Steep Hill photo by Stoney StoneEnvironment

Steep Hill

Several drumlins emerge from the Ipswich coastal landscape, including Great Neck, Little Neck, Tilton Hill, Bar Head, Wigwam Hill, Castle Hill and Steep Hill. These drumlins date to the end of the most recent glaciation about 15,000 years ago. As the glaciers grew, they pushed massive amounts of stone and soil ahead of them like a bulldozer. As the glaciers melted, they left behind whale-shaped hills ranging from about 100 to 200 ft. high. The featured photo above was taken by Stoney Stone.

Coastal drumlins in Ipswich MA
After the ice age ended, coastal drumlins were left at Great Neck, Little Neck and Castle Neck. During the subsequent millennia, ocean sand accumulated around the drumlins, creating the coastal barrier islands, Plum Island and Castle Neck.
Steep Hill geological Survey
1991 Bedrock Geological Survey showing Crane Beach, Castle Hill & Steep Hill, which rises 124 ft. high from the ocean and is steeply eroded where it descends to Crane Beach.
Steep Hill Ipswich
Steep Hill and Steep Hill Beach photo taken by Jay Burnham from Little Neck
Steep Hill Beach
Wreck of the Ada K. Damon at Steep Hill Beach in 1909. Steep Hill had a tall tower, perhaps for telegraph transmissions.
Steep Hill trail map
Trails from the Crane Estate lead through open marsh and dune areas to Cedar Point, Crane Beach and Steep Hill, with panoramic views of Ipswich Bay. Courtesy Essex County Trail Association (ECTA)
Steep Hill Ipswich
The boulders at the foot of Steep Hill are constantly being covered and uncovered with the changing height of the sand.
Skull Rock on Crane Beach at Steep Hill
Skull Rock sits on the beach at the foot of Steep Hill.

Large boulders are strown about the beach and the tidal flat, which is prime habitat for seaweed, crustaceans, and mollusks. The area where Steep Hill meets Crane Beach is near the confluence of the Parker River and Ipswich Bay. This is a favorite location for catching striped bass, which are found close to beaches and river mouths. Seabirds often forage in the boundary areas between freshwater and sea water, which is where zooplankton and prey fish species are most concentrated.

Rocks at Steep Hill in Ipswich
Glacial boulders at the foot of Steep Hill

Donald Oakes added, “If you can catch the beginning of the brants (a small sea goose) working their way back north you know old man winter is in retreat. It’s the old salts’ sure sign that spring is back on the North Shore. They will ricked up the eel grass on the falling tide just on the corner of Pavilion Beach heading towards Clark’s pond, where there are ancient boulders that have fed those birds for decades. And often small flocks of Bald Crowns, or American Wigeon, will work behind them picking up what the Brant cast aside. Lazy foragers those Bald Crowns are! Then the Brant will bowl up on the lee side of the narrows on Conomo point. Keep a weather eye out for them and watch the warmth of spring follow them north. “

Thanks to Karen Lisa for the photo below of Common Eiders, Common Scooters and White Wing Scooters “rafting” in the current near Steep Hill, feeding on small mollusks and mussels at low tide, which are living in the rocky ocean bottom at that location. The rafts can contain upwards of 200 birds. As they drift beyond the rocky area, the birds fly back upstream a few hundred yards and start drifting again, repeating this behavior for hours. Eider populations have rebounded in the past few decades. Donald Oakes and Elaine Hamill helped with the identification.

Common Eiders
Thanks to Karen Lisa for this photo of Common Eiders, Common Scooters and White Wing Scooters “rafting” in the current near Steep Hill, feeding on small mollusks and mussels at low tide, which are living in the rocky ocean bottom at that location. The rafts can contain upwards of 200 birds. As they drift beyond the rocky area, the birds fly back upstream a few hundred yards and start drifting again, repeating this behavior for hours. Eider populations have rebounded in the past few decades. Donald Oakes and Elaine Hamill helped with the identification.

Categories: Environment, Places

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2 replies »

  1. Thank you. The geography around ipswich is fascinating as well as the life cycles of its birds and our beloved river.

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