A Cape Cod Treasure: Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary

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We were invited to an open house last week at the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable. We have owned our Inn on Cape Cod since 2003 and have often driven down Bone Hill Road to visit friends, passing the sign at the entrance to the Sanctuary. But we had never taken the time to drive in and explore the grounds. So we were curious as to what the place was all about.

View from the Visitor’s Center

Wednesday dawned bright and beautiful on the Cape, and after serving breakfast to our guests, we gussied ourselves up and headed out for an adventure compliments of Mass Audubon, who operate Long Pasture. You approach the Wildlife Sanctuary from a long dirt drive off Bone Hill Road. At the end of the drive sits a modest cottage clad in cedar shakes and surrounded by grassy fields and dense forest. Our host, Ian Ives, greeted us at the door and welcomed us to explore the visitor’s center while we waited for the other guests to arrive. I found myself drawn to the large picture window at the far end of the room that framed the most incredible view of Sandy Neck, a dune covered barrier beach that extends seven miles and protects Barnstable Harbor from the open waters of Cape Cod Bay.

Once all the guests had arrived, Ian took us on a tour of the 110-acre sanctuary, along a portion of the 2.5 mile trail network, and through a variety of wildlife habitats, explaining the evolution of the property and its current mission. Sherman Parker, original owner of the property, donated a series of parcels to Mass Audubon beginning in 1973 in memory of his wife, thus protecting over 100 acres of harbor front, wetland, and upland for future generations to enjoy. Of particular interest was the Marsh Boardwalk that provides access into the Great Salt Marsh, the second largest salt marsh on the east coast. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall the wildlife sanctuary offers guided kayak trips, some of which launch from the boardwalk, and all of which are guided by a naturalist. You can do a birding paddle, a twilight paddle, a full moon paddle, and much more for $45 per person ($40 for members) including all equipment. Reservations are recommended.

Also gracing the grounds of the sanctuary are vast tidal flats, butterfly and vegetable gardens, and a small collection of farm animals. On Wednesday evenings they offer marine biology lectures, and weekly throughout the summer teachers and naturalists provide interactive, hands-on learning experiences for children, plus adult and family outdoor programs and lectures. Visit Mass Audubon for a list of scheduled programs at Long Pasture, as well as at any of their other facilities located throughout Massachusetts.

The Sanctuary is open every day, dawn to dusk, and you are welcome to bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds, explore the shoreline, launch a kayak, or just sit back and savor the breathtaking view.