Bradley Palmer State Park is one of Massachusetts’ most beautiful parks, located in the northeastern part of the state. This park has a very interesting history. Before visiting, it is important to know a little background about the park to fully appreciate and understand its beauty. Originally, the park was an estate owned by Bradley W. Palmer, a well-known attorney in the area. He graduated from Harvard in 1888 and was responsible for the merger that resulted in the United Fruit Company in 1899. Shortly after this in the early 1900s, he bought the land that is now Bradley Palmer State Park and made a home there. He continued to excel in his career and his advice became highly coveted. He is well-known for being the advisor of President Woodrow Wilson and the Federal Reserve Board. When his estate was built, there were still horse-drawn buggies used as transportation. Today there are still buggy paths that can be seen and used as walking paths. Rhododendrons can be seen neatly lining the carriage paths. Many of the original beauties such as this have been preserved throughout the years, giving visitors the unique opportunity to take a step back in time to the elegant Victorian era.
Another fun activity that visitors enjoy is canoeing on the river that is lined by lush green trees. Fishing is also allowed and there are several different types of fish that have reportedly been caught there, including some very large ones. There are several different hiking trails in the park. A map is available from the main office or online from the website that outlines each trail’s route and distance. More mile walking trails can be found for those who prefer a lighter form of exercise or a leisurely walk through the scenic estate. Horseback riding trails are also available on the property. During the summer months, the tick population is very thick in this part of the country. Bring a high-quality spray that contains DEET to avoid meeting these parasites. The easiest place to pick up ticks is along the horseback riding trails. When riding on a horse, multiple encounters with bushes and thick brush are common; these are the locations that ticks prefer. To avoid them, stick to the walking and hiking trails and stay out of the brush and taller grasses. Diseases from ticks in the area have not been reported.
During the winter, cross-country skiing is allowed on the park’s premises. Mountain biking is another activity that is enjoyed year-round, with some of the best paths for this activity located in Bradley Palmer State Park. There is a pool outdoors for adults and a wading pool for small children. Restrooms are modern and are open to the public. Hunting is allowed in the park, but there are exact restrictions. There is only one area where hunting is allowed and the time frame must be in accordance with regular hunting seasons. Violators who attempt to hunt outside of these times or the designated land will face serious charges. Cleveland Farm is the area where gun hunting is allowed. Archery hunting is permitted, but it is only allowed on Prospect Hill.
Palmer’s Mansion still stands and is one of the most prominent features of the park. Today it is owned by the Historic Curatorship Program. The mansion has been remodeled and renovated and serves as a luxury wedding and events center. There are overnight accommodations available for event guests also. Although touring the mansion is not possible without reservation of a legitimate event, seeing the old stone structure and taking pictures is permissible. The mansion resembles a castle and overlooks the former estate’s rolling meadows.
It is important to follow the rules of the park; rangers continually monitor the grounds closely. Since there is a great deal of historical value to preserve, the rules may differ from general guidelines of most state parks. Be sure to read these rules before visiting. Hunters must especially pay attention to the rules regarding acceptable hunting areas. For further information about the park, regulations, amenities and special events, contact the office using the information listed below.
Bradley Palmer State Park
Topsfield, MA 01983