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 as well as hike, swim, fish, canoe and 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 a belief that nature is meant to be enjoyed by people. Lamenting the deforestation that had taken place around Walden, he 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 intergrity 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 that includes 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, levelled by the great hurricane of 1938, are found above Thoreau’s house site.

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, 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, 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 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 accomodations are available for viewing by the public. Year-round interpretive programs and guided walks are offered. Visitors can enjoy art displays at the Tsongas Gallery and drop into the gift shop/bookstore.

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.

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.

You are invited to HENRY’S WATERMELON PARTY! Saturday, August 27, 2016 12:00pm – 2:00pm

August 15, 2016

Henry Thoreau was known to have grown the sweetest, juiciest watermelons in Concord. Every year, he shared his harvest with friends and family. As we continue this tradition, enjoy a slice of melon with historian Richard Smith who will portray Thoreau at the Thoreau house replica. The replica is located next to the parking lot. This program is for visitors of all ages. Free with parking fee. $8 dollars MA plates, $10 out of state.hennry'swatermelonparty

The Year of Low Water: Plant Ecology of Walden Pond’s Shore, Saturday, September 10, 2016, 1:00pm-3:00pm

August 15, 2016

Join world-renowned biologist Richard Primack for a walk from the Thoreau House Replica to Thoreau’s cove. Henry David Thoreau kept extensive records of plant flowering and leaf-out times. Dr. Primack uses Walden Pond as a living laboratory, comparing current conditions with Thoreau’s records and documenting that the climate around Walden Pond is changing. Dr. Primack will discuss the ecological consequences of these changes, as well as the plant successions taking place during the current low-water levels at Walden.


PleaRichard-Primack-and-Henry-David-Thoreau-224x300se make a reservation by phone (978)369-3254 (press option #3 to leave us a message) or email at walden.pond@state.ma.us with the number of attendants in your party. Thank you!

Happy Birthday Henry! Tuesday July 12, 2016 12pm-2pm

July 11, 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACome and celebrate Henry’s birthday! Local historian Richard Smith will portray Henry David Thoreau and receive guests at his house near the main parking lot at Walden Pond. As you wish him many happy returns of the day, he will regale you with accounts of his adventures and misadventures in Concord and beyond. This is an informative and entertaining program for visitors of all ages. This is a rolling program, so stop in any time for a visit. On hot summer days, holidays, and weekends, Walden Pond State Reservation often closes because of visitor capacity. Visitors are strongly encouraged to call the park headquarters (978-369-3254) and listen to the voice message before planning a trip or attending a program.

July 4th 1845, Independence Day program, Monday, July 4, 10:00am-12:00pm & 1:00-3:00pm

June 23, 2016

Let’s celebrate! Please come join park staff at the Thoreau house replica to learn about the celebrations of July 4th in the days of Henry David Thoreau. This program is fun for all ages. Children must be accompanied by and adult.unclesam

StoryWalk®, Saturdays in July, 10:00am-12:00pm

June 23, 2016

Step inside a story book with an interpretive guide as you stroll past book passages placed along the Pond Trail. Fun for the whole family! Children must be accompanied by an adult. The progstorywalkram starts in front of the Replica House. Sunscreen and insect repellent are recommended. Stop by any time in this 2-hr. window.

What’s in Walden Pond? Friday, July 22, 10:00am-12:00pm, at the Main Beach

June 23, 2016

Now is your chance to learn some of the local pond fauna by examining specimens just like Thoreau. Meet us down by the beach picnic table to practice your naturalist skills. This program is for all ages. Children should be supervised by and adult. Stop by any time in this 2-hour window.

What’s in the Forest? Fridays in July, 11:00-12:00pm, at the Main Beach

June 23, 2016

Now is your chance to learn some of the local flora by examining specimens just like Thoreau. Meet down by the Main Beach to practice your botany. This program is for all ages. Children should be supervised by an adult. Stop by an time in this 2-hr. window.


All Ages 19th Century Lawn Games, Thursdays in July (except the 28), 1:00-2:00, at the group area

June 23, 2016

Join interpretive staff for some fun lawn games straight out of the 1800’s! Well, okay, maybe we’ve modified them slightly for safety reasons. We will meet on the lawn directly up the stairs from the back of Bath House. These games are fun for all ages. Children must wear shoes and be accompanied by an adult. Recommended: sunscreen and insect repellent to use if needed.


Storytime at the main beach, Wednesdays in July, 12:30-1:30pm

June 23, 2016

Join a park interpreter at the Main Beach for the reading of fun and educational children’s books. Each session we will focus on stories touching on nature. This program is for young children. Children must be accompanied by an adult.


Kids’ Nature Creations, Tuesdays in July, 2:30-3:30pm at the Main Beach

June 23, 2016

Join a park interpreter at the main beach for fun art and craft program featuring natural themes. All materials provided. This program is for children ages 6-12. Children must be accompanied by and adult.


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