Featured image: Dow-Bull Brook Trail, from the Essex County Trail Association site
Harold Bowen wrote that two downtown fires in 1894 accomplished something that numerous Town Meetings had failed to agree upon. For several years the town had tried to provide a municipal water system, without success.
“The farmers up in Linebrook fought it. It was planned to use Bull Brook. But the farmers said if they did use the brook, they would not be able to let their cows out because the cows would drink all of the water in Bull Brook.”
In January 1894, the Central Street business district burned to the ground, and on April 17, the Damon Block at the other end of Market St. burned.
“Those two fires changed the tide. A special town meeting was held and it was voted to install the water system. And for years cows have been drinking from the brook. But the old brook still flows.”
This three-mile hike begins at Veterans recreational field on Mile Lane near Linebrook Road in Ipswich. From the parking lot enter the path on the far side of the baseball field. The trail soon crosses a bridge that separates the larger section of Bull Brook Reservoir from the brook and estuary at its southwestern tip. Bear left on the trail to continue through a hardwood/evergreen forest. As you cross under the utility wires you can explore a large granite outcropping in on the right.
At the next fork you have the option to bear left and continue for a longer option. This can also take you to the Dow Brook Conservation Area entrance near White Farms Ice Cream at the Rowley town line. After a couple of right turns you reach an intersection at the end of Dow Brook Reservoir where the shorter and longer options rejoin.
Continue walking on the wide path along Dow Brook Reservoir until you again reach the power lines at the Ipswich end of the lake. There are no signs here and finding the trail that continues back to Bull Brook can be confusing. Turn left to the utility department road and then enter the path again through the gated gravel road behind the water treatment building. You can see Dow Brook flowing on the left and you’ll soon come upon its spillway. A narrow path continues along the lake, or you may take the wider path on the right.
The trail comes back to a fork near the Bull Brook bridge you crossed over earlier, and then retrace your steps on the path back to the ball field. The total distance for the shorter version of this hike (shown in the map below) is about 3 miles. Add another mile for the longer loop. Birders may wish to continue the walk to the far corner of the recreational field where an unusual number of songbirds congregate near the wetlands.
Read more about trails and conservation areas at the two reservoirs at the Essex County Trails Association (ECTA) site.