Back Tracking: Nor’easter reveals historic hoof prints

Ancient hoof prints on Massachusetts beach

Here in New England we’ve been battered by three severe storms in two weeks. The result has been lots of damage, but also something quite magical. At low tide at Nauset beach, the storm exposed a Peat bed, previously covered by sand deposits, and revealed horse and carriage tracks from the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Hoofprints on Nauset beach
These hoofprints were left in the peat beds on Nauset Beach 200 years ago. Photo from the Orleans Police Department.

The tracks are a  Tracks are most likely from the 1800’s or early 1900’s, when horse and carriages (or Mules and work carts) worked the outer beach. Back then, the beach extended much further and carriages were used to bring supplies to fishermans’ cabins and to harvest beach grass and peat (which was burned as fuel).


According to Sue Moynihan, chief of interpretation and culture resources management at the Cape Cod National Seashore, this isn’t the first time the tracks have been revealed. Provided the peat

Hoof prints in the peat
While it’s not as exciting as finding dinosaur prints, but still a remarkable record of life in the 1800s.

beds are covered again with sand, the tracks will continue to be preserved. Unfortunately, if they stay exposed, wave action will cause the old peat beds to break up and the those fragile 200 year old hoof prints will be lost to the sea and sand.

These fragile tracks in old peat beds were revealed after the latest nor’easter. Photo courtesy of Danya Mahota.


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