Discover the Midcoast

The Porter Preserve on Barters Island

Posted:  Saturday, October 8, 2016 - 8:00am
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Autumn is a perfect time to head out on an early morning or afternoon walk in the woods or along the shoreline. The Porter Preserve on Barters Island is just the place for doing just that, whether you’re revisiting it, or discovering it for the first time.

The 19-acre preserve is a part of the Boothbay Region Land Trust and has paths that are easily followed, offering beautiful views of the Sheepscot River. The small parking lot at the preserve’s entrance had cars bearing license plates from Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont during our recent visits.

Getting there is nearly as enjoyable as visiting the preserve itself. From Route 27 at the Boothbay Civil War monument, turn onto Corey Lane. Drive through the intersection and take the next right, Barters Island Road. The drive takes you past the YMCA’s Camp Knickerbocker and the ever popular Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

Just past the boat launch you’ll come to a second older bridge by the Trevett Store. This swing-span bridge is still hand-operated by a tender who “cranks” the bridge open to allow boat traffic through. This is the last hand-operated swing bridge in Maine. Nice.

Continue on and at the cemetery across from the Barters Island Baptist Church is Kimballtown Road; turn here. Drive slowly because it’s a narrow road. Just past a marsh you’ll see a dirt road on your left, Porter Point Road; the parking area is across from a small cemetery.

Maps and rules of the preserve are at the kiosk. Dogs should be leashed. A “white blaze” marks the main trail that loops around the preserve. Along the way are many side paths that carry you out to the shoreline. Several include benches where you can sit and admire some beautiful views of the Back and Sheepscot rivers.

There are also several small beaches to explore. One looks out to a small island identified on the trail map as “Lydia Ann’s Island.”

The path snakes its way through a forest of pine, spruce and oak trees. I also noticed a few horse chestnut, poplar and birch trees. One of the trails carries you downhill along a tumbling stone wall.

On the north side of a large cove is a blue-blazed path that takes you past the onetime Hull family home site. The small footprint can be traced by its foundation stones. A short distance from it is what looks like an old hand-dug well, now covered over with a grate.

At the preserve’s northern side is a small memorial grove with a semi-circle of benches. Here visitors can sit, meditate or simply enjoy the salt air. A short distance away is the Roberts’ memorial stone.

The preserve has been around a while and is popular with locals and folks from away as indicated by the cars in the parking lot during our recent visits. In 1983, Nathaniel Porter donated 19 acres to the BRLT to create the preserve. A donation from Robert and Linda Jones in 2005 allowed the BRLT to acquire an additional 1.9 acres of adjacent land including Roberts Wharf used by commercial fishermen.

We — that is, Bo, my faithful dog — hiked the preserve from both ends on separate visits. The preserve is open dawn to dusk year-round.

Before leaving the preserve, take a few moments to visit the Kimball Cemetery where you’ll see gravestones with family names like Lewis, Caswell and Kimball. One prominent obelisk marks the final resting place of Capt. Louville Kimball, age 30 and 7 months, who was “Lost at sea, Oct. 24, 1895.” From the carving on the opposite side we see that Kimball left a wife behind, Edith G. Conley.

Capt. Kimball’s stone is inscribed with an unusual symbol which was very worn, but after some research we discovered it indicates he was a member of the Knights of Pythias. The fraternal organization, still active today, was once located in the present location of the Opera House in Boothbay Harbor.

The BRLT is offering a series of guided tours of its preserves through Dec. 20. To learn more about the Porter Preserve, visit www.bbrlt.org.