Head of the Plains


One of the best examples of sandplain grassland in the world, the Foundation’s Head of the Plains properties contains 436 acres of grasslands, shrub thickets, wetlands, and woodlands. Abutting this land to the north and east is the Foundation’s 780 acre Sanford Farm, Ram Pasture and the Woods properties.  Visitors to the property can enjoy miles of hiking trails, beautiful views across Clark’s Cove and spectacular sunsets along the shoreline. The Head of the Plains provides numerous opportunities for our science staff to conduct a wide variety of research projects on the rare habitats and species found on the property. For more information about some of these projects, please click here.


Access to Head of the Plains is via Red Barn Road from Madaket or Barrett Farm Road off of Madaket Road.  There are many areas to pull over and park but no restroom facilities.

This area was part of the “common land” that was set aside by Nantucket’s original shareholders for grazing sheep and cows and for farming. Once these practices ceased in the early 1900’s, grasses, sedges, wild flowers, and low shrubs that are adapted to growing in disturbed soils became established. Some of the best examples of sandplain grassland on Nantucket are now found at Head of the Plains, due in part to the historic agricultural use of this area. This unique habitat  provides nesting and hunting habitat for northern harriers, an endangered bird of prey. The area is also home to rare plant species such as New England blazing star, sandplain blue-eyed grass and bushy rockrose. Prescribed burning is currently being used as a management practice to prevent taller shrubs from shading and out-competing the rare species found here.

Anne W. Sanford and Mr. & Mrs. Frank H. Low
James M. and Louise Joan Andrew
Mr. & Mrs. Fred Gardner
Mr. & Mrs. Robert F. Mooney and Mr. & Mrs. Carl M. Mueller
Alice Cary Williams
Dr. Neal Nathanson and Dr. Constance A. Nathanson,
Robert B. Clark and Steven K. Herlitz,
Theodore L. Cross
Robert S. Landauer, Jr.
Purchased by NCF