Needham Street

Home  /  Guide  /  Launches  /  Current Page

Get Directions →

East of the Cutler Park trailhead and west of the small bridge over Long Ditch, there is a small parking area on the south side of Needham Street. Two or three cars can park here, and it’s popular with anglers. There is easy access to the water, and the Long Ditch intake is a few feet downstream on river left. If the parking area is full, try the informal access at Cutler Park.

The Long Ditch is visible on river left just after the launch, as water flowing out of the Charles. It was dug in 1653 by Dedham colonists hoping to drain the vast marshes along the Charles and provide better grazing for their cattle. Today the Long Ditch is part of an aquatic loop trail. All the access points between Needham Street and Millennium Park are part of this loop, which is best accessed from Millennium Park.

After the Long Ditch, the river begins to narrow and enters a series of serpentine turns. An along this stretch a few years back, so watch your dangling fingers! The river is lazy through this section, with box turtles and snapping turtles sunning themselves on snags, beaver-chewed trees along the bank, and herons fishing in the shallows. With the sharp bends in the river, it’s not uncommon to scare the same heron into flight time each time you round a bend and encounter it again. On river right, plans are in place to add a landing to allow boaters to access the trail network at NewBridge, which ties into the trails at Wilson Mountain state park. The next takeout on river right is easy to miss at Dolan Center.

At times of high water, water flowing out of the Charles into Long Ditch can be quite swift. Use caution and watch for strainers under the bridge. During floods, the water can reach as high as the bridge itself, creating a dangerous suction under the bridge. If you can’t readily see a gap between the surface of the water and the bridge, keep a wide berth and consider delaying your trip for a safer day.