Ipswich River Park
Central Street, North Reading, Mass.
Open from dawn to dusk
Consisting of 49 acres of land, Ipswich River Park is an underutilized gem tucked away in the suburbs North of Boston. Not to be confused with the Mass Audubon’s Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield, Ipswich River Park is owned and operated by the town of North Reading and sits just a few minutes from Route 93. The park is divided into two main areas; one is devoted largely to the appreciation of nature, while the other holds most of the recreation facilities. A meandering collection of paths bring you by the river, through a small wooded area, and around the playing fields.
-By Christy Matte
For Outdoor Enthusiasts
Ipswich River Park, as the name suggests, sits on the banks of the 35 mile-long Ipswich River. Wetlands and wooded area draw a variety of birds, amphibians and other creatures, and sitting quietly along the path is all you need for perfect viewing. Casual fishermen also enjoy casting their lines in this area and there is plenty of space for people to stake out a spot for the day.
The park also has a canoe launch and this lazy portion of the river is wonderful for an afternoon journey. Make use of the complimentary life jackets to ensure your trip is as safe as can be.
The most popular spot for young kids is the playground. There are two swing sets; one has toddler seats and the other has regular scoop seats. Two wooden climbing structures allow kids to spread out and choose their level of adventure. One is tall with a winding slide, while the other is shorter and better suited for younger children. The shorter structure connects via a rope walkway to a rope-net climbing area. Off to the side, there’s a small sand area, which is usually stocked with buckets and shovels, trucks, and other fun sand toys. Keep a close eye on your kids here, as disagreements occasionally end in sand wars with the little ones.
Since the fields are bordered by a paved sidewalk, this is also a nice area for kids to work on their bike skills when the park isn’t overly crowded.
Teens and Adults
There are activities for teens and adults, as well. You’ll find well-maintained tennis and basketball courts, a street hockey rink, and even a horseshoe pit. People frequently jog the paths and dogs are welcome on a leash. A small skate park is very popular with teens. Plenty of space is available for softball, baseball, soccer, and other field-based sports.
During the summer months, a concession stand provides access to cold drinks, ice cream, and other treats. Water fountains are also available. There are benches and picnic tables throughout the park and a few gazebos provide in-demand shade. Newly installed handicap accessible bathrooms are a marked improvement over the port-a-potties, which are still on-site. There is just one bathroom for women and one for men, however, so you can expect to wait for the privilege of having running water with which to wash your hands. Parking is ample, but be prepared for a short walk with any coolers and gear, as the recreation area is set apart from the lot.
Ipswich River Park is home to many of North Reading’s outdoor recreational events, including a BBQ/concert series each summer. There are field days, a craft fair, a “teddy bear picnic,” and a variety of sports leagues. The fields, courts, rink, and picnic areas are also available to rent for birthdays, reunions, private sports leagues, classes, and other private events.