Massasoit State Park is a state-owned, public recreation area located in the towns of Hadley and South Hadley in the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts. The park’s 1,100 acres (450ha) include forested hillsides, glacial plains, narrow valleys, wetlands, waterfalls, and steep ravines with views of Mount Holyoke to the west. It is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation which protects forests of the northeastern coastal forests ecoregion.
There are now over 300 camping sites and space for up to 500 tents at the park. The park has 12 miles (19km) of trails open year round for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling, plus access to additional trail networks in nearby Mount Holyoke Resort. The park also features swimming areas, picnicking facilities, playgrounds, ball fields, and playing courts. Game bird hunting is permitted in season in an adjoining conservation area known as the Taconic State Forest. The park hosts numerous events, including the annual Mt. Holyoke Range Road Runners Club race series. On Labor Day weekend, thousands of runners take part in the 10K run/walk and 15K full run. The course records for both distances were set in 2005.
The park is used extensively by skiers seeking intermediate terrain between beginner slopes at nearby Mount Holyoke and advanced runs at neighboring Buttermilk Falls. The park is accessible via the Mystic Trail System and Silvermine Road Trail. Parking lots are situated near the intersection of Routes 57 and 58, just south of the junction with Mountain Street. Additional parking can be found along Rt 58, east of Mountain Street. Access to the north side of the park requires climbing over barbed wire fences. The park offers tent camping, cabin, hotel and motel accommodations, and hostels for groups such as the Scouts and church youth groups. To register for any of these programs, you must have your driver’s license on file with the DCR. Group camping is not allowed in the main campgrounds. Instead, use of the group camp site is reserved for organized groups like the YMCA, which may reserve it for a single night or divide it among several nights depending upon group size. No pets are allowed in the park overnight. They must either be kept inside the vehicle or secured outside the park in kennels.
During daytime hours, dogs are welcome in certain parts of the park provided they are kept on leash. Hunting is permitted in designated areas of the park.The rules and regulations of the Massachusetts Division of Parks and Recreation prohibit hunters from using shotguns within the park. Only rifles or muzzleloaders may be used. The grounds of Massasoit State Park are covered in a mix of pine trees and oak trees. Some stands contain predominantly oaks, while others feature mostly white pines. This patchy distribution results from random genetic mutation as well as environmental factors such as windthrow after a fire, insect attack, or natural selection against pine trees. One result of this mixture of tree species is that almost every tree is surrounded by neighbors of a different species. For example, an eastern hemlock will often surround a red pine, with a black pine growing close by. These trees grow alongside each other without conflict, sharing nutrients and moisture in the process.
The same phenomenon occurs with white pine and hardwood maple, except that hardwoods generally outnumber softwoods in this particular region. The presence of hardwoods around softwoods is actually beneficial to the health of the latter because it helps prevent erosion; rainwater running off the hardwoods tends to accumulate in the low spots, forming small ponds that provide habitat for plants and wildlife. The accumulated rainfall from all the hardwoods in the vicinity forms the massive Mount Holyoke, visible from nearly everywhere in the park. Because of this heavy precipitation, the uppermost layer of soil atop the bedrock consists primarily of siltstone rather than loam, a type of soil that is richer in nutrients and supports denser vegetation.
Loam soils occur deeper down, where they are protected from the surface waters that flow in from the mountainside until they evaporate or are absorbed by the plant life. As a result, shrubs and trees cannot survive in some areas of the park above the depth of the siltstone, which is about 150 feet (46m) in many places. However, a number of rare plants do exist in isolated patches in the northern reaches of the park. Plants that require special attention are those that are endangered, threatened, uncommon, or unusual in Massachusetts. Examples include the purple loosestrife, which was introduced into the Commonwealth and has spread widely; the rattlesnake root, which grows underground and is very difficult to detect; and the cranberry, which thrives in acidic peat bogs.
The Friends of Massasoit State Park organization led efforts to preserve approximately 375 acres (150ha) of the park as open space for future generations to enjoy. An agreement was reached with the owner of record, the Stearns Corporation, who granted deed restrictions to the town of Hadley for the lands to be preserved as open space if the town could raise enough money to pay half the cost of acquisition. Playgrounds, soccer fields, and volleyball courts are available. The park includes a beach on the Connecticut River, which is accessible via a boat launch. Fishing and canoeing rentals are offered during May through Columbus Day, times/days of the week vary, however swimming is never permitted. The park has nine miles (14km) of equestrian trails, seven miles (11km) of mountain bike trails, four miles (6.4km) of multi-use trails, and ten miles (16km) of road bicycle routes. Additionally, there is a 7.5 mile (12.1km) loop for hikers and bicyclists. Dogs are prohibited on the trails and roads. The park has 100 campsites, 60 of which have electrical hookups, and 30 primitive walk-in tent sites.
The park was among 13 parks created when the DCR was founded in 1949. In 1958, the adjacent landowner, the Stearns Corporation, sold 350 acres (140ha) including the mineral rights for $400,000 to create what would become one of America’s most popular summer resorts, Mount Holyoke Resort. After being closed during World War II, it reopened in 1952 under the name “Cedar Glen Camp”. A second campground opened in 1957. In 1959, Cedar Glen changed its name to “Mount Holyoke”, but reverted to “Massasoit” two years later. By this time, the resort had grown to more than 2,000 acres (810ha). The state took possession through eminent domain from the city of Hadley on June 3, 1964, creating Massasoit State Park. At that time, there were about 200 campsites divided into tent or trailer sites as well as cabins, hotels and other facilities.
The park offers opportunities for:
- mountain biking
- horseback riding
- cross country skiing
common game animals hunted here are:
- White-tailed deer
- ruffed grouse