The Strandbeests came to Crane Beach in the summer of 2015, but the bigger news was the largest invasion of people the town of Ipswich has experienced in recent memory.
Situated in the epicenter of The Great Marsh, Ipswich is ground zero for the annual invasion of Town’s Official Pest, Tabanus nigrovittatus, better known as the Greenhead Fly. In my opinion, which I am happy to share with you, the Latin name for this scourge lends it far more dignity than it deserves.
Charles Wendell Townsend, M.D. was attracted by the natural beauty of Ipswich. He built a summer house overlooking a wide expanse of salt marsh with open sea to the east. From here he wrote a number of books, including Beach Grass, Sand Dunes and Salt Marshes, and the Birds of Essex County.
In October 1922, the sand schooner Edward S. Eveleth rolled over when a wave rushed over her deck and pushed her onto the edge of Steep Hill Beach. Filled with sand, each tide buried her deeper. Her remains were visible for several years. The skeleton of the hull is just off-shore a short distance from the wreck of the Ada K. Damon.
In 1881, a 45-foot cast iron lighthouse was erected at Crane Beach, replacing an earlier structure. By 1913, the sand had shifted so much that the lighthouse was 1,090 feet from the high water mark. Use of the light was discontinued in 1932 and in 1939 the Coast Guard floated the entire lighthouse to Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard.
The “Great Dune” at the end of Castle Neck has disappeared, the point is retreating, and the opening to Essex Bay between Castle Neck and Wingaersheek Beach has widened.
The Ipswich Bar has a long history of tragic shipwrecks. Its swift currents and shallow waters are especially dangerous during storms, and many ships have gone aground. The hull of the Ada K. Damon sits on Steep Hill Beach.
Symonds Epes bought a large tract in 1726 and built a substantial farm and orchards at Wigwam Hill, named for a group of destitute Indians who briefly camped there. The protecting pitch pines were later cut for lumber, and the farm became a large dune.
The Crane Estate has been closed by the Trustees because of Covid-19, but Crane Beach, Steep Hill Beach and Castle Neck are open to residents of Ipswich with a Crane Beach sticker Friday – Sunday.
See more photos by Sharon Scarlata. Related Posts
Christmas, 1909 witnessed the heaviest storm in many years. The ship was wrecked during the captain’s first trip for a load of sand from the plentiful supply on Plum Island.
The Fox Creek Canal is the oldest man-made tidewater canal in the United States, dug in 1820. In 1938 it was dredged to accommodate ship-building at Robinson’s Boatyard, where small minesweepers were constructed for World War II.
Choate Island was originally known as Hog Island, and is the largest island in the Crane Wildlife Refuge and is the site of the Choate family homestead, the Proctor Barn, the White Cottage, and the final resting place of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Crane. There are great views from the island summit of the Castle Neck dunes and Plum Island Mount Agamenticus in Maine.
Crane Beach belongs to the Trustees of Reservations and is part of the historic Crane Estate. The property includes Crane Castle, miles of shoreline, and over 5 miles of marked trails through the dunes at Castle Neck and Steep Hill Beach, open year-round.
Crane Beach and all of Castle Neck are protected by the Trustees of Reservations. Pitch pine and scrub oak rise from the masses of marsh grass, sage green hudsonia and dune lichen lining the trails that wind through the dunes.
After weeks of rain and a record-breaking cold spell, this was a beautiful day for a hike at Castle Neck, returning along Crane Beach.