Freetown-Fall River State Forest

The Freetown-Fall River State Forest (commonly shortened to Freetown State Forest) is a publicly owned forest covering more than 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) in the city of Fall River and the towns of Freetown and Lakeville in the state of Massachusetts. The forest lies mostly in the center of the town of Freetown (about a third of the town) dividing Assonet, East Freetown, and Fall River's northernmost boundary. The forest land includes Profile Rock, a granite outcropping which local Native Americans believe to be the image of Chief Massasoit, and a 227-acre (92 ha) Wampanoag reservation. The forest is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and operated by the Department of Conservation and Recreation with headquarters in Assonet.[3]

Freetown-Fall River State Forest
Statue of the C.C.C. Worker
Map showing the location of Freetown-Fall River State Forest
Map showing the location of Freetown-Fall River State Forest
Location in Massachusetts
Map showing the location of Freetown-Fall River State Forest
Map showing the location of Freetown-Fall River State Forest
Freetown-Fall River State Forest (the United States)
LocationFreetown, Fall River, Lakeville, Bristol, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
Coordinates41°45′28″N 71°03′48″W / 41.75778°N 71.06333°W / 41.75778; -71.06333[1]
Area5,217 acres (21.11 km2)[2]
Elevation207 ft (63 m)[1]
OperatorMassachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
WebsiteFreetown-Fall River State Forest



The state first acquired land in Assonet for forest purposes in 1913, purchasing approximately nine acres on Forge Pond from Levi Churchill of Berkley.[4] The majority of the land was acquired over twenty years beginning in the 1930s. Recent additions to the forest have included 87 acres (2012), 29 acres (2015), and 77 acres (2015) in Assonet and 613 acres (2015) in Lakeville.[5]

The Civilian Conservation Corps worked on the property from 1935 to 1937.[6] On September 28, 2002, National Public Lands Day, a statue was dedicated in honor of the program and its efforts in the forest.[7]

Activities and amenities


The forest has more than 50 miles (80 km) of unpaved roads and trails for walking, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, off-road vehicle, and equestrian use.[3] A picnic area with wading pool, playing fields and restrooms is located near the main entrance. Rattlesnake Brook is stocked with brook trout in spring. Hunting is available on a restricted basis.

The forest is home to the annual "Fun Day in the Forest" event sponsored by the Friends of the Freetown-Fall River State Forest. For a number of years, it also served as the course for the Big Bang Mountain Bike Race, a benefit event for the Independence Day events in Freetown.

In the news


The Freetown State Forest has suffered fires on several occasions. In September 1980, a fire burned approximately 230 acres (93 ha) of woodland adjacent to and in the state forest over the course of a week.[8] Fires in 1988 and 1991 burned an estimated 100 acres (40 ha) each, while a fire in March 1976 destroyed an estimated 500 acres (200 ha).[9] The last major fire occurred on April 30, 2001, when fire destroyed between 90 and 100 acres (40 ha) of the forest.[9] Most of the fires were put out on April 30, while small fires continued into May 1.[10]

Crimes and incidents

The Freetown State Forest has been the location of several crimes and incidents. Due to these events, the forest has become associated with the so-called "Bridgewater Triangle"

In November 1978, the body of Mary Lou Arruda, a 15-year-old cheerleader abducted from Raynham, Massachusetts that September, was discovered tied to a tree in the state forest. James M. Kater of Brockton, previously convicted of kidnapping in 1967, was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Arruda in 1979.[11] The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturned the verdict, and he was convicted again in 1986. The verdict once again overturned; he was retried in 1992, with that attempt ending in a mistrial.

In 1980, while investigating another local murder, police had been approached by individuals who claimed to have witnessed Satanic cult activity within the state forest.[12] These reports would have bearing on the fourth Kater trial (1996–2000) which ended with the conviction upheld.[13] In the 1996 trial, the defense charged that police had withheld information relating to the alleged Satanic cult activity, which it claimed could have provided an alternative to Kater.[14]

Three more murders were subsequently related to the state forest. In 1987, a transient drifter mistaken for an undercover police officer was murdered in the forest,[15] and in 2001, two men were found shot to death on Bell Rock Road, which runs through the forest connecting Assonet and Fall River.[16] Two assaults were also reported: a Fall River man in 1991[17] and a teenager from New Bedford in 1998.[18]

Other incidents include hazardous waste dumping (1996),[19] reports of aggressive abandoned dogs (2006),[20] and reports of an escaped emu wandering the forest (2006).[21] In May 2015, a woman slid 80 feet down a cliff while spray-painting graffiti, broke her ankle, and had to be rescued.[22] In January 2016, an illegally dumped boat was discovered.[23] In May 2016, wire cables were found stretched across the recreational trails, apparently intended to cause harm to off-road motorbike riders.[24]



  1. ^ a b "Freetown Fall River State Forest". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior.
  2. ^ "2012 Acreage Listing" (PDF). Department of Conservation and Recreation. April 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 7, 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Freetown-Fall River State Forest". MassParks. Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Retrieved July 31, 2013.
  4. ^ "Property Record Card" (PDF). Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  5. ^ Norton, Michael. State buys 690 acres in Freetown, Lakeville for $859,000. The Taunton Daily Gazette, June 28, 2015.
  6. ^ "The Civilian Conservation Corps: A Statewide Survey of Civilian Conservation Corps Resources". Prepared by Shary Page Berg (Beth McKinney, ed.) for the Massachusetts Office of Historic Resources. January 1999. pp. 31–33. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  7. ^ Albrenaz, Ami (September 29, 2002). "Freetown statue honors Depression era workers". New Bedford Standard-Times.
  8. ^ "Winds, dry air fuel forest fires near Fall River". The Boston Globe, September 11, 1980.
  9. ^ a b Apuzzo, Matt, with Aaron Nicodemus and Monica Allen. Fire rips state forest Archived July 7, 2004, at the Wayback Machine. The New Bedford Standard-Times, May 1, 2001.
  10. ^ Brown, Curt. Firefighters douse forest's hot spots[permanent dead link]. The New Bedford Standard-Times, May 2, 2001.
  11. ^ Costa-Crowell, Carol Lee. Murderer's appeal loses 17 year edge Archived November 7, 2004, at the Wayback Machine. The New Bedford Standard-Times, December 22, 1995.
  12. ^ "Satan cult probed in 2 deaths". The Boston Globe, April 19, 1980.
  13. ^ Finucane, Martin. Murder conviction upheld in Kater case Archived November 6, 2004, at the Wayback Machine. The New Bedford Standard-Times, August 31, 2000.
  14. ^ "Satanic angle raised in slay trial". The Boston Globe, November 5, 1996.
  15. ^ "Man sentenced to life for murder of drifter". The Boston Globe, March 27, 1988.
  16. ^ "2 victims identified in Fall River slaying". The Boston Globe, July 15, 2001.
  17. ^ "Plea entered in assault". The Boston Globe, November 1991.
  18. ^ Rising, David. Woman's link to beaten boy investigated Archived May 14, 2005, at the Wayback Machine. The New Bedford Standard-Times, October 15, 1998.
  19. ^ Estrella, John. Hazardous waste found dumped in Freetown[permanent dead link]. The New Bedford Standard-Times, December 13, 1996.
  20. ^ Fraga, Brian. Residents hounded by dogs left in forest[permanent dead link]. The New Bedford Standard-Times, March 9, 2006.
  21. ^ Fraga, Brian. [1]. The New Bedford Standard-Times, July 26, 2006.
  22. ^ "Woman rescued after falling from cliff in Freetown State Forest". WCVP News. May 27, 2014. Retrieved July 5, 2016. A preliminary investigation revealed (the woman) had been spray-painting the vertical side of the rock ledge when she fell.
  23. ^ "Illegally Dumped Boat Returns, This Time In Freetown". CBS Boston. January 26, 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  24. ^ "Wires strung across Freetown State Forest trails; state official warns of potential for serious harm". Fall River: The Herald News. May 24, 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2016.