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Otter River State Forest / Birch Hill Management Area
Pioneer Valley Region

Wildlife

Directions & description

Location: Near Winchendon

Length/Configuration: Over 100 miles of old dirt roads and trails.

Terrain/Surface: grassy single track, dirt roads, double-track

Technical Difficulty: Easy to Moderate.

Elevation Change: Mostly level riding some short hills.

Caution: Wear high visibility clothing as these are multi-use trails. We do not recommend you ride these trails during hunting season; this is a popular hunting area.

 

 

 

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Otter River Birch Hill Management Area Trail Map

Note: The free trail maps on this website have been simplified to provide an overview with approximate locations of trails and special features. Read Full Disclaimer.

Directions:

Otter River State Forest is located in north central Massachusetts.

From the east: Take Rte. 2 west to exit 20, then right onto Baldwinville Rd. to the end, right again onto Rte. 202 north. Follow 202 north 1.2 miles to the park entrance on the left.

From the west: Follow Rte. 2 east to exit 19. Turn right onto Rte. 202 north and travel 4.7 miles to the park entrance on the left.

 

General Description:

The Otter River State Forest Area is a rich recreational resource that encompasses several parks and federal lands. The beautiful 7,341 acre Birch Hill Management Area, located in north central Massachusetts near Winchendon, is home to the popular Otter River day-use recreation facility, centered on Beamon Pond near the main entrance). It includes a campground (yurts available) with restrooms and showers, picnic areas and a designated swimming beach. Over 50 miles of old gravel roads and dirt trails ideal for mountain biking travel among forest, streams and fields managed for wildlife habitat. Adjacent to the Birch Hill WMA, to the north is the larger Lake Dennison. The Lake Dennison Recreation Area, although surrounded by and a part of the Birch Hill Dam land tract which is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, is managed by the Massachusetts State Park System. It also offers a campground, picnic area and lifeguarded swimming beach. Other popular outdoor activities include hiking and fishing. In the Spring, water is released for whitewater kayaking and canoeing.

In such a large area, a multitude of habitats are represented. Mixed hardwood and conifer forest interspersed with open fields, brush lands and shallow-water grass hummock marshes support a variety of wildlife. Besides deer, pheasant, duck, woodcock, turkey, rabbit and grouse, beaver, fox and mink, on any given day you could see a Moose standing in a marsh or a family of river otters playing in the water. Look to the sky and you may see a majestic Osprey riding the thermals, a hunting Red Tailed Hawk, a Great Horned Owl at rest in a tree or a spindly Great Blue Heron standing in his rook.

 

The Trails:

All of the suggested mountain bike rides below travel in and around the Lake Dennison Area on either gravel roads or dirt trails. They provide the perfect opportunity for exploring the forest by mountain bike. You will encounter yellow gates which are closed to prevent motor vehicle traffic. Because this is a popular Wildlife Management Area, be aware of hunting seasons and take appropriate precautions. In general we tend to avoid riding in these areas during those times.

The terrain is mostly flat with some short hill climbs. As you explore the reservoir by bicycle, you can see evidence that this area was once open pasture land. Look for the fieldstone walls that crisscross the area and clusters of overgrown apple trees which mark where orchards and small nineteenth century farms once flourished. Today the former pastures and orchards are filled with pine, oak, maple, hemlock, beech, and ash trees planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Bring a trash bag with you as this is a carry in\carry out area. Stay on the marked roads and trails.

 

River Road Loop: 5.2 miles (see map above). You can shorten the loop by taking one of the connector trails.

Wetmore Trail: 3-mile loop that connects to New Boston Road eventually linking you back up with Goodnow Road.

Royalston Road Loop: 1.4 mile loop that crosses Priest Brook Twice.

 

For more information:

Otter River State Forest:
86 Winchendon Rd.
Baldwinville, MA 01436

Phone: (978) 939-8962
Website: Otter River State Forest

 

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