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Blue Hills Reservation
PonkapoagPondWithGBH.jpg
Ponkapoag Pond, with Great Blue Hill visible in the background
Blue Hills Reservation is located in Massachusetts
Blue Hills Reservation
Blue Hills Reservation
Location in Massachusetts
Location Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States
Area 6,165 acres (24.95 km2)
Elevation 180 ft (55 m)
Established 1893
Governing body Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Website Blue Hills Reservation

Blue Hills Reservation is a 6,000-acre (2,400 ha) state park in Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, it covers parts of Milton, Quincy, Braintree, Canton, Randolph, and Dedham. Located approximately ten miles south of downtown Boston, the reservation is one of the largest parcels of undeveloped conservation land within the Greater Boston metropolitan area. The park's varied terrain and scenic views make it a popular destination for hikers from the Boston area.

History

European explorers sailing the coastline noticed the bluish hue of the mountains, which is caused by the presence of riebeckite, which gave area its modern name. The name of the state of Massachusetts derives from the Massachusett Indian tribe's name of the hill: massa-adchu-es-et. In 1893, the Metropolitan Parks Commission purchased the lands of Blue Hills Reservation as one of the state's first areas dedicated to public recreation.

The practice of First Day Hikes to mark New Year's Day with an outdoor activity began in 1992 at Blue Hills Reservation. By the 2010s, the idea had spread and such hikes were taking place in state parks nationwide.

Flora and fauna

The ecology of the Blue Hills is diverse and includes marshes, swamps, upland and bottomland forests, meadows, and an Atlantic white cedar bog. A number of endangered species in Massachusetts, such as the timber rattlesnake and copperhead snake, reside in the reservation. Other flora and fauna include dogwood, lady's slipper, white-tailed deer, coyotes, wild turkey, red fox, and turkey vultures.

Climate

The reservation experiences a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb), typical of most of New England. Summers are short but very warm with mild nights. Winters are short, very snowy, and very cloudy. Precipitation is heavy and very consistent year round.

Climate data for Blue Hills Reservation (Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory), 1891−2010 normals, extremes 1885−present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 68
(20)
68
(20)
89
(31.7)
94
(34.4)
94
(34.4)
99
(37.2)
100
(37.8)
101
(38.3)
99
(37.2)
88
(31.1)
81
(27.2)
74
(23.3)
101
(38.3)
Average high °F (°C) 33.6
(0.89)
34.8
(1.56)
43.4
(6.33)
54.9
(12.72)
66.3
(19.06)
74.6
(23.67)
80.0
(26.67)
77.9
(25.5)
70.9
(21.61)
60.5
(15.83)
48.8
(9.33)
37.4
(3)
56.9
(13.83)
Daily mean °F (°C) 25.7
(-3.5)
26.4
(-3.11)
34.4
(1.33)
44.7
(7.06)
55.3
(12.94)
64.1
(17.83)
69.7
(20.94)
68.1
(20.06)
61.2
(16.22)
51.1
(10.61)
40.6
(4.78)
29.8
(-1.22)
47.6
(8.67)
Average low °F (°C) 18.4
(-7.56)
18.9
(-7.28)
27.0
(-2.78)
36.5
(2.5)
46.4
(8)
55.4
(13)
61.5
(16.39)
60.3
(15.72)
53.6
(12)
43.4
(6.33)
33.7
(0.94)
22.9
(-5.06)
39.8
(4.33)
Record low °F (°C) -16
(-26.7)
-21
(-29.4)
-5
(-20.6)
6
(-14.4)
27
(-2.8)
36
(2.2)
44
(6.7)
39
(3.9)
28
(-2.2)
21
(-6.1)
5
(-15)
-19
(-28.3)
-21
(-29.4)
Precipitation inches (mm) 4.24
(107.7)
3.95
(100.3)
4.61
(117.1)
4.06
(103.1)
3.70
(94)
3.69
(93.7)
3.64
(92.5)
4.08
(103.6)
3.94
(100.1)
3.97
(100.8)
4.36
(110.7)
4.39
(111.5)
48.63
(1,235.2)
Snowfall inches (cm) 16.0
(40.6)
16.1
(40.9)
11.7
(29.7)
2.9
(7.4)
0.1
(0.3)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.3
(0.8)
2.6
(6.6)
11.4
(29)
61.1
(155.2)
Sunshine hours 132.1 146.7 174.0 185.6 220.2 231.8 258.1 242.5 204.1 182.1 133.3 125.9 2,236.4
Source: Blue Hill Observatory & Science Center


Points of interest

Observatory

The highest point within the reservation, Great Blue Hill in Milton, is the site of the historic Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory. The observatory was founded in 1885 and is the oldest continuous weather recording station in the United States. Its tower offers views of Boston and the surrounding area. The tower and observatory are among numerous reservation features listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Features listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Name Location Image Remarks
Blue Hills State Police Station H-7 Hillside Street, Milton
MiltonMA BlueHillsPoliceHQ.jpg
Blue Hills Reservation Parkways Milton, Quincy, Braintree, Canton
Blue Hills Reservation Parkways.png
Brookwood Farm Hillside Street, Milton
Brookwood Farm MA 01.jpg
Chickatawbut Observation Tower Chickatawbut Road, Quincy
Chickatawbut Observation Tower Quincy MA 02.jpg
Comfort Station Blue Hill Avenue, Milton
Comfort Station Milton MA 01.jpg
Eliot Memorial Bridge Milton
Eliot Bridge Milton MA 04.jpg
Great Blue Hill Observation Tower Milton
Eliot Tower Milton MA 03.jpg
Great Blue Hill Weather Observatory Milton
Great Blue Hill Weather Station Milton MA 03.jpg
Massachusetts Hornfels-Braintree Slate Quarry Milton
Hornfels Map.png
Metropolitan District Commission Stable Hillside Street, Milton
MDC Stable MA 03.jpg
Old Barn Blue Hill River Road, Canton
Old Barn at Brookwood Farm MA 04.jpg
Ponkapoag Camp of Appalachian Mountain Club Randolph
AMC Ponkapoag NorthCabin.jpg
Refreshment Pavilion Hillside Street, Milton
Refreshment Pavilion MIlton MA 03.jpg

Blue Hills Trailside Museum

The Blue Hills Trailside Museum, which is affiliated with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, offers indoor and outdoor animal exhibits.

Activities and amenities

Blue Hills Reservation is primarily used for hiking and mountain biking. It is also used for snowshoeing, downhill skiing, and cross country skiing during winter, and rock climbing (in certain areas) and horseback riding during permissible months. Between approximately December and March, Great Blue Hill offers a ski area. Houghton's Pond and nearby Ponkapoag Pond are popular swimming and recreation areas during the summer. Other recreational opportunities include non-motorized boating, camping, fishing, picnicking, playing fields, ice skating, interpretive programs, and a children's playground is accessible from the Hillside St entrance to Houghtons pond.

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