to commemorate Martin Luther King Day, and the legacy of Thoreau’s essay, Civil Disobedience, at Walden Pond.

12:30pm-2:30pm Visit with Henry David Thoreau, portrayed by historian Richard Smith, at the Thoreau house replica near the main parking lot. Ask Mr. Thoreau about the night he spent in jail in 1846 for not paying his poll tax, an act which inspired his influential essay.

1:00pm Thoreau Scholar, Tom Blanding, will lead an engaging discussion on the writing of Thoreau’s essay, Civil Disobedience, at the new solar-powered Walden Pond Visitor Center. Learn how Martin Luther King Jr., having read Thoreau’s essay, used the concept of civil disobedience during the Civil Rights movement. Additional examples of civil disobedience, both historic and current, will be brought out during the discussion.

walden-woods-logoThis is a free program but there is $8.00 daily parking fee for MA plates, $10 out-of-state. No preregistration required. No pets permitted. Visit http://www.mass.gov/dcr for more information. In case of inclement weather, please call (978)369-3254 for cancellation.
Co-sponsored by the Walden Woods Project http://www.walden.org, the Friends of Walden Pond State Reservation.

Walden Pond First Day Hike; Sunday, January 1, 2017, 12:00-2:00pm

December 12, 2016

Start off the New Year with good company, a sprinkling of seasonal literary readings and a cup of hfirst-day-hike-logoot chocolate!

Meet at the new Walden Pond Visitor Center at 12:00pm. Join us for an introduction to the new net-zero visitor center and a hike to the original house site of Henry David Thoreau. The hike includes a stop at the Thoreau house replica, where historian Richard Smith portrays Thoreau in his house on New Year’s Day! Sit by the wood stove and enjoy his tales of 1847. Don’t forget to dress for the winter weather. No pets are allowed at Walden Pond State Reservation. Co-sponsored by the Walden Woods Project, the walden-woods-logoFriends Group of Walden Pond State Reservation. Walden Pond State Reservation is located at 915 Walden Street/Route 126 Concord, MA 01742OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Visit http://www.mass.gov/dcr for more information. In case of inclement weather, please call (978)369-3254 for cancellation updates.

Special Program: Emerson-Thoreau Amble! 11:00am-1:00pm, Saturday, October 22, 2016, meet outside the Concord Museum!

September 23, 2016

Come join park interpretive staff for a historic guided walk from the Emerson House to Brister’s Hill and the pond called “Fairyland” in Concord’s Hapgood Wright Town Forest! Meet outside the Concord Museum main entrance. This hike will cover half of the Emerson-Thoreau Amble. Please wear good walking shoes; bring water and insect repellent.

Spiders and their Webs. Oh My! Saturday, October 29 & October 31, 1:00-3:00pm, 2016

September 23, 2016

For kids: Help build a big spider web! Learn about and make one of nature’s basic connections, the spider web. Meet at the Thoreau house replica near the parking lot. Dress for the weather. All are welcome! Children must be accompanied by an adult.spiderweb

Thoreau Family Pencil Making, Monday,October 10, 2016, 2:00-3:00pm

September 23, 2016

Come and learn about the Thoreau family’s pencil making business! Henry David Thoreau is a renowned as a writer and thinker, but he was also very handy. Not only did he  build his own house but he also improved the methods of pencil making in his family’s business. Join a park interpreter at the Thoreau house replica near the parking lot for a look into this little known side of Henry. We will have a pencil-making activity; children will leave with their own working pencil! Appropriate for children 6-12 accompanied by an adult.ad-pencils[1]

Autumnal Tints, Sundays, October 9, 23, &30, 2016; 1:00pm-2:00pm

September 23, 2016

“October is the month for painted leaves,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in his classic treatise on fall, Autumnal Tints. Join a park interpreter to celebrate and learn the reasons behind New England’s autumn leaf colors during the one-hour walk. We will meet at the Thoreau house replica. Please wear sturdy shoes and dress for the weather. Children must be accompanied by an adult. autumnaltints