The Albert G. Decie II Little River Nature Trail
Distance: 5,280 feet (1.0 miles) (1.6 km)
Environmental Conditions along the Trail: The trail starts in an upland forest and then descends into meadows and forests that cling to the Little River that wind under the old Route 95 roadbed at several points. Toward the south end, an extensive pond built by beavers extends almost to Hale Street and bordered on the west by the current Route 95.
Trail Conditions: A very steep bank starts the trail as the hiker must climb to the high forest upland, but after that the trail goes up and down gentle rolling hills and then descends to meadows. After an extensive length, it climbs again to a highland encountering the abandoned Crow Lane and then descends into forests that are found along an extensive beaver pond. The trail ends opposite of an observation deck that overlooks an old beaver dam and extensive wetlands.
The fact that so many in the city know nothing about this fascinating trail is, I think, so remarkable. The lucky birder and occasional hiker who take the time to cross its length will be surely rewarded. The assumption, of course, is that because Route 95 is so close, wild life shies away from its length. There is nothing more wrong in this idea. Though the noise of trucks whining their diesels and the swish of cars is never far away, animals have thrived in this environment. The best way to visit the trail is also the easiest. There is room for four to five cars on the Hale Street entrance with enough of a turnoff that relative safety is assured. There are future plans to place an observation deck and real parking across the street at the Wet Meadows Conservation Area but right now, the cars are easily visible and safe on this busy stretch.
When taking the trail, the first thing spotted is the water backed up in a wide marsh. Accommodated by a beaver that has been playing cat and mouse with the DPS, this water backs up almost all the way to the old Route 95 roadbed. The straight path itself goes until it curves onto the beginning of the abandoned road and for a short time, one has to share the way with bikers until arriving at the observation deck.
This overlook gives an excellent close up look at a beaver’s dam and if you are lucky you may spot a muskrat or hear the “slap, slap” of the beaver’s tail. A Great Blue Heron or an egret can sometimes be seen fishing away in the water.
Now don’t make the common mistake and think the old Route 95 roadbed is the nature trail. Doing so and you’ll miss some of the magic that the curving path will provide on this trail. That’s because directly across from the observation deck is the beginning of the path into the woods near an expanse of water. Normally, the beaver is not at this spot. Further up by a cluster of sumac is the massive beaver lodge. If you walk off the trail to the edge, you will see it made of black mud to the left. Don’t be afraid you’ll disturb him; he’s safely in his home or swimming in his wide pond.
Taking the path, you will be passing through fields and woods and walking near marshes that give birth to one of the Little River’s tributaries. Eventually, you’ll come very close to the Little River as it runs under the roadbed and out into the woods. It’s a beautiful place with aquatic plants along its banks. Further along, you will take a sharp turn into the woods again and up onto the westerly leg of the abandoned Crow Lane. This wagon path is reported to be haunted so don’t feel alarmed if you get the feeling of being watched. Hurriedly passing on, the trail rejoins the fields below and continues in a meandering way past many birds and wildlife. You may even spot a pair of foxes who regularly run through this area. You again pass into the forest and the path runs onto higher ground until you can spot the old quarries that were dug out for the Interstate. Once past a pine forest, you will abruptly drop down and rejoin the path that runs up to Storey Avenue.
Remarkable as it may seem, this nature trail is teeming with life. There are beavers, deer, fishers, fox, muskrat and wild turkeys not to mention a parade of birds that call the LRNT home. It is a remarkable path so close to civilization and yet so isolated.
Try it sometime but if you do, bring binoculars!