The Story of the Dorothy Frances Rice Sanctuary

It’s up in the wilds of Peru, aptly named for its 2,043-foot average elevation, highest in the state. Here you can find total solitude, tranquility and unspoiled beauty. Dorothy Frances Rice Sanctuary is nearly 300 acres of woodlands, meadows and a pond for everyone to enjoy. Decades ago, it was used for several years as a research headquarters and summer residence for several Smith College students.

The sanctuary was established in the late 1920s on property owned by Oran Rice, a New York City architect, and his wife, Mary, to honor their daughter, a recent Smith College graduate who had succumbed to tuberculosis. Dorothy Frances loved this land, the site of her family’s summer home. After Oran Rice died, his widow set up a family trust to preserve and maintain the land, which was donated to the New England Forestry Foundation in 1974, along with a maintenance fund for the trails and the caretaker’s cottage. The family’s summer home within the preserve had been destroyed by fire and later was demolished.
After a brief walk on Rice Road into the property a clearing reveals the former caretakers cottage, a wishing well, and an array of trail maps nearby. A notebook invites visitors to record their observations of flora and fauna.

There are six colored trails well marked and maintained by three volunteers. The red, white, orange, blue, yellow and pink trails are clearly marked with signs and arrows, so there’s no way to get lost, even though the wilderness area feels remote and isolated. The Red Trail also honors the late Stephen J. Phillips, a Peru resident (1947-1995), who had served with distinction in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. A short path leads to a plaque flanked by small American flags.

Another great guided group hike in the books Saturday at Dorothy Rice Sanctuary up in the wilds of Peru! Thank you to everyone for coming and exploring the Hilltowns with us! support the Hilltown Hikers become a member!
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