Covering an area of 28 km², the Blue Hills Preserve is a state park located in Norfolk County, in the US state of Massachusetts. The state park is located approximately 10 miles south of the state capital of Boston and covers parts of the towns of Braintree, Canton, Dedham, Milton, Randolph and the town of Quincy. The Blue Hills Preserve is considered one of the largest parcels of underdeveloped conservation land located in the Greater Boston area. The Blue Hills Preserve is under the management of the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation and is one of Massachusetts’ most visited outdoor destinations.
About the Blue Hills reservation
Located in the Blue Hills Preserve is the Great Blue Hill, which rises to 194m and is considered the highest point in the Greater Boston area as well as Norfolk County. Great Blue Hill is also considered the tallest of 22 hills in the Blue Hills Range, and the high peak of Blue Hill offers hikers spectacular views of the entire Boston metropolitan area. Located atop Great Blue Hill is the historic Blue Hill Weather Observatory, established in 1885 and considered one of the oldest continuously recording weather stations in the United States. In addition to this, there are several historic Colonial and Native American structures that are located in the hills and most of them have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Located in the town of Milton, the Blue Hills Trailside Museum serves as an interpretive center and houses a natural history museum and outdoor exhibits on native wildlife. The museum is managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Massachusetts. The Blue Hills Preserve contains 201 km of trails and offers its visitors a variety of recreational activities such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, etc. During the winter months, mainly mid-December to mid-March, cross-country skiing and downhill skiing is permitted in the Blue Hills ski area. Houghton Pond and the nearby Ponkapoag Pond are well known for swimming, boating, fishing, picnicking, and more.
According to the Köppen climate classification, the Blue Hills reserve experiences a humid continental climate with short, hot summers and short, but very snowy and cloudy winters. The Blue Hills reserve receives heavy rainfall throughout the year.
Ecology of the Blue Hills reserve
The Blue Hills Preserve features varied terrain that cuts through diverse habitats including Atlantic white cedar bogs, upland and lowland forests, marshes, prairies, swamps and pond edges, etc. These diverse habitats are home to many endangered flora and fauna in Massachusetts. Some of the plants and animals found in the Blue Hills Preserve include dogwood, lady-slipper, woodland rattlesnake, coyotes, copper-headed snake, white-tailed deer, turkey vultures, the red fox, etc.
It is believed that the bluish hue of the mountains was first noticed by European colonizers who sailed along the coast. This bluish hue of the mountains is mainly due to the presence of the mineral riebeckite and that is why the hills and the surrounding area have been named “Blue Hills”. The Blue Hills were home to the Massachusett Native American tribe, who named the hill “Massa-adchu-es-et.” The area includes many historic structures that represent the history of the Native American quarry workers, farmers, inventors and explorers who resided and worked in the Great Blue Hill area. The land area of the Blue Hills Preserve was purchased by the Metropolitan Parks Commission in 1893 as one of the main areas in Massachusetts for public recreation. In 1992, the practice of day one treks to celebrate the New Year began with an outdoor activity in the Blue Hills Preserve. In 2012, the program began to be organized across the country under the patronage of the America’s State Parks Alliance.