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Caring for the Estabrook Woods

The Estabrook Woods in Concord and Carlisle Massachusetts is 1700 acres of mainly private land that is primarily managed as a wildlife sanctuary and for research.  The Estabrook Council is a group of property owners of the woods that works to protect the area and provide a definitive source of information about the woods.

About Us

We are landowners who are stewards of the woods and work cooperatively to maintain and protect the woods as a nature preserve. A key goal is to balance the protection of wildlife with the opportunity for appropriate public access.

Only 18% of Estabrook Woods is public land, which are the Concord Town lands at Punkatasset and the Town of Carlisle's Davis Corridor-Sachs Greenway-Rockstrom lands.  Another 6% is kept by Land Trusts in Concord and Carlisle.  The remaining 76% is privately owned.  Harvard University and Middlesex School together are stewards of 49% of  the woods. A number of other private landowners hold the remaining 27% of the woods. (Chart of ownership).

A Concord Town committee has provided a useful explanation about the history and ownership of the Woods.

Rules for Use


Visiting most of Estabrook Woods is a privilege and not a right. Many of the private landowners grant permission for the public to use certain trails. Landowners have the right to manage access and establish rules for use. Continued public access depends on people following established rules.


Landowners are working to establish a uniform set of rules for conduct that vistors are expected to follow in most of the woods.  These rules are posted at key access points and are available here.  The Concord Town land at Punkatasset has special regulations including special dog regulations. The Carlisle Town land also has special regulations.


Dogs must be on leash throughout most of Estabrook Woods.  Dog waste must be picked up and carried out.  The goal of providing a safe preserve for wildlife cannot be met if dogs are allowed loose in the woods. more...


Estabrook Woods has a complex set of trails.  Trail signs, markers, and blazes are not used in most areas to preserve the natural setting. Therefore, maps are essential.

Not all trails in Estabrook Woods are public.  If a trail is marked with a "Private" sign it should not be entered.  For the protection of wildlife, people and dogs must stay on the trails.

Trail Map of Estabrook Woods

Estabrook contains a number of sites of historical and ecological interest. Some of the sites are noted on the trail map above, and more specifically on a simpler map:

Site Map of Estabrook Woods

A brief description of many of the important sites is provided here. In addition, the excellent article by Ells has detailed endnotes providing additional information on key sites.

History of Estabrook Woods

Early History

The land in the north of Concord was divided and granted to Concord citizens from around 1655 to 1670. Around 1700 some citizens began to live in the north near the arable soil of the river. The Estabrook Woods was used primarily as a source of wood. Much of the known early history is described in "Henry Thoreau and Estabrook Country", by Stephen Ells, and is also described in the Concord Long Range Plan of 1987.

More early Estabrook History is provided through the link below:

Protection Efforts

During the early 20th century, a small number of Concord families began to acquire the land in Estabrook Woods. In 1932, they successfully petitioned the town to close and discontinue the old logging trail known as Old Estabrook Road, ensuring it would be protected from residential development.  Around 1965, these families, along with Harvard and Middlesex School, began working together to create a nature preserve, establishing Harvard's Concord Field Station and placing major restrictions on development of many remaining private lands.  In 1996, Concord and Carlisle worked together on the "Campaign for Estabrook Woods" which placed an additional 400 acres into conservation.


Citizen efforts continue to protect Estabrook. In 1991, the Concord Open Space Plan warned: "An effort should be made to control recreational use by not greatly expanding accessibility and parking". The habitat value of Estabrook has been recognized by the Commonwealth.  The Town of Concord recently adopted recommendations intended to balance the volume and nature of visitor use against the need for wildlife protection. There is an ongoing controversy between the owners and the Town regarding excessive and inappropriate use of the woods.