ELEVEN stone pillars and a plaque are all that remain to mark the site where transcendentalist author, Henry David Thoreau, spent two years, two months and two days experimenting with the simple life on the banks of Walden Pond. In his own words, Thoreau retreated from society to “live deliberately, […] and not, when [he] came to die, discover that [he] had not lived.”
The land upon which Thoreau built his 10’ x 15’ cabin was owned by fellow author, Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose family loaned it out on the condition that he assist with tasks, such as clearing some of the wooded land. In doing so, Thoreau also constructed for himself a bean-field and lived a predominantly vegetarian life off the land. Indeed, vegetarianism was one of the underpinning laws of the philosophy he developed at Walden Pond.
Thoreau’s reflections on his life at the pond, immortalised in Walden: Or a Life in the Woods, were published in 1854, seven years after he completed his experiment and returned to society in Concord, where he lived for the majority of his life. By 1866, the railroad (which was completed only the year before Thoreau moved to Walden Pond) had funded the establishment of a range of recreational activities around the pond, such as bathhouses, an amusement hall, and concession stands, severely altering the serenity of the wild that had attracted the author.
When the amusement park burned down in 1902, it was not rebuilt, and in 1922 the descendants of Emerson donated 88 acres of land to the state government to preserve the area as a site of literary and conservational significance. Following plans to level and develop the woods for a carpark, the managing commissioners were sued and the judge ruled that the improvements would not be in the spirit of the donation. In 1962, the Walden Pond State Reservation was named a National Historic Landmark, and in 1975, the pond became part of the state park system.
Today, the pond is popular as a swimming and walking spot, with boating, fishing and picnicking facilities available. Overnight camping is not permitted in the park.
Physical address: 915 Walden Street, Concord, Lincoln
Phone number: +1 978 369 3254
Business hours: 7am – 7:30pm daily (times may vary seasonally)
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