Difficulty: Easy. The trail exploring Snow Natural Area in Brooksville is fairly even and forms a 1-mile loop. Exposed tree roots criss-cross some sections, so watch your step.
Information: The Maude E. and Eugene Snow Natural Area is a 40-acre preserve in Brooksville with more than 2,550 feet of shorefront on the Bagaduce River. A trail totaling just over 1 mile enters the forested property and quickly splits into a loop that travels to several viewpoints along the shore.
The conserved property is owned and maintained by Blue Hill Heritage Trust, which acquired it in 2014 in a merger with The Conservation Trust of Brooksville, Castine and Penobscot. The Conservation Trust purchased Snow Natural Area in 1998 thanks to public donations and a grant from the Maine Community Foundation.
Starting at a small parking area, the trail on the property is marked with blue blazes and travels through a forest that is constantly changing in composition. At the beginning of your hike, you’ll pass under the twisting boughs of white cedar trees. You’ll also pass through dense stands of young balsam firs. And closer to the water is a stand of tall red oaks and another stand that’s predominantly big-tooth aspens.
This preserve is an excellent place to view wildlife. The Bagaduce River is an estuary, a place where freshwater from seven major streams and ponds mix with saltwater of the ocean. Along the shore of Snow Natural Area, you’ll notice rockweed, crabs and other ocean flora and fauna.
The Bagaduce is one of the only four estuary systems in Maine that supports a horseshoe crab population. With a round, spiny exoskeleton shaped like a horseshoe, the horseshoe crab has a clear lineage stretching back more than 400 million years, before the dinosaurs. In June, they travel up the river to breed. If you look closely, you might spot one in the shallows.
Harbor seals swim up the river in the spring, summer and fall, and have been known to have their pups on a ledge just west of the property, in Green Cove.
The property is also a great location for birders. A wide variety of ducks, gulls and wading birds can be spotted from viewpoints along the shore during all times of year. The forest is home to numerous songbirds and woodpeckers. And bald eagles and ospreys are frequently sighted. They’ve nesting sites nearby.
This conserved parcel includes Nab Island, which is so small that until recently, it wasn’t recognized on any state maps or deeds. For a very brief window of time at low tide, visitors can walk across a spit of land to reach the island. But be careful; you wouldn’t want to get stranded or have to wade back. If you do choose to cross, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust asks that you use extreme caution while exploring because small islands have fragile ecosystems. It’s easy to cause irreparable damage.
The loop trail on the preserve travels near the shore much of the way and leads to several viewpoints, some of which are partially obscured by trees. There are two fairly obvious side trails leading down to the shore, but they’re unmarked. Tread with care.
Two old Chevrolet automobiles make for an unusual trailside highlight. Wedged among trees, these cars likely date from the 40s or early 50s, based on their models.
The preserve is open to visitors during daylight hours only. Stay on marked trails, which are for foot traffic only. Carry out what you take in. Camping and fires are not permitted. Dogs must be leashed.
For more information, visit bluehillheritagetrust.org/ or call 207-374-5118.
Personal note: I’m on a mission to learn more about Maine birds. I’ve found that the best way for me to learn how to identify species is by finding them in the wild and watching them, one at a time. Sometimes I don’t know what bird I’m watching, but I take photos so I can identify them later. That’s the only way the information really sticks in my brain.
So, on March 10 — a warm, sunny, soupy day — I visited Snow Natural Area, where I knew I might spy some ducks swimming in the Bagaduce River. I’d been to the preserve once before, to attend a horseshoe crab guided walk in June with the Blue Hill Heritage Trust. I remember being proud that I spotted the first horseshoe crab swimming in the shallows that day. I’d never seen a live one before, so it was a special occasion.
My husband, Derek, and my mother-in-law, Geneva, volunteered to keep me company on my March 10 trek. My dog, Juno, and Geneva’s dog, Josie, joined us as well. (And boy is Juno growing fast. At 5 months, she weighs 35 pounds and is entering that awkward teenage phase, tantrums and all.)
At two locations along the shore, I searched through my zoom camera lens for birds in the water. I spotted common goldeneye and bufflehead ducks, common loons (grey in their winter plumage) and what I believed to be mallard ducks — though I have a tough time differentiating mallards from black ducks at a distance.
The forest on the property was a peaceful sanctuary with towering trees and plenty of moss, ferns and trailing lichen. It also had some fascinating scents, according to Juno and Josie. It was the perfect choice for a melty March day, though the trails were getting a little wet. I’d recommend coating yourself in bug repellent and visiting in June, when it’s much more likely you’ll spot a horseshoe crab or seal.
How to get there: The preserve is located on Young’s Point Road in Brooksville. To get there, cross the Bagaduce Reversing Falls Bridge on Route 175-Route 176 and drive 0.3 mile, then, at the stop sign, turn right onto Coastal Road. Drive 0.2 mile, then turn right onto Young’s Point Road. Drive 0.1 mile, then veer right at the fork. Drive another 0.2 mile and a small parking area for the preserve will be on your right, marked with a sign. It holds just two cars. Do not park on the road. If the parking area is full, consider visiting another Blue Hill Heritage Trust property in the area such as Ferry Landing, John B. Mountain or Snow’s Cove Preserve.
Aislinn Sarnacki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.