The town of Newbury, just south and east of Newburyport, has a bird-watchers’ mecca, Plum Island. Just north of Newburyport is Salisbury; Salisbury Beach is a good spot for bird-watching, especially during the winter.
Old houses are everywhere in this area, including along Route 113 in the town of West Newbury. If you want to take a driving tour, consider the Essex Scenic Coastal Byway, a 90-mile route from Salisbury in the north to Lynn in the south.
Maudslay State Park in Newburyport was once an elegant estate, and now has miles of broad trails. Many of the trails overlook the Merrimack River. After rain or snow-melt, the trails can be muddy. If you want a smooth walk without mud, you can follow Curzon Mill Road west to the Artichoke River.
On the map below, I’ve marked the area that has Indian mounds; such mounds are rare in New England, and may have been used to mark a sacred area, or to mark a home territory. The mounds are plainly visible and easy to find, if you use the guide at stonestructures.org. The total length of the Maudslay mounds is about a half-mile. StoneStructures says there’s a “confirmed Native American mound” at Morrill Point, one mile from Maudslay, but I haven’t been able to find Morrill Point on a map.
The mounds are located in the pine grove number 14 on the state park map. To get to the pine forest from the parking lot, use the gate/entrance across from the pay station. Cross the road to the large open field through a narrow opening in the stone wall. The narrow foot path immediately splits, take the path leading off to the right, the other path goes straight and leads to the Pasture Trail.
The path takes you out to the pine grove (forest). The narrow foot path turns into a dirt road. Shortly after you enter the forest, a path comes in from the left, keep straight, walk on until you come to a second road entering from the left. Walking time from parking lot to second road on left is approximately 10 minutes. Take a left onto the dirt road.
An earthen mound parallels the dirt road. Look to your left, at first the mound is hard to see, but as you walk further down the road the mound and ditch is better developed and easier to see. Towards the end of the road the mound angles off away from the road. To see the end of the mound, take a left onto Overlook Road. It is a short walk on the Overlook Road.
The pine forest was planted it is not a natural forest. Note a few pine trees were planted on top of the mound. I wonder if the men planting the trees were aware of the earthen mound. Most of the trees are not planted on top of the mound but beside the mound. This is the only mound alongside a trail/road.
To see more of the mounds and an interesting kettle hole, turn around after you find the end of the mound and head back to number 13 [i.e., walk north on Overlook Road]. A trail circles around the kettle hole.
Across from the kettle hole [i.e., east of the kettle hole] is a road leading off the main road. Walking a short distance you will come upon the ends of three mounds [I saw only two]. The road cuts through an intersection in the mounds. The three separate segments of mound once converged here. At this point the mounds go into the woods.
Walk the road [i.e., continue east] out to the next road called the Fire Road at the T junction. Take a left on the Fire Road, shortly you will come to two mound ends where the fire road cuts through a long segment of mound. Walk the Fire Road out to the Main Road (a dirt road).
Take a right on the Main Road and go up the hill. At the top look for the end of a mound on your right. This is the terminus of the mound segment. To get back to your car and parking lot continue in the same direction on the Main Road. This will bring you out to the dirt road that parallels Pine Hill Road. Take a right at the end and follow the dirt road back to the narrow foot path across the field.
In some areas, mounds and berms and ditches may have been built to control water, but at Maudslay, these earthworks seem to have a ritual purpose, not a practical purpose. At Maudslay, the earthworks seem to have the same purpose as a stone row — to mark a space.
For more on the Newburyport area, click here.