Dresden Falls Archaeological and Wildlife Preserve, Dresden

This 31-acre parcel, made up of meadows and river frontage, is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Maine. Native people camped seasonally at this resource-rich area for 4,000 years, approximately 9,000 to 4,500 years ago.

As the world emerged from the last ice age, the riverside site was abundant with fish, deer, beaver, and turtles. Since the ocean was 200 feet lower then, the Kennebec River — which is a tidal river today — was narrower and carried fresh water. At the nearby Goodwin or Lovejoy Narrows between the mainland and Little Swan Island, the river cascaded down a “spectacular” 30-foot waterfall, creating a plunge pool filled with salmon (as big as 30 pounds!), striped bass, sturgeon, and maybe shad and alewives, according to Arthur Spiess of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

The Dresden site is the largest and most intensively occupied site of its era known in Maine, according to the Friends of Marrymeeting Bay, which helped protect it with The Archaeology Conservancy and Land for Maine’s Future. More stone tools have been uncovered here, like spear points and cobblestones for net sinkers, than any other Early to Middle Archaic (8,000 B.C.-3,000 B.C.) site in New England. “It is probably key to understanding this period in Maine, for which we know very little,” Spiess said. Archaeologists still don’t know who the people were, whether they’re related to modern tribes, or what language they spoke.

When you’re visiting the site, you’ll see that it is mainly composed of open fields. After walking down the gravel road to the back field, you’ll face a lower area on your left, the “lower terrace,” and a higher area on your right, the “upper terrace.” The Native people’s camp was on the lower terrace, while traces of a Revolutionary War-era settlement have been discovered on the upper terrace.

The gravel road ends at a boat shed and you can continue down to the shore for views of the river. There’s also a basic map of the preserve posted to the shed. I plan to return in the spring and will take better—and more colorful—photos then!

Directions: The parking area and trailhead on River Road (Route 128) is about 0.75 miles from the intersection of River Road and Route 197. If you’re coming from the south, look for Popp Road on your right, and the parking area is 1,200 feet farther along on the left, just after a little house. Thank you to the Maine by Foot user who let me know about this wonderful place! (Which is also home to the largest stand of the rare spongy arrowhead plant.)

Green Point Wildlife Management Area, Dresden

This is an idyllic walk in many ways — it’s easy, charming, and includes an old orchard, small ponds, meadows, and views over the Kennebec River. It’s very popular with birders. The best walk is along an old road which wanders down to an outlook over the river, about 0.6 miles from Route 128. There are two benches and a picnic table overlooking the river. And I think it must be possible to go swimming? The dirt roads also look like they are passable for wheelchairs.

There is a slightly fainter old road that veers off to the right, taking you to a large meadow. There are more trails through fields on this side of the park.

(You can also explore a bit more of the wildlife management area if you drive a bit farther north on Route 128 and turn onto a little dirt road called Farm Road. Park at the gate. If you follow the track through the field, you’ll reach a 19th-century family cemetery.)

Natural Resources Council of Maine has more info, as does the state of Maine.

Directions: From Route 197 in Dresden, turn onto Route 128 (or the River Road) in Dresden. The management area is about two miles south of the intersection with Rte. 197. There is a sign for the area and a big parking lot on the right next to a large green building. You can also drive a bit farther on past the green building and meadow and park at a smaller gravel lot in front of the gated road. This is the road to the picnic area.

Earle Kelley Wildlife Management Area, Dresden

Wildlife management areas tend to be hit or miss in terms of having nice walking trails. This is a good one. You follow an old dirt road, or at least a wide, clear path, for about one mile before coming to a lovely pond, or bog — the Dresden Bog. The grassy bank makes for a good stick throwing perch. The trail does split into two before the bog. When it branches here, go left. The trail on the right continues into the woods.

Directions: The easiest way to Dresden is to head north or south on Rte. 295 and to get off at the Richmond exit, exit 43. Head toward town, east, on Rte. 197 (which means you take a right if you’re coming from the south, left if you’re coming from the north). Go through town and at the T-junction facing the river, turn left (you’ll be continuing on Rte. 197). When the road bears rights 1/4 mile later, bear right and cross the bridge. Continue on 197 for a couple miles — you’ll cross another river — until it ends at Rte 127. Take a left and follow this road to the T-junction with Rte 27. Take a right, and then a quick left right after the gas station onto Blinn Hill Rd. Follow Blinn Hill Rd for a couple of miles or so until you see Bog Rd on your right. Go about 1/2 mile and park at the small parking lot on your right, which should have a chain blocking the road. The trail is straight ahead.


Pownalborough Court House Trails, Dresden

The Lincoln County Historical Association received a grant from the state to build miles of trails through the 75 acres of woods across from its old court house (where you can check out real stocks!). There are lots of sweet surprises in the forest, particularly in the springtime when the wildflowers begin to peek out. “A stream runs through a steep, densely wooded ravine containing several small dells,” according to the association. “As a result the terrain is sheltered and the trees have grown to great height.”

Also, a new wheelchair-accessible trail has been added to the trail system, too, which is wonderful. 

Be warned though: as soon as you head off the universally accessible trail, it gets very steep as you head away from the courthouse. The trail signage is abundant and helpful.

Directions: If you’re coming from Richmond on Rte. 197, turn left at the intersection with the blinking lights onto Rte.128. Go 1.3 miles to the court house on your left. Parking is possible in two places: down the driveway and to your left a bit, or at the side of a field across from the driveway.