Hodges Village Dam, Oxford
Hodges Village Dam, located less than a mile west of the Sutton Avenue exit (4W) of Route 395, on Howarth Road off Charlton Street, Oxford, MA, has some of the most diverse and interesting trails in central MA. There is no permanent lake behind the dam which was built by the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control. It is filled only temporarily with runoff from rainwater which would otherwise cause flooding problems downstream. The lands upstream of the dam are open to the public providing hundreds of acres of forest, shrub meadows, glacial topography and wetlands, all interlaced with outstanding trails.
Few of the trails are blazed and signed but they are well-used and easy to follow. Exploring the network of trails could take you days as they wind around the tops of glacial terraces, foundations of long-abandoned buildings and travel an old railroad bed and woods roads. The Corps permits properly registered motorized trail bikes and e-mountain bikes on the west side of the French river only. But the moto trails can be dug up a bit and in places sandy or muddy.
Mountain bikes are welcome on either side of the river. The hardpacked trails are well used and relatively easy to negotiate. The overused sections - you'll find a few - are rock strewn and exposed roots can make even slow oing a challenge %3A(I have the bruises to prove it.) Mountain bikers don't crash, they "bonk".
The entire area can be traversed on woods roads or the west side's old railroad bed in less than an hour, but the meandering trails are far more scenic and challenging. The walk back to our car with a flat or broken bike may take a few hours, provided you know which direction you came from. A helmet, patch kit, pump and water are always good ideas.
The Mid-State Hiking trail runs across the area from west to east, crossing he French River at the dam. It was laid out for foot traffic and maintained by volunteers who would prefer to see it stay that way. There are only a few narrow singletrack sections which leave the relatively wide woods roads, and I recommend avoiding these while biking. The trail is well marked with yellow triangles and signs, so it is easy to avoid.
Parking is available at Hodges Village Dam, at Greenbrier Recreation Area on Route 12 (run by the town of Oxford) and at the motorcycle trailhead on the old railroad bed off Clara Barton Road at the north end of the area. Maps are available free from the Corps By calling the Park Manager, Timothy Russell, at (508)248-5697.
**Reprinted through the courtesy of the Quinebaug Redwing.
Additiona Thoughts: This is a fun place to ride. Blackstone Valley NEMBA has done a lot of trai, work here and occasionally holds an event. The singletracks are numerous and quite enjoyable. There are too many trails to ride in one day. You WILL be back.