Maudslay State Park is a state-owned, public recreation area in the towns of Hadley and South Hadley in the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts. The park’s 736 acres (298ha) include forested hillsides, glacial lakes, waterfalls, and narrow gorges with views of Mount Holyoke to the west. It is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation which protects forests throughout the state under an overall plan that aims to conserve half of all conservation land as open space including parks, preserves, and public lands.
Hiking trails lead past falls, gorges, lakes, and marshland featuring wildlife and plant life that are typical of the region. Mountain bike trails are located adjacent to the main road loop. Horse and snowmobile trails can be found on either side of the river near the campground. Canoeing and kayaking access is available at nearby Bradley Lake. There are 12 miles (19km) of equestrian trails, 10 miles (16km) of mountain bike trails, 11 miles (18km) of hiking trails, 14 miles (23km) of ski trails, and 8 miles (13km) of snow mobile trail.
The park has 62 campsites divided into tent or trailer sites, 6 camper cabins, and 2 yurts. Swimming beach and bath house are open year round. The campground opens mid-April and closes Columbus Day weekend. Reservations are accepted but not required. Campers may choose between a regular site, a partial hookup site, and a youth camping site. Tent and Rv sites do not require a reservation. Picnic tables and charcoal grills are common amenities. Modern restrooms facilities with hot showers are provided during late spring and summer. The picnic area features a playground, horseshoe courts, volleyball court, and basketball courts. The park store sells firewood, ice, t-shirts, hats, bird keys, and other items. The park office rents out bicycles, provides information about the park, and accepts reservations for the campground and cabin.
The park hosts many events, including hayrides, corn maze, pumpkin patch, and apple festival. These events typically take place in fall and winter, though there are some exceptions. On occasion, the park host competitions for large groups, such as the annual Fall Foliage Festival. Each June, the park holds a maple sugaring off party where visitors can learn how syrup is made from sugar maples. During the rest of the year, there is often plenty of sweet stuff around, so visitors can sample fresh, raw, unprocessed maple syrup at numerous locations within the park. There is a small pond near the campground that contains mostly bass, crappie, catfish, perch, and trout. Occasionally albino deer visit the park as well. Though rarely seen, moose have been spotted in the northern reaches of the park as well. White tail deer are fairly populous throughout most of the park, black bear being the exception. Coyotes and red foxes make rare appearances.
The park has over 13 miles (21km) of paved roads and trails. Most of these are multiuse, i.e., they can be used for walking, cycling, horseback riding, etc. Horses are only allowed in certain parts of the park, and must be kept below treeline. Snowmobiles are permitted anywhere in the park except along frozen streams and on unpaved sections. The park allows hunting for deer, wild turkey, and small game animals. Hunters are expected to follow the rules and regulations of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. The park has three designated areas where bowhunting is allowed. One of these areas includes the entire park. Crossbows are prohibited. The park has 60 miles (97km) of fire roads and trails. Some of these roads and trails are open to logging trucks and equipment, especially those going up to the Taconic Mountains. Logging usually takes place in July and August.
The park has four parking lots, each accommodating several thousand vehicles. Two of the lots serve as overflow parking for the busy campground. The campground itself consists of three separate areas: Regular Sites, Full Hookups, and Primitive Campsites. All sites share a picnic table and grill, and have access to vault toilets and drinking water. Water and electric sites are 30amp hookups, while 50amp hookups are available at the Full Hookup Area. This section of the campground accommodates primarily long term stays, with some weekly rentals. The Rent-a-campground area contains eight rentable cabins and 112 non-reservationized sites. Non-electric sites do not contain running water, but do have flush toilets and shower facilities. Half of the non-electric sites are pet friendly.
The Back Bay area of the campground contains ten primitive walk-in sites and six leantos, accessible via Mill Street. No pets are allowed, and no fires are permitted. The Brookline area of the campground contains twelve primitive sites and five leantos, again accessible via Mill Street. Pet friendly options are available. The Fenway area of the campground contains fourteen full hookup sites, seven of which are pet friendly. Five leantos are available here, three of which accommodate more than six people. Toilets and showers are modern, and water is available 24 hours a day. Yurts are available for rent all year long, sleeping up to six people in single and double bunks. They feature wooden floors, windows that roll up and down, and a fireplace. The Cambridge area of the campground contains nine full hookup sites, two of which are pet friendly.
In 1908, lumbermen stripped the mountainside of white pine and hemlock trees for the Boston & Maine Railroad sawmill at Northampton. When the mill closed in 1962, its 164 acres were preserved as a recreational facility named after the railroad company. However, it was soon apparent that more land would be needed if the park was to remain viable, and in 1967, the town of Hadley offered to donate 100 acres toward establishing a new state park. Legislation authorizing such a donation passed in 1969. Additional legislation transferring ownership of railroads serving the park to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts also passed in 1970. With support from local citizens and organizations, Maudslay State Park opened to the public on May 18, 1972.
Maudslay State Park became one of the first “state parks without borders” when, two years later, it was joined by adjoining land once owned by the Central New England Railway. A campground with 61 sites opened in 1976; swimming and picnicking facilities followed in 1981. An additional 96 acres known as the Blackjack Forest were added to the park in 1986, following purchase of the property through eminent domain from the Rockwood Paper Company. Transfer of this parcel of woodlands to DCR occurred in 1987. Other acquisitions since have brought the park to nearly 700 acres.
The park offers activities such as:
- mountain biking
- horseback riding
- and cross-country skiing
- camping facilities
Over 240 species of birds inhabitate the park, mainly:
Mammals that call the park home include:
- cottontail rabbits