Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on how much of the preserve you explore. The intersecting trails on the property total about 2.75 miles. Some of the trails are wide and fairly smooth, following the bed of old woods roads, while other trails in the network are narrow hiking trails, though they aren’t particularly root- or rock-filled.
How to get there: The preserve parking area is located off Washington Road in Waldoboro. From Atlantic Highway (Route 1) in Waldoboro, turn onto Washington Road (Route 220) and drive north 6.7 miles, crossing Old Augusta Road on the way. The parking lot will be to your left, just after the bridge. If approaching from the north, the preserve parking lot is 3.3 miles south of where Route 220 intersects with Route 17.
Information: Riverbrook Preserve in Waldoboro is comprised of 371 acres of fields and forestland sandwiched between the Medomak River and Meadow Brook. The land was purchased by the Medomak Valley Land Trust in 2014, thanks to a donation from an anonymous donor. Since then, the land trust has built a network of naerly 3 miles of intersecting trails that lead to interesting historic and natural features.
In addition to plenty of wildlife habitat, the property features a historic farm. The gift of the property stipulated that the house and associated buildings could be sold. Therefore, a 25-acre homestead was created and protected by a conservation easement before sale, ensuring the parcel would be protected from future development.
At a small parking lot off Washington Road, the trail network begins with a mowed path that strikes through a field of wildflowers and crosses a scenic wooden bridge. Marked with blue blazes, the trail then enters the forest and splits into a loop. The intersection is marked with the number 2 (the trailhead was 1).
Throughout the network, numbers (1-9) are posted at intersections and key landmarks, including the remains of an old mill on Meadow Brook (6) and a beaver dam (9). Also, the letter “R” marks the tiny rapids on the Medomak River. Narrow bog bridges have recently been constructed to help hikers over sections of the trail that are sometimes muddy.
The preserve features about a mile of frontage on the Medomak River, and about 2 miles of frontage on Meadow Brook. These bodies of water mark the southern and western edge of the preserve. The property is mostly forested, though about 40 acres of fields are located on its eastern portion. These fields are leased to a local farmer and typically planted in a rotation of hay, corn, beans and squash.
Much of the forest is fairly young because trees were harvested within the past few decades. This new growth includes a wide variety of native plants, including jewelweed, blackberries, raspberries, pearly everlasting, bunchberry and ferns. In the fields are wildflowers including black-eyed susans, Queen Anne’s lace and goldenrod. According to the Medomak Valley Land Trust, rare species of plants are found in the many wetlands and along the river’s edge.
The preserve also contains a deer wintering area, an area of heavy tree cover that protects the deer from deep snow.
The preserve is open year round for hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during daylight hours. Hunting is permitted with permission. ATVs are not permitted, but snowmobiles are permitted on one designated trails. Dogs are permitted but must be under control at all times.
Personal note: My hike began in a sea of goldenrods and Queen Anne’s lace on Aug. 21 at Riverbrook Preserve. The tall wildflowers waved in the breeze. An American lady butterfly, with its beautiful orange and peach wings, fluttered from blossom to blossom. And a tiny toad, no bigger than the tip of my thumb, leaped across the trail and disappeared in the grass.
Once I entered the woods, the mosquitoes found me. Fortunately, I’d thought to bring emergency repellent. Otherwise, they might have driven me mad.
As I neared the bank of the Medomak River, I spied two large Eastern painted turtles sunning on a log. From my experience with turtles, they’re pretty easy to spook, so I kept my distance, photographed them with me telephoto lens, then crept past them in the woods.
I also spotted what I believe to be a northern pearly-eye butterfly, which is brown with beautiful markings that include several dark brown circles bordered with a pale yellow. And as I walked one of the old woods roads in the preserve, a ruffed grouse burst from the underbrush and flew off, making my heart jump up into my throat.
The trails were easy to follow, and the numbered intersections and landmarks made it easy to navigate. However, I would have been lost without a map. So when you visit, be sure to photograph or trace the map at the trailhead to refer to while you walk.
Beside the river I found bright red flowers in bloom that I believe to be cardinal flowers. I also stirred a few frogs from their perches along the bank. And when I wasn’t observing beautiful plants or wildlife, I was finding things they’d left behind. Beside the trail I found a wing of a monarch butterfly, and later on, a large feather banded with brown and white. I left them both where they were. I imagine another hiker might find them interesting.