Peter Oliver’s Mill Park, Middleboro

The fish ladder at Oliver’s Mills Park, Middleboro

On our way elsewhere, we passed by an intriguing spot just off Route 44, 8 Nemasket Street, in Middleboro, and discovered a very cool historic site along the Nemasket River. As soon as we pulled into the good-sized parking area I knew I had heard of this before–Peter Oliver’s Mill Park has a fish ladder that is essential for migrating herring in the spring. My friend Brenda (Natures Fairy on Youtube) has shared videos of the migrating herring, but I had no idea it had all the historic features we found.

One of the dams set up across the river, which was used for many purposes over the years to provide power (and jobs) for area residents

Thie site had an amazing number of industries that used the power of the river, including a iron foundry, grist mill, saw mill, Blacksmith shop and cider mill, among other enterprises. A short history of the area and its industries can be found here. Additional information about the area can be found here.

A massive stone bridge carries road traffic from one side of the river to the other just above the fish ladder

While we were here in late summer, the fish ladder remains, and will play its part in the coming spring when the herring once again return upstream to spawn above the ladder and dam in this small park area.

Multiple foot bridges allow visitors to explore the stonework from years past.

Small bridges have been built across the multiple channels of the river that were created at various times for the multitude of industries that used the river. We were stunned at the stonework throughout the park, bridge abutments, dam structures, and huge relatively flat stones placed as natural bridges over the river.

The extent of the stonework in this historic park is pretty stunning. Thinking about the effort it took to move some of these huge stones is humbling.

I used my hiking poles, and found a few spots where I chose not to go, but for the most part the park provided Easy Walking for visitors. Do watch out for poison ivy along the paths, especially the steps that take you closer to the water’s edge.

The wide fish ladder was carrying a good amount of water even in late summer, after the rain from the night before

We visited a day after a pretty big rain storm and the river was running well, offering the sweet sound of flowing water all along the herring run. We saw no herring, (they have all gone by now!) but promised ourselves we will return in the spring to see this migration of fish that has helped make this an important part of the environment for centuries. 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.

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