Recently, we celebrated our wedding anniversary with an afternoon strolling the lovely trails of Dodge Point Public Reserved Land on the tidal Damariscotta River in Newcastle, Maine. We visited near low tide so much of the river banks were exposed.
The reserve incorporates 521 acres of mostly wooded land with over 8000 ft of river frontage. The land was once a tree farm and is circled by an easily hiked two-mile long roadway once used for the farm. It is aptly named Old Farm Road. Several trails branch from the road to access the interior of the property. Below, my husband Tim invites us to step into the woods.
The trail quickly leaves the hot summer sun for the deep, quiet shade of fairly thick forest with many huge, old growth oaks that somehow escaped the chainsaws. A passage beneath the trees in late August involves the sound of periodic disturbances as acorns drop from the high limbs. I think of Chicken Little and hope no acorn happens to fall on my head. In many places the forest floor is thick with tiny oak trees about 8-12″ tall, the result of last year’s acorns sprouting. One in a thousand may survive to become a huge tree some day.
This land was once divided into several farms in the 1800s. Old rock walls run through woods that at one time were most likely pasture. A few minutes hiking brings us to Ice Pond. The fresh water feature created by damming a small stream provided ice for local residents before the advent of electricity and refrigerators. Today the pond supports a thriving community of water life and affords a clear swimming hole. Three painted turtles sunned themselves on a log as we passed by.
After Ice Pond the roadway slowly drops to the river. In places plantations of tall red pine provide a park-like atmosphere. Beneath the pines flourishes a healthy growth of ground nut. This wild relative of the peanut was a food source for native populations millenia ago. Beyond the pines, a trail leads to the shore. The Damariscotta River is deep enough for good sized craft to navigate. At the north end of the shoreline are the remains of a brickworks. The only evidence of that industry to be found now are the thousands of broken bricks littering the riverside. In the 18th and 19th centuries red bricks were made here and shipped downstream.
Much of the shoreline is ocean-like due to the brackish water and tidal flows. The long, gently sloped banks are sand and gravel interspersed by large rocks and the bodies of giant trees felled by the slow erosion. Tim discovered a gigantic “bouncy tree” his name for tree trunks that spring up and down when jumped upon.
The banks and mudflats support a healthy population of clams as evidenced by the many empty shells. In places sandy spurs jut into the clear, slow current providing enticing swimming areas for hot days. We followed the river for several hundred feet before returning to the woods. Completing the circumnavigation of the preserve brought us back to the parking area.
The beautiful and easily accessed Dodge Point afforded us a delightful escape for our romantic matrimonial celebration. I think some day soon I will bring the grandchildren to enjoy this place. Here is a link to a website for the preserve: http://www.damariscottariver.org/trail/dodge-point-public-reserved-land/