West Falmouth's Oyster Pond and Glacial Moraine
For your safety, please proceed off the bikeway before reading about this view!
West Falmouth Oyster Pond and Glacial Moraine
Buzzards Bay lies west of the Bikeway and can be viewed from Mile Markers 5 to 7. Buzzards Bay is part of the National Estuary Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is celebrated for its regional importance as a marine habitat, Buzzards Bay remains a significant summer and fall feeding area for Bluefish, Striped Bass, and a variety of other fish species. Buzzards Bay was named for the misidentified Osprey, a bird of prey that was near extinction from the 1950s to the 1960s. Since that time, osprey have made a remarkable recovery and now nest each summer on the high platforms visible from the Bikeway.1
Approximately 18,000 years ago, the warming climate caused the ice sheet covering this area to melt into three massive glacial lobes which lay along the west and northern edges of Cape Cod. The southernmost five miles of the Bikeway lie on or just east of the Buzzards Bay Moraine. The moraine is the rocky line of irregular hills created along the eastern edge of the Buzzards Bay glacial lobe. Streams of melting ice from the glacial lobe front carried sand and gravel that was deposited to the southeast, forming outwash plains that make up most of Falmouth east of the moraine.2
The section of the Bikeway between Depot Avenue and Ter Heun Drive (near Mile Marker 4) is cut into the edge of this moraine. Extending east from here is the low, pitted outwash plain that extends south and east to Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound. Near Mile Marker 5 on the Bikeway, as you cross the moraine, you can see large boulders or glacial erratics. These large rocks melted out of the ice and were too heavy to be moved by meltwater streams. In this area, the railroad took advantage of a low spot to cross the moraine with as little excavation as possible. This pass is the location of a former tongue of glacial ice that persisted after the ice around Beebe Woods had melted away.3 2
- "The Shining Sea Bikeway: A Path Through the Natural History and Cultural Heritage of Falmouth on Cape Cod." Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, Town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, version 2009, https://www.falmouthma.gov/The-Shining-Sea-Bikeway
- "The Shining Sea Bikeway: A Path Through the Natural History and Cultural Heritage of Falmouth on Cape Cod." https://www.falmouthma.gov/The-Shining-Sea-Bikeway