Borderland encompases 1773 acres of woodlands, fields, ponds and unique geological formations. The park is truly a “borderland” in that it lies between gradually rising hills to the north and much flatter land to the south. The result is a mix of habitats, supporting a rich variety of wildlife.
There are three major ponds at Borderland and several smaller bodies of water. Lower Leach is 100 acres in size, created in 1825 to create water power for an iron works further downstream on the Poquanticut Brook. It has an average depth of five feet. Pud's Pond was created by the Ames family in 1906 and named after Blanche's father. When walking next to the spillway you can see the white roads inlaid in the dam when it was repaired in 1926. Upper Leach Pond was created by the Ames family in 1939 for wildlife habitat and recreation.
The glaciated cliffs and outcroppings on the northern side of the park make the geology of Borderland unusually interesting. Throughout the park are several easily discernible examples of glacial “erratics,” granite boulders that were torn loose from the bedrock and deposited some distance away. Another interesting feature is the glacial riverbeds, areas strewn with a multitude of boulders and stones. These areas are evidence of the ferocious energy produced by the run-off from melting glaciers.
Borderland State Park offers the visitor a unique opportunity to see many interesting geologic features all within a short walk of the Visitors Center.
The first feature is the glacial boulder walls in front of the Visitors Center. The rounded boulders were left 15,000 years ago by the last ice age. The granite bedrock under Borderland is 441 million years old (young when compared to the age of the earth, 450,000 million years old). The park has large glacially transported boulders weighing over a million pounds. Many other large perched boulders have been left all by themselves on ledges as if by some unseen giant setting them in a straight line. Large ledges with deep glacial grooves offer the visitor a chance to see the power of the glacial movement over the landscape thousands of years ago.
An fine example of a kettle pond and how it was formed can be seen near Leach Pond which was a post glacial lake then a swamp and then a Colonial-era man made pond. Upper Leach Pond is an excellent example of lake eutrification with the formation of floating bogs, which contain carnivorous plants. The large quantity of iron that is dissolved from the bedrock in the Park has allowed the formation of limonite deposits in the pond sediments. They are formed when bacteria use the iron to make their skeletons and the discarded skeletons build up in the pond sediments. Look for them at the stream flowing from Upper Leach Pond into Leach Pond: they appear as rust in the stream.
The fact that Borderland's terrain has considerable relief allows a wide variety of plants and animals to exist in within the Park. The well drained soils of the uplands support oaks, pines, red cedar and beeches, while the low wetlands support eastern white cedar, sweet pepper bush, red maples, and a large variety of wetland plants. Borderland sits on the watershed divide between the Taunton and Neponset Rivers, making most of the water free of manmade pollutants.
The park is home to some of the oldest plants, the lichens, which grow on the trees and rocks in abundance. Many lichens have been known to live thousands of years; they are also very good indicators of pollution and die when pollution is toxic (much as canaries were used to detect toxic fumes in mines). Borderland lichens are very healthy for now. Borderland is also the site of a quarry where the facing stone for the famous Canton Railroad Viaduct was cut 172 years ago. The stone is a fine grain Riebeckite Granite that was chosen because it does not stain as it weathers but retains its original color.
Borderland offers visitors an opportunity to explore a variety of ecological communities. Rabbits, squirrels, and geese are common sights; otter, deer, fox and raccoon are some of the mammals living in the park. The park is a great place to see migratory birds; great blue heron and even osprey are spotted on occasion. The diversity of vegetation throughout the park provides forage to sustain these and many other species.
Most of Borderland's woodlands consist of white and red oak trees. Pocket areas of white pine, hemlock and beech trees can be found in the park. Borderland has over 35 acres of agricultural fields which have been maintained for hay for over 300 years. A wonderful array of wildflowers within the hayfields can be seen in July and August, along with dragon-flies and other insects. Please leave the flowers for others to enjoy.
The park’s six ponds are a rich habitat for fragrant water lilies and blue-flowered pickerelweed, and are home to a variety of freshwater fish including perch and largemouth bass. The ponds are in various stages of succession. The abundance of floating vegetation in some indicates that they are in the process of changing from pond to marsh. As plant material decays, it is added to the layers of organic matter on the bottom. Eventually this debris is deep enough to support swamp shrubs. The shrubs, in turn, rapidly absorb available moisture; as the swamp dries out, trees will take root and a swamp forest will develop.
Borderland hosts hundreds of vernal pools. These special habitat areas or "Big Puddles" are very important for amphibians such as toads, salamanders, frogs. Look for programs in the early spring related to this habitat.