• Atlantic Ocean beach at Cape Cod National Seashore

    Cape Cod

    National Seashore Massachusetts

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  • Access at seashore locations

    Sections of the boardwalk at the Red Maple Swamp Trail have been closed due to structural deterioration and safety concerns. Check at Salt Pond Visitor Center for the current status of this trail, and for your safety, remain out of closed areas.

Lakes and Ponds

CACO Kettle ponds - Wellfleet and Truro

Kettle Ponds on Cape Cod

NPS Photo

Kettle ponds are scattered across the outer Cape Cod landscape, an area consisting of glacial outwash plains that formed during the retreat of the Laurentide ice sheet some 18,000 years ago. Depressions in the outwash plain are called kettle holes. They mark the sites of ice blocks that were left behind by the retreating glacier and then buried by outwash sand and gravel deposits. Slow melting of the larger ice blocks left depressions that were deep enough to intersect with the water table. Rising sea levels pushed the outer Cape Cod freshwater lens upward, flooding the kettle holes to form lakes and ponds. These kettle hole lakes and ponds have little to no surface-water inflows or outflows, and receive all of their hydrologic inputs from groundwater and precipitation.

Kettle ponds at Cape Cod National Seashore are, in general, characterized by naturally low concentrations of nutrients, high water clarity, low pH, and low buffering capacity. Within the Cape Cod National Seashore there are 20 named kettle ponds. These ponds have been designated as ecological, recreational, and aesthetic treasures by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage Program for their biodiversity and rare species.


Did You Know?

Highland Light

The original Highland Light was built in 1797, becoming the first lighthouse on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It had 24 whale oil lamps set in 2 circles, one on top of the other with the reflector behind.