The Intervale Preserve in New Gloucester, owned and managed by the Royal River Conservation Trust, can be accessed by two separate trailheads and primitive hand-carry boat access points at 642 Intervale Road and 520 Penney Road. The Preserve is popular for its short loop trail, ecology & habitat, Royal River access, snowmobile access, and hunting access.
The Intervale (the river valley between hills) provides some of the Royal River watershed’s most valuable habitat for migratory birds, waterfowl, and game birds. The 128-acre preserve is part of the Intervale’s larger system of floodplain wetlands and marshes covering 1215 acres, surrounded by scenic farms and working forests.
Planned expansion of the Intervale Preserve into Lower Gloucester Village is one of the most ambitious projects in our organization’s history. Learn more.
Trails, Trailheads and Accessibility
642 Intervale Road: This flat half-mile loop trail starts at a safe parking area on a wide road shoulder; parking is often plowed in the winter. The trail provides gentle walking with short plank bridges avoiding wet areas. The forested trail provides views onto the river’s fresh water flood plain marsh and vernal pools, a popular destination for birders and sports. The marsh is an outstanding vantage point for observing migrating birds especially in May of each year. The trail includes one bench for resting midway, a picnic table near the trailhead, and a primitive hand-carry boat access point.
To find the 642 Intervale Road trailhead:
– From the South: From Pineland Farms, follow Route 231 North/Intervale Road for 4.4 miles. The parking lot and trailhead will be on your right, 1/4 mile past the intersection with Woodman Road.
– From the North/West: From Cobb’s Bridge Road or New Gloucester Village, take Route 231 South/Intervale Road for 1 mile. The trailhead will be on your left. Ample parking is available on the wide grassy shoulder of the road. The hiking trail begins at kiosk with blue signage on the side of the road near the railroad tracks.
– Address for GPS : 642 Intervale Road, New Gloucester
520 Penney Road: The Penney Road trailhead primarily serves as a primitive boat access point, a snowmobile trail, and hunting access. Parking is on the road shoulder or on the steep rutted woods road (snowmobile trail.) Powerline construction in 2020 or later will disrupt this access point.
– From New Gloucester Village: Head Southeast on Route 231 South for 3.9 miles. Take a right onto Penney Road and continue 0.8 mile. The parking area will be on your right.
– From North Yarmouth Village: Head North on Route 231 N for 5.6 miles. Take a left onto Penney Road and continue 0.8 mile. The parking area will be on your right.
– Address for GPS: 520 Penney Rd, New Gloucester, ME 04260
Water Access Parcels: Some parcels of the Intervale Preserve are accessible only by canoe. Please refer to maps. Downriver access from Penney Road (paddle upriver and back) is best. For details see the Royal River Water Trail description of this section of river.
Rules and Regulations and Hunting
- The Preserve is open for hiking, hunting and snowmobiling. Bikes are not allowed due to trail construction standards.
- Public use of rail lines is always illegal and always dangerous.
- Both the Intervale Road and Penney Road parcels support snowmobile connecting trails. CMP powerline construction rights will be used on this trail corridor in 2020 or later, disrupting traffic at Penney Road.
- Dogs are welcome, but on leash or voice control, with strict attention to pet waste removal.
- Please respect various postings on private abutting land.
- Safe and responsible hunting on the preserve is encouraged. We promote safe hunting experiences and protect deer by educating users of the hiking trail and their dogs to be respectful of hunters. As a courtesy, please call RRCT to inform us if you plan any trapping on the parcel. Hikers should always wear orange during all hunting seasons, on all hikes.
- Tenting and Camping are not permitted on this property.
- Fires are prohibited.
- Smoking is prohibited at all RRCT preserves.
RRCT & You: Updates, Alerts, & Cautions
- RRCT & You: RRCT relies heavily on volunteers and help from trail users like you. You may know more recent information about trail and Preserve conditions than we do – Please consider filling out a Conditions Report. We invite you to be a thoughtful steward by acting as a respectful visitor, adhering to posted rules, and following Leave No Trace practices. RRCT’s small staff and volunteer Trail Crew is able to inspect and maintain RRCT preserves infrequently; we ask you to report to us any issues you observe that you cannot address yourself, and especially to update us on any safety or public safety issues. Please help us on your visits with litter, pet waste, and minor trail issues. We also invite any information on needed or suggested updates to this webpage. Reach out in any way, most simply with an email to carrie@RRCT.org.
- RAILROAD TRESPASS PROHIBITED: Public use of rail lines is always illegal and always dangerous.
- POWERLINE RECONSTRUCTION: Powerline reconstruction at Penney Road is expected in 2020 or later. Please look for updates and information and respect any construction postings.
- SAFE HUNTING: Safe and responsible hunting on the preserve is encouraged. We promote safe hunting experiences and protect deer by educating users of the hiking trail and their dogs to be respectful of hunters and deer during season, including winter deer yard season. Hikers should always wear orange during all hunting seasons, on all hikes.
- RESPONSIBLE PET OWNERSHIP: Our preserves provide valuable access for pets and pet owners. We are always concerned by pet waste left behind, and by dogs not controlled by their owners. Please help us create a culture of respect and responsibility.
- NEIGHBORS’ POSTINGS: Please respect various postings on private abutting land; many of these postings aim to protect nearby farm animals from dogs or hunters.
May 5, 2020 Intervale Wildfire
On May 5, 2020 a wildfire burned through the marshes and part of the trail at RRCT’s Intervale Preserve. To learn more about the fire and to see photos as nature rejuvenates visit: Intervale Wildfire
The bird-rich area of New Gloucester’s Intervale is renowned for Sandhill Cranes, migrant shorebirds, and more. For more information on birding in the Intervale visit: Best Birding in the Royal River watershed.
Water Access and Royal River Water Trail
- The Intervale Preserve provides boat access at two locations, at 642 Intervale Road (upriver northwest corner of bridge), and also at Penney Road’s Royal River crossing on the (upriver northeast corner of bridge). CMP powerline construction access rights will restrict parking and river access at Penney Road in 2020 or later. These access points allow for bank fishing and boat launching for paddling, fishing, and hunting by boat.The two boat access points create a short trip on their own, or starting points for longer trips; the stretch of river from Penney Road downstream to Wescustogo Park is a wonderful 8.1 mile high-water paddling trip. Landowner courtesies or steep scrambles are required for earlier take-out. More information on the Royal River Water Trail.
- This section of the river may be only be suitable for informed boaters due to variable water levels and frequent trees or beaver dams blocking passage. Boat access points are steep muddy banks. When paddling, please respect private landowner signage along the river often prohibiting fiddlehead harvest and hunting on private land.
Stewardship and Conservation History
The 128 acres of land under RRCT conservation ownership along with RRCT conservation easements protect 2 shoreline miles of the mainstem of the Royal River in the Intervale. Nearby conservation efforts of state agencies mean that a total of 278 acres and 3 shoreline miles of the Royal River are now protected in the Intervale. Comprised largely of lush meandering oxbows, the Intervale provides some of the Royal River watershed’s most valuable habitat supporting migratory birds, waterfowl, and game birds. In total, the Intervale comprises roughly 1215 acres of high value wetlands surrounded by scenic and productive farms and forests.
Owned by the Royal River Conservation Trust, the initial parcel of the Preserve was donated for conservation by Jan Erikson and Nan Butterfield in 1991. Initial trail work and kiosk installation funded by L.L. Bean and others was completed in 2011. Small culptures were installed in October, 2013.
In late 2017, the Preserve was significantly expanded by three separate transactions, expanding the entire preserve from 30 acres to 100 non-contiguous acres, and expanding conserved shoreline miles of the Royal River mainstem from 0.3 shoreline miles to two shoreline miles. The newly conserved land supports habitat and water quality, fishing access, birding access, a new paddling access point at Penney Road, a local snowmobile trail connection, access for fiddleheads, bird-hunting, trapping, and other sports.
The various transactions in late 2017 were funded by private funders, landowner donations, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund and RRCT’s Land Acquisition Reserve Fund. The transactions involved acquisition, donation of land, and partnerships with the Town of New Gloucester selectmen and Central Maine Power.
In 2018 the Preserve was expanded again by a donation of two small parcels by neighbors Field Rider and Susie Percy.
Nearby farmland conservation projects in 2017 and 2018 (Waterhouse Farm and Brookings Farm) also provide important conservation landscape context, along with the creation of the Big Falls Preserve upstream on Meadow Brook in 2018.
In August 2019, the town completed the transfer of seven tax-acquired lots to RRCT, exanding the Intervale Preserve and consolidating ownership and management of valuable habitat, following unanimous votes of the Selectmen.
Today (2019 and 2020) we are working with three landowners for additional expansions of conservation protections in the Intervale, including a major project with one landowner for 180 acres. Learn more.
Interpretation: Agricultural and Settlemnet History
Producing natural hay for oxen and more, the Intervale Preserve’s grassy marshes with a view of Gloucester Hill are the reason that the Propriety (Massachusetts land speculators) chose Gloucester Hill in the 1740s as the first English-settled foothold in the Wabanaki’s upper Wescustogo landscape. In the earliest years the Propriety gave common proportions of the marshes’ hay and straw to each settler as a form of Town Common. Later, each settler in the First Division was given a few acres of private ownership in the meadows and marshes for private harvest. Ownership was cemented following various wars with the Wabanaki, including deaths on both sides on Gloucester Hill, and final land claims settlements in 1980. For two centuries (1740 to 1940) the proximity of the agricultural parcels to transportation (the Royal and then the Maine Central) gave the parcels great value. Straw and hay were shipped to Portland and Boston for horses and packing. Today RRCT is re-assembling those small wet fragmented parcels of ownership as part of the growing Intervale Preserve, while beavers continue to convert drained marshes to lush habitat. The meadows provide hunting ground, flood control, and clean water for the region.
Interpretation: Natural Resources, Habitat and Historic Interpretation
Self Guided Historical and Natural Resource Interpretation – Downloadable PDF