Salt Pond is located in Eastham, Massachusetts. It’s actually a “kettle pond”, which means a depression in the earth created when the glaciers of the last ice age receded some 18,000 years ago. It was originally a freshwater pond, but over time, the ocean broke through the barrier, turning it into a tidal pond connected to Nauset Marsh.
Enriched by tidal action, the pond is host to a diverse community of marine and bird life, including terns, herons, cormorants, and seals. The popular Nauset Marsh Trail takes hikers on a scenic tour around the pond.
On a more historic note, Salt Pond was charted by French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, in 1605. In that era, the place was still a navigable bay occupied by the Nauset tribe.
The tethered rowboat is a fixture on Salt Pond. It’s been here for as long as I can recall, floating aimlessly on the east side of the pond. Someone clearly maintains the boat, as evidenced by the coat of vivid green paint it received a few years ago. These days, the iconic rowboat serves more as a colorful tourist attraction than a fishing implement. Regardless, it acts as a great foreground for pond photos.
BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH
The best time of year to photograph along Salt Pond is in spring when the marsh grasses are a vibrant green color, or in autumn when the grasses take on a golden hue and the trees along the edge the pond show some color. I find this place most serene at sunrise since I’m usually alone.
The scene is backlit (with the camera facing the sun) at sunrise between March and September, so those months are more likely to catch colorful skies at dawn and sunrise. The rowboat will be side-lit the remainder of the year and front-lit (with the sun at your back) at sunset most of the year.
The east side of Salt Pond is easily accessible — it even includes a paved parking area that accommodates 6-7 vehicles. The pond lies some 40 miles from the Sagamore Bridge on US-6 East, and about 2.5 miles from the traffic circle in Orleans. It will be on the right side of the road when heading east along US-6.
When you reach Eastham, keep an eye out for Locust Road on your left. Access to the parking area and east side of the pond is almost directly across the street from Locust Road. If you reach the traffic light at Nauset Road and see the sign and turn-off for the Salt Pond Visitor Center, you’ve gone too far.
Since this is a tidal pond, expect the marsh grasses to be wet and the ground to be soft and mushy. I always wear knee-high rubber boots when photographing along here to avoid getting my shoes drenched.
If you’re lucky, you may have a chance encounter with some birds and marine animals. I once had a seal surface for air at my feet while I photographed along the edge of the pond. I can’t say it was a happy occasion for the seal, but it certainly was a memorable moment for me. Be safe and enjoy the scenery!