French River, Webster and Dudley, MA


Views of the French River from the trail

In this time of “all things virus-related” worries, we decided to explore a small trail in Webster last weekend along the French  River, the French River Greenway, site of the former Perryville Cotton Mill.


Last remaining building from the Perryville Cotton MIll complex (and Raianne!)

We have found that lots of folks are headed outdoors, since their other forms of distraction (shopping and going out to eat) have been curbed. The challenge is that lots of the “most likely outdoor spots” are jammed with folks who all have the same intention. And when we are trying to minimize social contact, weaving through a crowded parking area onto trails with lots of dogs, children and oblivious adults is not a great idea right now!

It is best to seek out lesser known places that have wide trails. Depending on where you are, I am happy to offer some suggestions. Better yet, email me some suggestions for where you live that have wide, clear trails and I will share them with our readers. Thank you in advance!


The French River, just of Perryville Road

Upon arrival at the French River, we found a rushing waterfall pouring over a granite step dam. Our friends Mark and Raianne, founders of the Massachusetts Walking Tour,  met us at the trail, which is within walking distance of their house. We offered no hugs, and kept our distance, but were able to enjoy their company on the wide trail as they shared information about one of their favorite spots to get outdoors.


Keeping our distance on the trail, and still enjoying getting out together.

The trail turned out to be less easy than I might have hoped, mostly because of the multiple tree roots on the path.


Roots on the trail–trip hazard, so pay attention when you’re visiting these sorts of trails! (photo, Mark Mandeville)

Several fallen trees added to the adventure, but we managed to get me over all but the largest tree, near the end of the trail.

I asked Raianne if they ever saw otters in the river, and she said no, but that they often spotted beavers. We saw plenty of signs that beavers had been in the area, lots of chewed tree stumps and such, although nothing very fresh.


Not great photo, but there you have three otters cavorting in the French River. Fun!

To everyone’s surprise, we spotted something big moving about in the river, and soon got a glimpse of its face–yes, it was an otter! We looked for better places to get a view of the river, and as if on cue, three otters poked their heads up, swam around together, then disapeared. Too quick for any good photos, the sight of these amazing animals brought lots of smiles as we watched the otters cavorting in the river.


First skunk cabbage poking through, signs of spring

Skunk cabbage is sprouting through the undergrowth, a sure sign of spring. Wood frogs were hanging out in the vernal pool adjacent to the trail. We heard their charactistic “quacking” croaks, but they felt us coming and dropped quietly into the muck of the pool. Raianne noted that the frogs had been less cautious the day before when she and Mark had walked on this same trail. Presumably the frogs had been distracted in finding mates. But by the time of our visit, all coupling appeared to be done, and they were back to simply hanging out being frogs.


New trailhead for this short section of trail, not yet completed, but still passable

The French River creates a boundary between the towns of Webster and Dudley. After we finished our walk with Mark and Raianne, we crossed the bridge by the trail head and followed the river north till we found the trailhead for the Quinebaug River rail trail. A short section of trail can be accessed on Rt. 12. The trail surface is still unfinished, but walkable.


Looking back toward trailhead and Rt. 12, from newly constructed bridge over the French River.

We headed toward the river, and found what looked like a newly completed bridge over the river, which offered nice views of the French River, both up and downstream.


Nice views upriver from the bridge over the French River

The trail continued back into Webster, which we did not have time to explore on this trip.

Wishing the best to all, and hope these posts offer some resources for places you can be outside and be safe. Take care, friends. Happy trails.


Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.

beech cliffs 2018


Filed under Blog posts--Easy Walks

2 responses to “French River, Webster and Dudley, MA

  1. Thanks Marjorie, I love your virtual hike descriptions, it is just like being there, since it is too far for me to drive to MA from VA. We are also going out for walks or hikes just about every day, while keeping social distance from others on the trails. Thanks for keeping us in the loop. – Bruce

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