Maine Wildlife

Swan Island: 'An island in time'

Tue, 04/23/2013 - 9:30am

Those who love history and the great outdoors may enjoy a visit to Swan Island. Located in the Kennebec River dividing Dresden and Richmond, the island is now open to the public for day visits and overnight camping.

Each summer, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife opens the island to visitors curious about its history and its bounty of natural habitats. Since March, department staff have been taking camping reservations.

It is a gem of historical and natural significance. The island, officially named the Swan Island Game Management Area, is the only one of its kind in the state that allows camping and includes educational programs for visitors, according to a Maine Fish and Wildlife brochure (

A gravel road runs the length of the four-mile island. It is roughly three-quarters of a mile in width and has numerous historical homesteads, an old machine shop, barns, an ice house, a boathouse, camps and other historical sites.

The buildings date back to the early 18th century, long before the ferry to the island stopped operating in 1936. Tides of change and opportunity transitioned a fairly busy island community (95 residents in 1860) of farmers, fishermen, ice-cutters and boat builders back to the wild.

Today, hundreds of migrating birds, waterfowl, white tailed deer, wild turkeys, nesting bald eagles, porcupine, red squirrel, woodchuck and other critters. There are several freshwater ponds and ample places to spot wildlife among historic sites.

To get to Swan Island, visitors can either take a personal watercraft out there or the ferry, which departs from Richmond. To visit the island and obtain more information, click here or call 207-547-5322.