One Place at a Time: Caroline Tuthill Preserve

When I walked the Caroline Tuthill Preserve earlier this year, what I noticed first was the aroma of the pitch pine forest, a smell that brought me back to my childhood when I used to visit my aunt and uncle who had a home very close to this sanctuary in Edgartown. The trails are narrow with soft sand, and are mostly covered by a blanket of pine needles,
all of which makes for a pleasant floor to walk on.

It wasn’t very long before I heard a titmouse singing, a little “weeder weeder weeder.” Soon I was hearing and seeing crows, chickadees, a towhee – “drink your teeeeeea” – and I saw and heard a downy woodpecker hammering away on a dead oak tree. It wasn’t quite the season for lady slippers yet, but I knew they grow along the path in spring and would soon appear.

After a twenty-minute leisurely walk, I found myself by the edge of Sengekontacket Pond, a saltwater coastal pond flushed by two inlets. At two-and-a-half miles long, it straddles the line between Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. Terns, ducks, geese, and other shorebirds nest on its small islands, and osprey can be seen diving for fish. If you’re lucky you might see river otters along the salt marshes. The pond is also popular with commercial and recreational shellfishermen, boaters, swimmers, and picnickers.

There were mute swans the morning I visited, and I stopped to photograph them before continuing along the yellow trail that looped back to where I parked my truck.

Along the edge of the pond I came across a man sitting on a rock bench who was staring out over the pond. The sight of him peacefully meditating at the water’s edge summed it up for me: this is a very quiet and peaceful place to visit.

Thanks from a Grateful Island

The Caroline Tuthill Preserve includes more than 150 acres of pitch pine and oak, wooded wetlands, salt marsh, and meadow that were generously given to the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation by John and Nora Tuthill between 1972 and 1983. It is the single largest gift in the foundation’s history and, as Sheriff’s Meadow founder and Vineyard Gazette editor Henry Beetle Hough wrote in the paper in 1975, creates “an open space sanctuary at one of the most critically important places on the Island.”

Lay of the Land

The property includes a 1.3 mile self-guided walking and biking tour. The 1.7 mile purple trail in particular was designed specifically for mountain biking, with its 200-foot elevation change of winding trails. The blue, white, and red trails all make connections to the bicycle path along Beach Road.

Practically Speaking

The preserve is open year-round from dawn to dusk. A small parking area and information kiosk is located off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.

For more information and a trail map, visit