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LSS240: 2016 Student Guide Reinterpreting the Landscape of the Pioneer Valley

Created by student in LSS240 - Spring 2016

Reinterpreting Mount Tom State Reservation

The Mount Tom State Reservation was established in 1902 taking the title of the oldest park in the planning unit. The reservation is located in the cities of Holyoke and Easthampton along the Mount Tom Range. Over the years it has grown from its original 1,500 acres authorized to it’s present day 2,161 acres. This reservation host more rare species than any other unit on the Mount Holyoke Range.  

Cultural Landscape Resources within Mount Tom State Reservation

Topography and Recreation

This Reservation is predominantly located along the northern half of the the Mount Tom Range extending for four miles from the northern base of Mount Nonotuck to the north and to the southern base of Mount Tom to the south. The elevation ranges from 1,150 feet to 400 feet above sea level. There are approximately 22 miles of trails within the reservation.



Mount Tom is considered an important host to more rare species than any other unit on the Mount Holyoke Range Planning Unit. This Reservation contains twenty-seven known state-listed rare species. The quantity and location of the species has led to the designation of 1,955.52 acres (99.28% of the reservation) as Priority Habitat under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. This is the greatest percentage of any property in the planning unit. The majority of the reservation approximately 1951.21 acres (99.06%) has been designated BioMap2 Core Habitat and more than half of 1,096.43 (55.69%) has been identified as Critical Natural Landscape.


Prominent sites of architectural or archeological resources in Mount Tom State Reservation are predominantly archeological sites showings signs of Native American occupation, historic quarrying activities, historic recreational use as a tourist destination as an early state reservation, as well as activities of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The present day Visitor Center Area contains the majority of the historic building infrastructure. A more extensive inventory of the large variety of reservation’s cultural resources can be found in the 2006 "Cultural Resources Inventory Report: Mt. Tom State Reservation, Easthampton and Holyoke, Massachusetts. UM-510. April 2006. University of Massachusetts, Archaeological Services. Amherst, MA".



A prominent feature of the landscape documented is the Eyrie House Ruins to the north.  The Eyrie House was established in 1861 until it was destroyed by a fire in 1901. These ruins represent the prominent tourism and recreation industry that was created as popularity of the beauty of the landscape grew and railroad became a popular and accessible source of transportation. The Eyrie House was once one of two hotels on the Mount Tom Range. Guest would arrive by train at the Smith Ferry Station located east of the reservation and transported by horse-drawn wagon up Mount Nonotuck to revel in the beauty of the Connecticut River Valley.


The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) is part of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. This  program is part of a larger regional initiative by NatureServe. NatureServe is an organization that supports a network of independent centers across the Western Hemisphere that collect and analyze data about animals, plants and ecological communities. The NHESP goals are to collect and manage data to help protect vertebrates, invertebrate animals and native plants that are officially listed as Endangered, Threatened or of Special Concern in Massachusetts. An important aspect of protecting these species is also protect the landscape in which these species live so land protection is of great importance and helps to preserve this cultural landscape.


Approximately 74,313 people visited Mount Tom State Reservation in Fiscal Year 2012. This reservation hosts a variety of opportunities all year round from ice-skating in the winter to hang gliding of the summit in the summer. This reservation has become one of the premier hawk watching spots in New England. Mount Tom State Reservation contains an expansive collection of historic architecture and DCR has tried to highlight these cultural landscape aspect through their Self-Guided Hikes Brochure. This brochure highlights the exceptional recreation opportunities the reservation offers with brief descriptions of archeological sites you will see along the trail and insight into the history of the landscape.