Acton’s Trail Through Time
An unusual heritage trail
The Trail Through Time (TTT) is a heritage trail in the conservation lands of North Acton, Massachusetts, which offers visitors more than a journey into the past. The two-mile trail meanders through hardwood forests and beside wetlands alive with birds and frogs during the summer. Two footbridges offer picturesque views of the Nashoba Brook as it rushes past mossy banks. Above the floodplain, the Trail connects a series of sites with archaeological remains of stone structures from two distinct cultures.
Here, Native Americans, who lived in this region for at least eight thousand years, conducted ceremonial practices along a swath of sacred landscape that extends from present-day Lincoln through these Acton lands to Littleton. Though modest, many small stone structures related to these ceremonies remain scattered through the woodland.
European farmers began to establish farms here in the mid-1600s, and after King Philip’s War in 1676, the Native American presence diminished rapidly. By the 1700s, the new “Americans” were raising beef cows, vegetable crops, and apples for cider where formerly the Indians had hunted, raised corn, squash, and beans, and fished the plentiful streams. And by the 1800s, many mills were using Nashoba Brook to grind flour, cut lumber, and manufacture pencils.
Rock quarries, rock-strewn sluiceways, stone walls, and enigmatic stone piles remain as evidence of these bi-cultural activities and beg to be explored by children of all ages. A storage chamber built into a hillside beckons visitors to explore its dark interior. Sites sacred to Native Americans, but hidden for centuries by the encroaching forest, guard the Trail.
Well-marked trails, sturdy bridges, and boardwalks guide visitors through this ancient and peaceful landscape to view the intriguing remains of a once-vibrant focus of human activity.