The Amherst College Wildlife Sanctuary includes approximately 500 acres in a diverse collection of open fields (both actively maintained and unmanaged), wetlands, flood plain woods, river, upland woods, plantation pines, and ponds—and is an important place for both recreation and research.

Open Fields

The variety of open fields located south and southeast of the main campus are important and scenic parts of the landscape and of the ecological diversity of the Sanctuary. Some are used through rental agreements for hay production, others are mowed to keep open as wildlife habitat, and several are unmanaged.

Forested Areas

People walking across a bridge in a dense forest Forested areas within the Sanctuary include red pine plantations, white pine stands, areas of swamp hardwoods, flood plain hardwoods along the Fort River, and upland hardwoods. Large specimen white oaks and white pines are present in the Eastern Wildlife Sanctuary south of College Street.

Ponds, Streams and Wetlands

Principal water resources in the Sanctuary include:

  • Fort River and a major tributary system coming into the Fort River from the north
  • Fearing Brook and its small tributaries
  • Two ponds
  • Sections of wet meadow in the main South Pleasant Street field and near South East Street
  • Wet shrub-filled swales near Mill Lane and the main South Pleasant Street field
  • Vernal pools in the area near the Physical Plant south of College Street and in the Wildlife Sanctuary area west of South East Street
  • Swamp forest near South East Street

Research and Environmental Monitoring

The Amherst College Wildlife Sanctuary is the site of ongoing teaching and research by students and faculty. The land is also actively managed by our Facilities Department to support conservation of animals such as grassland birds and turtles.

Sanctuary Trails Interactive Tours

In 2021, the sanctuary trails were revitalized as part of the College's Bicentennial. The campus map includes tours of each of the Sanctuary trails that you can follow along as you walk. Access each tour below; there are also QR codes on trail signage that will link to each tour.

People looking up with binoculars in a dense forest


One can find many seasonal or vernal pools throughout the College Sanctuary south of College Street and west of South East Street.

Two people walking in a field of flowers


Book & Plow Farm was established in 2013 through the efforts of a committee of students, professors, alums, and staff.

Mount Holyoke in dense mist


Mammoth Loop goes through the heart of the Sanctuary, connecting with the Book & Plow trail at several points.

An aerial shot of the sanctuary in the fall


Download a printable map of the Sanctuary that includes additional points of interest for each of the Sanctuary trails.

Sights and Sounds of the Amherst College Sanctuary

The Amherst College Wildlife Sanctuary, which celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2013, was created during the Great Depression to provide jobs for students and town residents.

Students Encounter Nature around Amherst

“Encounters with Nature” is an Amherst College First-Year seminar taught by Professors Nicola Courtright and Rick Lopez that explores the nature surrounding the college, including the college's Wildlife Sanctuary.

One in the Hand

Over the summer of 2008, Amherst College Professor of Biology Ethan Clotfelter worked closely with students to study the behavior of birds through a series of 150 nest boxes installed in the Amherst College Wildlife Sanctuary.