DotW: Walden Pond State Reservation (MA)
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Walden Pond State Reservation
Thoreau's statue at Walden Pond
915 Walden St., Concord
Henry David Thoreau lived at Walden Pond from July 1845 to September 1847. His experience at Walden provided the material for the book Walden, which is credited with helping to inspire awareness and respect for the natural environment. Because of Thoreau's legacy, Walden Pond has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is considered the birthplace of the conservation movement. Park Interpreters provide tours and ongoing educational programs. The Reservation encompasses 400 acres which includes the 102-foot deep glacial kettle-hole pond. Mostly undeveloped woods totaling 2680 acres, called "Walden Woods" surround the reservation.
The area is popular for fishing, swimming, and walking. To protect the natural resources of the area and ensure that Walden Pond remains a pleasant place for people in the future, the number of visitors is limited to no more than 1,000 people at a time. Dogs, bicycles, floatation devices and grills are prohibited. To avoid disappointment, visitors are encouraged to call the park in advance and check on parking availability. A replica of Thoreau’s house and the location of his modest home are available for viewing by the public. Year round interpretive programs and guided walks are offered as well as The Shop at Walden and the Tsongas gallery. Specialized Equipment includes portable FM listening systems for park programs and a beach wheel chair for access to the beach and water.
Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau was born in Concord, Mass, on July 12, 1817. He developed an early interest in nature and spent much of his youth exploring the town’s ponds and woods. He began his formal education at Concord Academy and continued his studies at Harvard College. During this time, Ralph Waldo Emerson moved to Concord to begin his career as a writer and lecturer. Thoreau admired Emerson’s 1836 essay, “Nature,” which advanced the idea that people should seek a spiritually fulfilling relationship with the natural world.
Thoreau returned to Concord after graduating from Harvard; he taught school, improved and expanded his family’s pencil-making business and engaged in carpentry, stonemasonry and gardening. He began his lifelong friendship and association with Emerson, who introduced him to other writers and nonconformist thinkers then living in Concord, such as Bronson Alcott, Ellery Channing, Margaret Fuller and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Emerson invited Thoreau to live in the Emerson household; the Emersons’ first son died just two weeks after the death of Thoreau’s beloved brother, John. Three years later, Thoreau, still suffering from his loss, wanted to live in the woods and embark on a career as a writer. When Emerson offered him the use of a newly purchased woodlot at Walden Pond, Thoreau gladly accepted.
Walden Pond was surrounded by one of the few remaining woodlands in a heavily farmed area. In March of 1845, Thoreau began planning and building his one room house. On July 4 of that year, he took up residence. He studied natural history, gardened, wrote in his journal, read and drafted his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, a story of a trip taken with his brother in 1839. He also made the first accurate survey of the pond. By no means a hermit, he frequently walked to the village, entertained visitors at his house and hired himself out as a surveyor. In September of 1847, Thoreau completed his experiment in simplicity and became a sojourner in civilized life again. Thoreau gave the house to Emerson, who sold it to his gardener. Two years later two farmers bought it and moved it to the other side of Concord where they used it to store grain. In 1868, they dismantled it for scrap lumber and put the roof on an outbuilding.
After his Walden experience, Thoreau applied his skills as a surveyor and pencil-maker to earn what little money he needed for the things that he could not grow or make do without. He spent his free time walking, studying, writing and lecturing at the Concord Lyceum and elsewhere in New England. Thoreau became increasingly involved with the social and political issues of this time. He often spoke out against economic injustice and slavery. With other members of his family, Thoreau helped runaway slaves escape to freedom in Canada. His 1849 essay, “Civil Disobedience,” eventually brought him international recognition. On May 6, 1862 at the age of 44, the self-appointed inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms and author renowned for motivating the world to value our natural environment, died after a prolonged struggle with tuberculosis. He is buried on Authors’ Ridge at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord.
Click here to view trail map
Walden Pond State Reservation is located near Lincoln and Concord in the Greater Boston Area.
From Rte. 95/128: (North & South West of Boston area) Take exit 29B onto RT. 2 West, at 3rd set of lights take a left Onto RT. 126 South. Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.
From Rte. 93: (North & South of Boston area) get on RT 95/128 South, take exit 29B onto Rte. 2 West at 3rd set of lights take left onto RT 126 South. Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.
From Mass Pike RT. 90: (Boston area & out of state) Get on Rte. 95/128 North, take exit 29B onto RT 2 West at 3rd set of lights take left onto RT 126 South. Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.
From Rte. 495: (North & South West of Boston area) Take exit 29A Onto RT 2 East, at 6th set of lights take a right onto RT 126 South. Parking is ¼ of mile down on left.
From RT. 3: (North of Boston area & NH) Get onto RT. 62 West, Follow through Bedford center and into Concord, at stop sign there Is a Senkler Real Estate office directly in front of you, take a left, Follow road to the left around traffic circle, take next right onto Main St., take 1st left onto Walden St. Follow Walden Street until you get to the intersection of Route 2. At this traffic light go straight onto RT.126 South, (cross over RT.2) parking is 200 yards down on left.
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