East Point natural history

It is worth noting that East Point is home to a unique natural history. There is fascinating geologic history evidenced at East Point, Nahant.  The oldest rocks are around 500 million years old, which dates to the Cambrian Period, the time in which the volume and diversity of life on earth exploded. These oldest rocks are sedimentary limestone and mudstone layers deposited onto what was a shallow sea floor, and they contain unique fossils that are some of the oldest shelled animals in the world.

About 450 million years ago, the Cambrian layers were intruded by magma – which cooled to igneous rock called gabbro.  The gabbro is a dark gray or black, darkened by iron-rich minerals.  Both these rocks and the sedimentary layers were subjected to mountain-building and forces that tilted some of the rocks and earthquakes that caused faults to appear.  Basalt magma was able to move up through the fractures in the earth’s crust and into faults in the rocks (forming what are called dykes and sills) during the time when Africa pulled away from North America during the Jurassic period, about 195 million years ago.

Most recently in geologic history, coastal erosion following the last ice age wore away at much of the weaker rocks that connected Nahant to the mainland, leaving behind the “island” of Nahant that is connected to the mainland by a narrow, sandy bridge known as a tombolo, which is now called Nahant (or Long) Beach.

In terms of natural history, the rocky intertidal remains a relatively pristine example of classic New England intertidal habitat, and is replete with many different types of algae, snails, crabs, sea urchins, sea stars, sponges, nudibranchs, and more. Harbor Seals periodically come up on East Point’s rocky beaches to rest, and East Point is often visited by people fishing for striped bass and bluefish. From East Point’s shores, many seabirds can be seen, most notably loons, grebes and rafts of ducks in the winter, and gulls and cormorants year-round.  Snowy Owls are sporadic winter visitors occasionally seen resting on the cliffs, and gannets have been spotted as well after winter storms.

The site contains a mix of native and naturalized vegetation, some of which are opportunistic invasive species such as the host-choking Asian Bittersweet. Behind the bunker is a thriving meadow, once used for research on bees and plant pollination. Special considerations related to the maintenance of the grassy meadow atop Lodge Park are outlined municipal Open Space Plan, and many wildflower species thrive there. East Point is well known as a location where migratory birds such as warblers, vireos and thrushes stop to rest in the spring and fall, and monarch butterflies have been seen in large numbers as well during their fall migration. In summer, tree and barn swallows fly over the open meadows. Woodchucks, meadow voles and garter snakes are not uncommon. Deer and even coyote have been spotted in the back meadow in recent years.

 Special thanks to Dr. Richard Bailey (Northeastern University), Vi Patek (Nahant SWIM, Inc.) and Linda Pivacek (Nahant resident) for their contributions