10 Things to Know About Santuit Pond

10 Things to Know About Santuit Pond 

Santuit Pond and River are important resources for the town of Mashpee as well as the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The pond plays a crucial role historically, culturally, ecologically, and recreationally. Many people depend on the pond to experience and appreciate the local landscape. Here are 10 need-to-know facts about Santuit Pond.

1. Santuit Pond is a kettle-hole pond

Formed about 12,000 years ago from glacial retreating. The pond is about 176 acres, with an average depth of 5.9 feet and the deepest point is only 11 feet.

2. An important resource for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, also known as the People of the First Light, has been Stewards of the pond and surrounding land and water for over 12,000 years. Poor water quality in the pond and the Sanuit River has affected the Tribe’s ability to fish, hunt, gather, recreate, and connect to surrounding natural resources. Santuit’s increasingly hazardous water quality has threatened their livelihoods, historical connection to the land, identity, and overall cultural connection to the water source.

3. Where did “Santuit” come from?

How did Santuit Pond earn its name? “Santuit” means Place of The Sachems, as the area of land containing and surrounding the pond was a place where Chiefs and Sachems would gather for ceremonies, and where Tribal members could socialize and trade goods.

4. River Herring spawning habitat

Every spring, migrating adult river herring make their way from the ocean to Nantucket Sound, and then to the Santuit River to reproduce. A 30-foot-long concrete pool and weir fish ladder have been constructed to help the river herring get from the base of the dam to the pond. Mashpee even celebrates Herring Day to commemorate the return of river herring. Local visitors, scientists, naturalists, and members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe gather to talk about the scientific and cultural importance of herring.

5. Home to a variety of fish species

Such as largemouth bass, chain pickerel, golden shiner, pumpkinseed, alewife (searun), yellow perch, brown bullhead, white Sucker, white perch, and American eel.

6. Recreation

Conservation areas and preserves surround Santuit Pond and River providing many opportunities for recreation, such as trails for walking, biking, and hiking. Kayaking, canoeing, boating, and fishing are among other popular forms of recreation for visitors, but the resources’ water quality issue presents risks and complications for safety and access. 

7. Tourism

The Town of Mashpee offers many attractions for visitors to experience and appreciate Cape Cod’s natural resources. Mashpee is home to sandy beaches, four large freshwater ponds, thousands of acres of conservation land, museums, and world-class golf courses. Visitors especially come to Santuit Pond and River to watch and experience the River Herring Run.

8. Water quality and phosphorus loading

Internal nutrient cycling from 50+ years of development is the biggest source of phosphorus along with other external sources such as stormwater runoff and septic-system pollution.

9. Eutrophication and algae overgrowth

Excess phosphorus in the pond has fueled an overgrowth of plant life and frequent harmful algal blooms. This overgrowth decreases sunlight below the surface and reduces dissolved oxygen levels in the water, harming aquatic species.

10. Connection to land use

Homes, lawns, and cranberry bogs near Santuit Pond over the years have contributed to the pollution of Santuit Pond through the use of fertilizers and the lack of septic system maintenance. Since Santuit Pond directly flows into Santuit River (also known as the Cotuit River), its hazardous water conditions influence downstream water quality, harming plant and animal species in the river and on the land surrounding the river.