CAPE COD MARSHES
Foliage on Cape Cod? You bet. In autumn, the Cape offers up much more than just sandy beaches. And a lot of the action happens around marshes.
In the years of settlers, the forests on the Cape were cleared to near extinction — Henry David Thoreau wrote about it some 160 years ago. But these days, the forests have rebounded with deciduous trees to supplement the scrub oaks and pitch pines.
In a good foliage year, Bell’s Neck Conservation Area in Harwich is one of my favorite places for autumn photography on the Cape. This place includes a marshland, pond, hiking trails, a large variety of birds, and a herring run (active in April).
Bell’s Neck gets its name from John Bell, a settler who supposedly acquired most of the present land from the Saquatucket Native Americans in 1668.
BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH
Bell’s Neck is great for photography at both sunrise and sunset. Access to the marsh is from a small footbridge on North Road, or from the auto bridge on Bell’s Neck Road.
Foliage appears a few weeks later on the Cape than the interior regions, with peak color typically showing up around the 3rd and 4th week of October.
GETTING TO BELLS NECK
You can enter Bell’s Neck from either the Harwich side to the north of the conservation area or from the West Harwich side on the south side.
From Harwich, take Great Western Road to Bell’s Neck Road. North Road will be on your left about .5 miles from the intersection. A parking area sits at the end of North Road, providing convenient access to the footbridge. To reach the auto bridge, continue straight on Bell’s Neck Road past North Road for another .3 miles.
From West Harwich, take Route 28 (Main Street), turning north on Depot Road. After a few hundred yards, veer right onto Bell’s Neck Road. The auto bridge overlook is some .7 miles from the intersection. A one-car parking area can be found on the opposite side of the bridge. Continue driving .3 miles to reach North Road on the right.
Although Bell’s Neck Road (a dirt road) is only lightly traveled, be wary of passing cars whenever standing on the narrow road or on the auto bridge.
NEVER step onto the marsh grasses or into the pond. The clay here is soft and gooey, sharing deadly attributes with quick sand. This is a dangerous place to dip your toes — it claims the life of an unsuspecting fisherman every few years.
Autumn is one of the best times to photograph on Cape Cod. The crowds are long gone so you may find yourself alone amidst all the beauty.
For additional Cape Cod locations, you may want to consider The Cape Cod Scenic GPS Guide Book by Arnold J. Kaplan, APSA-AFIAP.