Best known through Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Walden Pond and the surrounding Walden Woods was a favorite destination for walks by local Concord Transcendentalists Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau’s writings inspired respect for nature and even, some consider, the birth of the conservation movement. Today, Walden Pond comprises the heart of the Walden Pond State Reservation and is designated a National Historic Landmark, ensuring that visitors can enjoy the area as Thoreau once did.
Sometimes described as a “philosopher-naturalist,” Thoreau had both broad and deep interests in nature and his readings spanned wide-ranging subjects, including Eastern philosophy, Greek mythology, poetry, agriculture, and science. He recorded his observations about nature—both descriptive and philosophical—in journal entries that later became a source of material for lectures, essays, and books. Like his mentor Emerson, Thoreau looked to nature for a meaningful connection between the physical, symbolic, and spiritual worlds. In order to fully realize this connection, Thoreau decided to engage in an experiment. He would attempt to live closer to nature by moving into the woods owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson—a natural setting that he loved and home of Walden Pond. There, Thoreau built a cabin near Walden Pond and moved in on July 4, 1845. He described his reflections and observations of his time at the pond in vivid detail in Walden (excerpted above), a work now considered an American classic for its profound insights into living more simply and in deeper communication with nature.