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Nestled just minutes from Massachusetts' southeastern coastline, Great Herring Pond is a cozy body of water with a surface area of 376 acres. Most of the lake is located in the Town of Plymouth (Plymouth County), with the southern tip extending into Bourne (Barnstable County). It was previously known as Lake Manomet, but was renamed for its impressive herring run. The average depth of Great Herring Pond is 20 feet with a maximum depth of 42 feet. Its 5.3-mile shoreline sits at an elevation of just 33 feet above sea level.
Great Herring Pond is just a short drive from the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges, which extend over the Cape Cod Canal and connect Plymouth County with Cape Cod. Fed by Little Herring Pond, Great Herring Pond has an outlet into the Herring River, formerly the Monument River. This river previously ran into Buzzard's Bay, but now flows into the Cape Cod Canal. The Cape Cod Canal, built between 1909 and 1914, connected Buzzards Bay to the south with Cape Cod Bay to the north, saving boats 135 miles of sea travel around the Cape Cod peninsula. However, the Canal cut off herring spawning grounds, so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a herring run in 1936 to restore herring populations. Each spring the herring make their migration up the Herring River into Great Herring Pond and then return to the ocean after spawning.
Facilities at Great Herring Pond include picnic areas and a shallow public access point that is perfect for canoeing, kayaking and maneuvering with other small craft. The boat launch can also accommodate larger boats with shallow drafts. Maximum speed on Great Herring Pond is 45 miles per hour. Other ponds in the vicinity include Little Herring Pond to the north (90 acres) with Island Pond (77 acres) and Elbow Pond (16 acres) to the west. Real estate properties and vacation rentals are available on Great Herring Pond, some including historic houses with private docks and spectacular views.
Both summer and winter offer up water sports at Great Herring Pond. Tubing, water skiing, wind surfing and wakeboarding are prime during the summer months. Swimming, snorkeling, golfing and camping are also popular. Bird watching at the lake is exceptional, and patient onlookers can expect to spot golden eye ducks, pied-billed grebes, bald eagles and American coot. During the cold winter months the pond freezes over, and ice skating, ice sailing, ice fishing and free skating (also known as ice boarding) become possible.
Fishing is phenomenal at Great Herring Pond, thanks to the herring run built by the Army Corps of Engineers. The pond also features two artificial tire reefs constructed in 1975 to attract fish. Common catches include smallmouth bass, pike, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, tessellated darter, yellow perch and small numbers of walleye. During the spring, summer and fall alewife and blueback herring are plentiful. Anglers must check with the Freshwater Fish Consumption Advisory List to see which species are best for eating. Two sunken islands near the middle of the pond are the premier places to try your luck, in addition to various points along the eastern coast.
Several fantastic places for hiking surround Great Herring Pond, including Sacrifice Rock Woods - where geocaching is popular - and the Cape Cod Canal, a waterway boasting trails that are also great for mountain biking. Just north of Buzzards Bay you'll enjoy the short Bournedale Interpretive Trail as well as the longer Sagamore Hill Trail. On Buttermilk Bay, the Theodore Lyman Reserve offers a trail along scenic Red Brook. The Ellisville Harbor State Park Trail is three miles long and passes by a closed-down Christmas tree farm and various wooded areas and salty marshland. Lastly, the Boiling Springs Pond Circuit (also known as Smiling Pool) is located in the Sandwich area - the region that served as inspiration for Thornton W. Burgess, children's book author of Peter Rabbit. The Carter Beal Conservation Area is situated just south of Great Herring Pond, and includes 31 acres of protected lands. Various interpretive trails are perfect for an afternoon stroll. It also has a nature observation area and handicap-accessible facilities.
Scusset Beach State Reservation is a great day trip from Great Herring Pond, just a short car ride to the coast. The park offers year round camping facilities, a fishing pier, and a hiking/bicycling path on the eastern end of the Cape Cod Canal. Additionally, just east of Great Herring Pond lies Sagamore Beach, a residential area located just south of where the Mayflower landed in 1620.
Also close to Great Herring Pond is the Myles Standish State Forest, the greatest public recreation area in southeastern Massachusetts. Camping, horse camping, picnicking, swimming, fishing and canoeing are its main activities. Equine lovers can't get enough of the 35 miles of horseback riding trails, and cyclists love biking the 15 miles of bike terrain. For hikers, there are also 13 miles of trekking trails.
With so many incredible activities to do and see, it is impossible not to fall in love with Great Herring Pond. Its wide range of recreational activities makes this body of water a hot destination for singles, couples and families looking for a well-balanced home or vacation destination.
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