If you are traveling to the Charles River Reservation from outside Boston, please click here for directions for parking in DCR lots.
The Charles River Basin
The Charles River Basin is bounded upstream by a low dam above Watertown Square and a large dam and pumping station near North Station in Boston. The parkland on the north and south banks of the river is set off by DCR Parkways: on the north (Watertown and Cambridge) side by Charles River Road, Greenough Boulevard, and Memorial Drive; on the south (Newton, Allston and Boston) side by Nonantum Road, Soldiers Field Road, and Storrow Drive.
Some of the larger open spaces and major structures along the basin are individually named and briefly described below.
Paul Dudley White Bike Path
White was one of America’s best known doctors and an avid cyclist. In 1960 he persuaded the metropolitan park commissioners to allow bikes on the Esplanade for one year (they were banned at the time), and seven years later the ban was discontinued. Between 1971 and 1982 the paths were extended to Watertown Square on both sides of the river, making a continuous loop around the basin.
The Boston side of the Charles River Basin
The Boston Esplanade
Officially dedicated as the James J. Storrow Memorial Embankment in 1936, the most famous park along the river is universally known as the Esplanade. Built on made land, the Boston Esplanade extends from the old dam near Leverett Circle to the Boston University Bridge.
The Hatch Memorial Shell
Concerts were given in the metropolitan parks beginning early in the twentieth century. In 1929 Arthur Fiedler conducted the first concerts of the Boston Pops in a temporary shell. The current structure was completed in 1940 as a memorial to Edward Hatch. The shell is located between the Longfellow and Massachusetts Avenue Bridges.
Opposite Mass. General Hospital, Lederman Park and the Teddy Ebersol Red Sox Fields provide youth soccer, baseball, and soccer fields for organized play.
Nashua Street Park
A narrow strip of waterfront between the Science Park MBTA station and Spaulding Hospital, the park offers a magnificent view of the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. It also includes a granite spiral surrounded by a ring of water misting jets.
Upstream of the Eliot Bridge the riverfront is named Herter Park. The area includes the Herter Center, the Mary C. Herter Memorial Public Garden, and the Publick Theatre. The park address is 1175A Soldiers Field Road, Brighton.
The largest playground along the river is adjacent to one of the largest areas of public parking. Has a modern spray pool/water playground.
Daly Recreation Center
Lighted fields are available for football, softball, and rugby. Nearby are the operations of Community Rowing.
The Charlestown/Cambridge/Watertown Side of the Charles River Basin
Paul Revere Park
A large oval lawn area with a grass stage had made park the site of occasional concerts and special events.
North Point Park
The park includes extensive areas of grasses and perennials and a large playground with a waterplay fountain for children. Granite paving hints at the railroads that used to cross the river where the park has been built on made land.
The Front and Cambridge Parkway
A small park managed by the City of Cambridge includes the sculpture “Gate House” by Lloyd Hamrol.
The Cambridge Esplanade
Between the Longfellow and the Boston University Bridges is the Cambridge Esplanade, though the name is almost never used.
Once a popular area for river swimming, this section of the riverfront now includes playing fields and a public pool.
From the last Sunday in April through the second Sunday in November, Memorial Drive is closed to vehicles from Western Avenue to the Eliot Bridge.
The five-acre memorial is landscaped with plants that bloom in May, the month of John F. Kennedy’s birthday, and granite markers include excerpts from his speeches.
The Upper Charles River Reservation
Two granite pillars mark the entrance to the Upper Charles River Reservation in Watertown Square. A continuous pathway runs along the river banks to the Moody Street Bridge in Waltham.
This City of Newton park gives excellent canoe access to DCR's Cutler Park. Hiking trails and canoe dock.
This City of Newton active recreation facility includes an exercise station, public bocce courts, soccer and baseball courts. It provides easy access to the Upper Charles River Reservation.
This City of Newton park fronts the river with formal picnic areas, informal beach (no swimming) area, playground, tennis courts and ballfields. Good canoe access.
Landry Park at Waltham Center provides a pleasant open space next to the Charles River Museum of Industry.
The dam at Moody Street in Waltham creates the "Lakes District", an extensive water area and flooded meadow which offers excellent canoeing and winter ice fishing. Small boats can be launched at Woerd Avenue.
Forest Grove in Newton is an area of open woods for nature study, picnicking or just relaxing. Superb views and cool breezes can be enjoyed by bird watchers and fishermen alike. Fishing and hiking are offered at the park.
Hemlock Gorge is located between Newton and Upper Falls and Needham. The park is dominated by a steep gorge, the river, its surrounding stands of hemlock trees and Echo Bridge, a huge granite and brick structure that spans the river and gorge.
Cutler Park is the largest remaining fresh water marsh on the middle Charles. Located in Needham and Dedham, the marsh and small lake attract over 100 species of birds which make the park a prime spot for nature study. Other activities suitable to this wetland preserve are hiking, canoeing and fishing.
Passive open space park in Dedham/West Roxbury.
Brook Farm Historic Site
This National Historic Landmark located in West Roxbury is 179 acres of rolling fields, woodland and wetland and was the location of the experimental society of Transcendentalists who lived on the farm in the 1840's.