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.

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

Thoreau’s Stay at Walden-at the Replica, Sundays, October 2, 9, 23, & 30, and Mondays, October 10 & 31, 10:00am-12:00pm; Saturdays, October 1, 8, & 15; and Sunday, October 16, 2016, 1:00-3:00pm

September 23, 2016

Join a park interpreter at the Thoreau house replica for fun and informative learning about Henry David Thoreau’s life and his stay at Walden Pond. Please remember that on warm days and holidays, Walden Pond 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. Don’t forget your sunscreen and/or insect repellent. Suitable for all ages. House Sketch

StoryWalk™, Saturdays, October 1, 8, 15, &29, 2016, 10:00am-12:00pm, starting at the Replica House

September 23, 2016

Step inside a storybook as you stroll past book passages placed on the Pond Trail. Fun for the whole family. Children must be accompanied by an adult. The program starts at the Thoreau house replica. Sunscreen is recommended. Stop by any time in this 2-hr. window.its-fall

Fun Times: Lake Walden Amusement Park, Sundays, Sept. 4, 11, 18, & 25, 11am-12pm, 2016

September 3, 2016

Meet a park interpreter at Ice Fort Cove at the back of Walden Pond where the voices of merrymaking from the Walden Pond Amusement Park once echoed by the shore! Learn about the boat rentals, dancing, and picnicking by large numbers of “day trippers” who came visiting by train from the city starting in 1868. Stop by an tipeopleme in this one-hour window.

StoryWalk™, Saturdays, Sept. 3, 10, 17, & 24, 10-12pm, 2016

September 3, 2016

Step inside Linda Glaser’s “It’s Fall!” story book as you stroll past book passages placed on the Pond Path. Fun for the whole family. Children must be accompanied by an adult. StoryWalk™ starts in front the Thoreau replica house. Falling-Leaves_lg

Looking forward to our New Walden Visitor Center, Mondays (September 5, 12, 19, & 26); Thursday (September 8, 15, & 22), 10am-12pm at the House Replica, 2016

September 3, 2016

Stop by to learn about the new, green visitor center being built at Walden Pond. Hear from a park interpreter about the future exibits featuring the legacy of Henry David Thoreau and get a look at the plans for this energy efficient building.visitorcenter

Reading Walden’s Landscape, Tuesdays, Sept. 6, 13, & 20, 2016

September 3, 2016

Join us for an interpretive walk on the Pond Path. Thoreau was a keen observer and meticulous documenter of nature. We will identify wildflowers, ferns, shrubs, and trees, and interpret the forested landscape as Thoreau would have done. We will discuss forest succession and will also share some descriptive passages from Thoreau’s book, Walden. Meet in front of the Thoreau house replica near the Main Parking Lot. Please wear proper walking shoes and bring your water and sunscreen. Children must be accompanied by an adult.