Wescustogo Treks

Royal River Conservation Trust is pleased to unveil a series of three Wabanaki-led treks, intended for indigenous and non-indigenous people alike, designed to explore and acknowledge the rich history of Native American culture along the Royal River (Wescustogo) and in Maine as a whole.

Each trek will be led by RRCT Native American Intern Natalie Waloven (pictured), along with Maine Master Naturalist Polly Haight Frawley.

Wescustogo is a term of Wabanaki tribes for what we now call the Royal River. The Wabanaki and their predecessors lived in this area for thousands of years, before colonization. Wescustogo, perhaps meaning “muddy-” and “channeled-” or “gullied river” might refer only to the mouth of the river (the estuary), or might refer to the entire river. Rivers continue today to have profound cultural significance for the Wabanaki.

Qey, ntoliwis Mahqan naka Wolastoqew nil Neqotkukew. Hello, my name is Natalie, or Mahqan, and I am a Maliseet Native American of Tobique First Nation. While the Maliseets did not historically live in this region of Maine, they were part of the Wabanaki Confederacy, which included the people of this area. I am a lifelong Yarmouth resident, now in my senior year at Yarmouth High School. I am passionate about recognizing the indigenous heritage of this land. It is my belief that if we cannot change a gruesome past, we must at least recognize and educate ourselves on it. In this same way, we must acknowledge the present issues, which often are under-represented.

“I prefer to be known as indigenous, Native American, Maliseet, or Wolastoqew, in range of specificity. When I was born, my grandmother gave me the spirit name of Mahqan, meaning sweet like maple syrup.”

Polly Haight Frawley’s focus on Wabanaki ethnobotany includes identification of plants and trees, and an awareness of how Wabanaki peoples use the plants and trees for tea, poultice, and other purposes.

Maine Audubon is providing mentorship and coaching for this series of events.

Trek #1 of 3: April 20, 2024 (Saturday), at 10:00 am at Pineland Public Reserve Land in Gray. RAIN OR SHINE. WE WILL NOT BE MEETING AT THE PUBLIC TRAILHEAD, INSTEAD NOTE DIRECTIONS BELOW. This state forest (Pineland Public Reserve Land) is entirely separate from the nearby Pineland Farms. We will be hiking an informal trail to the Wescustogo (Royal River) that appears on no maps, but is accessible for foot traffic mostly on an old logging road kept clear by neighbors, travelling through the state forest. The final approach to the river is down a steep bank; this final approach is optional depending upon weather, mud, and ability. This location of river includes fiddleheads and rare plants, identified by the state as a rare S2 Hardwood River Terrace forest with tupelo, white ash, elm, and muscle wood. The round trip trek will be roughly 1.5 miles. Plan to park on road shoulders of Town Farm Road (Gray) between George Perley Lane (Gray) and Davis Williams Road (Gray). Town Farm Road in Gray (off Depot Road) is the same road as Town Farm Road in North Yarmouth (off Route 231). Town Farm Road in New Gloucester is an entirely different but nearby road. Attendance will be limited, so please RSVP in advance (required) using the form below.

Trek #2 of 3: May 4th, 2024 (Saturday), at 10:00 am at Spear Farm Estuary Preserve on the Wescustogo (Royal River) in Yarmouth. This is one of several events this year celebrating the 20th anniversary of the conservation of this beloved local preserve, now owned by the Town of Yarmouth with conservation easements held by Royal River Conservation Trust. Meet at the preserve’s trailhead, near the end of Bayview Street, with outdoor clothes appropriate for the weather. The round-trip trek will at most be 1.5 miles with well-maintained easy trails (some roots, some step-ups, some plank bridges, some gentle slopes). Most parking will be on the road shoulders of Bayview Street, with only a small trailhead parking lot. We don’t now have an RSVP form posted for this trek, as we sort through preferences of those who signed up for the postponed (bad weather) version of this trek in March.

We are not yet accepting reservations for Trek #3 on the river in New Gloucester. Please return for reservations for Trek #3; we’ll open reservations and announce the location and date at some point in April. Note additional RRCT events on the river later in May.