Freetown-Fall River State Forest

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Freetown-Fall River State Forest
Massachusetts State Forest
Profile Rock (Assonet).jpg
Profile Rock, 1902
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Bristol
Municipalities Freetown, Fall River
Headquarters Slab Bridge Road, Assonet
 - elevation 207 ft (63 m) [1]
 - coordinates 41°46′45″N 71°02′31″W / 41.77917°N 71.04194°W / 41.77917; -71.04194Coordinates: 41°46′45″N 71°02′31″W / 41.77917°N 71.04194°W / 41.77917; -71.04194
Area 5,217 acres (2,111 ha) [2]
Established c. 1930
Management Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Location in Massachusetts
Website: Freetown-Fall River State Forest

The Freetown-Fall River State Forest (commonly shortened to Freetown State Forest) is a large tract of forest land located in Freetown and Fall River, Massachusetts. It is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and operated by the Department of Conservation and Recreation with headquarters in Assonet. 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 northern most boundary. It is said to be "5 minutes from Fall River and Taunton, and 15 minutes from New Bedford."[3]


The majority of the land was acquired over twenty years beginning in the 1930s. The forest land includes Profile Rock, a granite outcropping which local Native Americans believe to be the image of Chief Massasoit. Also in the forest is a 227-acre (92 ha) Wampanoag reservation.[3]

The Civilian Conservation Corps worked on the property in its early years. A statue was dedicated in honor of the program and its efforts in the forest in September, 2002.[4]

Activities and amenities[edit]

  • Trails: 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]
  • Day-use area: A picnic area with wading pool, playing fields and restrooms is located near the main entrance.
  • Fishing and hunting: 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.


The forest is part of the Northeastern coastal forests ecoregion.[5]

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.[6] 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).[7] The last major fire occurred on April 30, 2001, when fire destroyed between 90 and 100 acres (40 ha) of the forest.[7] Most of the fires were put out on April 30, while small fires continued into May 1.[8]

Crimes and incidents[edit]

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.[9] 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.[10] These reports would have bearing on the fourth Kater trial (1996–2000) which ended with the conviction upheld.[11] 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.[12]

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,[13] and in 2001 two men were found shot to death on Bell Rock Road, which runs through the forest connecting Assonet and Fall River.[14] Two assaults were also reported: a Fall River man in 1991[15] and a teenager from New Bedford in 1998.[16]

Other incidents include hazardous waste dumping (1996),[17] reports of aggressive abandoned dogs (2006),[18] and reports of an escaped emu wandering the forest (2006).[19]


  1. ^ "Freetown Fall River State Forest". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 
  2. ^ "2012 Acreage Listing" (PDF). Department of Conservation and Recreation. April 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Freetown-Fall River State Forest". MassParks. Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  4. ^ Albrenaz, Ami. Freetown statue honors Depression era workers. The New Bedford Standard-Times, September 29, 2002.
  5. ^ Olson, D. M, E. Dinerstein et al. (2001). "Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth". BioScience 51 (11): 933–938. doi:10.1641/0006-3568(2001)051[0933:TEOTWA]2.0.CO;2. 
  6. ^ "Winds, dry air fuel forest fires near Fall River". The Boston Globe, September 11, 1980.
  7. ^ a b Apuzzo, Matt, with Aaron Nicodemus and Monica Allen. Fire rips state forest. The New Bedford Standard-Times, May 1, 2001.
  8. ^ Brown, Curt. Firefighters douse forest's hot spots. The New Bedford Standard-Times, May 2, 2001.
  9. ^ Costa-Crowell, Carol Lee. Murderer's appeal loses 17 year edge. The New Bedford Standard-Times, December 22, 1995.
  10. ^ "Satan cult probed in 2 deaths". The Boston Globe, April 19, 1980.
  11. ^ Finucane, Martin. Murder conviction upheld in Kater case. The New Bedford Standard-Times, August 31, 2000.
  12. ^ "Satanic angle raised in slay trial". The Boston Globe, November 5, 1996.
  13. ^ "Man sentenced to life for murder of drifter". The Boston Globe, March 27, 1988.
  14. ^ "2 victims identified in Fall River slaying". The Boston Globe, July 15, 2001.
  15. ^ "Plea entered in assault". The Boston Globe, November, 1991.
  16. ^ Rising, David. Woman's link to beaten boy investigated. The New Bedford Standard-Times, October 15, 1998.
  17. ^ Estrella, John. Hazardous waste found dumped in Freetown. The New Bedford Standard-Times, December 13, 1996.
  18. ^ Fraga, Brian. Residents hounded by dogs left in forest. The New Bedford Standard-Times, March 9, 2006.
  19. ^ Fraga, Brian. [1]. The New Bedford Standard-Times, July 26, 2006.

External links[edit]