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Spindle City Surprises: Exploring Fall River

By Tom Richardson
Mountain biking in Copicut Woods, part of the 13,500 acre Southeastern Massachusetts Biosreserve in Fall River and Freetown.

We had an eye-opening, productive—and fun—several days of filming in Fall River, a city that offers a surprising number of outdoor activities. Well, I guess that’s less surprising when you consider that half the city is made up of woods and water!

The Copicut Woods Loop Trail, one of many trails in the Bioreserve.

I learned this interesting fact on a kayak outing on South Watuppa Pond with Mike Labossiere, a multi-generational inhabitant of Fall River and the city’s Watershed Forester. (I am sure few people would have guessed that Fall River had a Watershed Forester).

Fall River's Watershed Forester Mike Labossiere paddles South Watuppa Pond in Fall River.

South Watuppa is one of several paddling venues within the Fall River city limits, and can be accessed via the big launch facility just off Rte. 24 and Rte. 195. The pond is the third largest natural freshwater waterbody in the state (another surprise), and supports many species of warm-water fish, from largemouth bass to catfish.

Cant. Brian Patterson (left) and Tom Richardson display a pair of big striped bass taken off Fall River.

But Fall River also offers immediate access to bigger aquatic fare, most notably striped bass and bluefish, in the waters of the Taunton River estuary, which forms the city’s extensive waterfront. Spring is prime time to catch big bass in the river, and we did just that with local guide and old friend Brian Patterson of Patterson Guide Service. Brian delivered the goods once again by putting us on quality fish up to 35 inches within sight of the Braga Bridge and Battleship Cove. All were taken on live menhaden, and all were released.

Delicious fish tacos at Pier 52 in Fall River.

Having worked up an appetite after six hours of fishing, we tied up at Borden Light Marina and made our way to nearby Pier 52, a waterfront restaurant with outdoor seating and sweeping views of the Taunton River. We dined on burgers, fried calamari, fish tacos, and crab nachos—all of it delicious.

After lunch, we paid a brief visit to the Great Fall River Re-Creation Sailing Center for a chat with director Chris Nardi. Chris explained how the center is responsible for getting local kids and adults engaged in sailing and building confidence. It also provides much-needed access to the water for urban residents.

The Braga Bridge spans the Taunton River.

Yes, there’s much to do on the water in Fall River, but what about terrestrial activities? We found some in the form of mountain biking through Copicut Woods, part of the 13,800-acre Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve and a Trustees of Reservations property. Our guide was local rider John Tomawski, who led us through a variety of terrain, including some technical rock gardens and hills. We never saw another person all morning, but did see and hear numerous bird species.

Drone's-eye view of the Quequechan River Rail Trail, part of the South Coast Bikeway.

If mountain biking isn’t your bag, you can always hop on the Quequechan River Rail Trail, which we did with Sarah Labossiere of the South Coast Bikeway. We met Sarah at Britland Park seconds from Rte. 195 and headed off on a short ride along the paved trail, which offers a 4.5-mile, round-trip ride, walk, or run along the Quequechan River and the north shore of South Watuppa Pond. The hope is for the trail to link up with other trails to create a trail that would run from Providence, Rhode Island, to Provincetown, Cape Cod.

Fall River may be best known for Lizzie Borden and battleships, but as we discovered, this former mill town has much to recommend it in the form of outdoor experiences—and just as many people who are working to improve access to its natural spaces. See for yourself when the Fall River episode airs as part of Season 4 of Explore New England this fall.





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