Shifting Lots Preserve - Plymouth, MA

Gift of:

Elin Danielson, Ruth Lapham, Albert & Laura Marsh, Donald P. Quinn (2003)


In spite of the fact that the property has always been privately owned, visitors frequented the property in the 1990s in ever-increasing numbers, many in motor vehicles. The long-standing owners of the property realized that the best way to achieve multiple goals was to work with a conservation organization, for the perpetual protection and management as a nature preserve. Wildlands Trust restricted vehicular access to the property and created the preserve in 2003. 


This preserve includes the southern portion known as Ellisville Harbor that includes a salt marsh estuary. Salt marshes are commonly known to be the most productive ecosystems on earth. They provide essential nursery grounds for numerous fish species. Preserving the quality of the salt marsh helps to protect a web of interconnected species. Shifting Lots Preserve is also home to sand dunes and a migrating barrier beach that help to protect adjacent uplands from severe storm surges. The dunes are fragile, changing systems that must be preserved in order for them to fulfill this protective function. The barrier beach also serves as crucial nesting and foraging habitat for migrating shorebirds, including the federally threatened piping plover and several species of terns. 

The ponded area of water you see between the beach and the barrier beach was formerly the outflow from the marsh. This channel was created during the “perfect storm” when sand blocked the mouth of the existing channel. Over the next 12 years, this barrier gradually grew, extending the length of the channel and ultimately causing erosion to private property. In November of 2003, a private party secured the permits necessary to reopen the channel directly to the bay and block the circuitous route. Since then, the barrier has continued to evolve with each passing storm. Ultimately, it is expected to migrate toward land.

There are no formal trails at Shifting Lots. We ask that you remain on the existing path through the dunes while walking to the beach to minimize damage to sensitive grasses. 



Salt Marsh Lane (off Rt. 3A)


45 acres


From Exit 2 off Route 3, head east to the stop sign at Route 3A. Turn left and go about 2 miles to Ellisville Road. Continue to Salt Marsh Lane (gravel) on the right. Drive down Salt Marsh Lane to property on left before hill.


Parking is available at the Preserve September 15 through May 15. During the summer months when parking lot is closed, vehicles may drop off passengers at the gate and park at neighboring Ellisville Harbor State Park.