Metro

Storms uncover carriage tracks from 1800s on Orleans beach

Horse and carriage tracks were uncovered on Nauset Beach in Orleans after storms washed away much of the sand.
Orleans Police
Horse and carriage tracks were uncovered on Nauset Beach in Orleans after storms washed away much of the sand.

The barrage of storms in March has relentlessly pounded down on Orleans’ beaches, bringing 35-foot-tall waves and high winds. But officials recently discovered something else — horse and carriage tracks reportedly from the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Police Lieutenant Kevin Higgins said he found the tracks Sunday afternoon near the end of Smith Neck Road by Nauset Beach. They had been imprinted into the beach’s peat — made up of compacted grass, mud, and clay — which was covered by about 85 feet of sand, he said. The nor’easters blew nearly all of it away.

“We had the two nor’easters and the beach was pretty scarified on the outside,” Higgins said Tuesday. “It was really eaten away. It’s not uncommon to expose chunks of peat when it gets exposed like that.”

Advertisement

Horses and carriages often went out on the beach in the late 1800s and early 1900s, since people harvested sea grass for gardens or traveled to beach camps, he said.

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“And I assume a storm came in, covered the beach with sand, and ever since then, they’ve been buried,” Higgins said.

But he said there is still some speculation on the time period of the tracks.

“It was using a little bit of my own knowledge,” he said. “My father was born in 1912, and he recalled stories of my grandfather using horses and carriages on the beach. Anyone who would have been around is not around anymore.”

He said other Orleans residents have also reported seeing the tracks two or three years ago after past storms.

Advertisement

“This is not the Orleans Police Department’s history,” Orleans police said in a Facebook post. “It is collectively all our history.”

Nauset is among the Cape beaches that have been walloped by recent storms.

Erosion and astronomical high tides from the March 2 nor’easter have perhaps doomed an iconic seafood shack, Liam’s, which also sits on Nauset Beach. The 28-year-old shack is awaiting a final decision from Orleans selectmen on whether the town will have to tear down the structure.

On Monday, the town voted to terminate its lease with Liam’s, the Cape Cod Times reported.

As the Tuesday storm progressed, officials said it was likely that the sand movement would further affect the horse and carriage tracks, though they’re not seeing anything too disastrous.

Elise Takahama can be reached at elise.takahama@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @elisetakahama.