This 23-acre quiet coastal property in Yarmouth provides views of Casco Bay, rocky beaches, and stately red oaks that offer perches to bald eagles and great horned owls. Daytime visitors are welcome to walk the 1.3-mile loop trail along the road and the coast. Along the trail, you will find numerous scenic viewpoints, tide pools and ledges, and picnic tables. The trails are popular for trail running.
New! Scroll below for information on our 2022 archaeology project and Wabanaki heritage at this preserve.
Access to this preserve is a privilege, not a right, made possible by generous donations of land by neighbors over decades. We ask for your help to remove pet waste left by others, to report any issues you observe, and to help us enforce a culture of compliance especially regarding parking. The Pemasong Lane RRCT parking lot is at capacity each day and all times of day due to strong demand; for alternative parking locations scroll below. Preserve users are trespassing on Pemasong Lane by parking illegally (beyond four spaces). One neighbor on occasion tows trespassing cars. Another neighbor has a camera trained on you if you are in the parking area. Please seek alternate destinations, or alternate parking or access and help us create a culture of respect for private property owners. Access by water, or access by bicycle, are ideal alternatives to limited vehicular access and parking.
To report an issue at this preserve, contact the Royal River Conservation Trust.
Maps & Videos
Map of Littlejohn Island Preserve – Downloadable PDF
Watch Jack Stoltz’ Flat Trails series video to get a magical introduction to the preserve by clicking the button below.
Trails, Trailheads, Parking, Alternatives and Accessibility
The 1.3-mile loop trail is largely flat, wide, dry and well-maintained. The first part of the trail follows a plowed private gravel road. The parking lot is plowed in the winter.
The inside of the loop trail (avoiding spurs or outer loops which go closer to the shoreline) is relatively accessible for rugged baby carriages, walkers, and the most rugged wheelchairs. (A new spur created in September 2020 allows a more accessible detour around primitive plank bridges). Accessibility on all trails is limited by roots and rocks which can create trip hazards. Benches for resting exist at regular intervals of 1000 feet. The preserve has no bathroom facilities.
Directions from RRCT Parking Area: The trail from the preserve’s parking lot at 180 Pemasong Lane begins by walking back onto Pemasong Lane from the parking lot, turning left and walking along Pemasong Lane through the stone gates marked “Private.” After 2/10 mile walking on Pemasong Lane, the trail leaves the lane on the right, just before the end of the lane. All driveways off Pemasong Lane are private. Please do not walk or drive down any private driveways. (But please walk or bicycle through the primary road’s stone gates labeled “private”; do not drive through these gates.) Please refer to the map on this page for clarification.
Directions to the RRCT Parking Area: The preserve is in Yarmouth at the northeastern end of Littlejohn Island, toward the end of Pemasong Lane (GPS 180 Pemasong Lane). Please read the directions below carefully, since the island’s network of narrow roads can be unsafe when drivers take a wrong turn. From Route 88 or Route 1 in Yarmouth, find your way to Gilman Road, to the bridge to Cousins Island. After the Cousins Island bridge, proceed one mile on Cousins Street. Turn left off Cousins Street onto Talbot Road, immediately after the Community House. Proceed on Talbot Road for less than half a mile, crossing onto the causeway onto Littlejohn Island. Once on Littlejohn Island, after just a few hundred feet, take the second left onto Littlejohn Road (it’s a loop, this left turn on Littlejohn Road departs from Littlejohn Road which also continues straight.) In another few hundred feet, turn left off Littlejohn Road onto Pemasong Lane. Follow Pemasong Lane (please strictly respect posted speed limit of 15 mph) roughly 4/10 mile until you reach Preserve signs and a Preserve parking area on the left at 180 Pemasong Lane, just before the stone gate with the “private” sign on it. On Pemasong Lane, park in this area only. Scroll below for alternative parking off of Pemasong Lane.
RRCT Parking Area Rules: Parking rules are simple: four cars only. Only in the parking lot. Sunrise to sunset. Never on the shoulders. Never idling or waiting in your car. Never at the end of the lane. Parking is typically at capacity at all times; please visit our other preserves, or plan to walk or bicycle from your home, or from head-of-island parking spots. When the parking lot is full, visitors arriving by car must turn around and go elsewhere or find parking off-island. The parking lot is strictly closed from dusk to dawn. Police take notice.
Please be aware that all neighbors have the authority to tow parking violators, consistent with their clearly-posted signs. If you find that you were towed, call the tow company and plan to make payments ($75 + cab fare) at your own expense.
Alternate Parking Locations, Non-Vehicular Access: RRCT owns only one small parking lot, described above. There is almost no other legal parking for preserve users anywhere on Littlejohn Island. If the RRCT parking lot is full, as it often is, or for a better longer trip, please return to either Cousins Street, Cousins bridge, or the Cousins Island side of the Littlejohn causeway (Talbot Road) for parking, or explore other beaches and preserves. Parking at the Littlejohn Causeway (Talbot Road on Cousins Island): Roughly four parking spaces exist on Talbot Road (Cousins Island) on one side of the Littlejohn Causeway. Parking at this location extends your Preserve visit to a longer round trip hike (3.0 miles) and allows a walk along the tidal mudflats. Parking on Cousins Street (Cousins Island). On-shoulder parking is legal on portions of Cousins Street, the main street on Cousins Island. Parking at this location extends your hiking trip to roughly 3.5 miles round trip. Parking at the Cousins Causeway/Bridge (Sandy Point Beach): Ample free parking exists at Sandy Point Beach on Cousins Road (Cousins Island) roughly two miles from the Preserve. Sandy Point Beach and the preserve are connected by the West Side Trail (off-road, some shoreline) for biking, hiking, and running. Bring your bike or hiking/running shoes and enjoy a six-mile round trip. Bike Parking at the Preserve: While bicycles are not allowed on the Preserve’s trails, they are allowed on Pemasong Lane. Ample space for bike parking as well as a bike rack exists where the trail leaves Pemasong Lane. Access by water: Kayak access is a great way to explore the preserve. Access by motorized boats is risky due to tides and depths. Free kayak put-in is available at Sandy Point Beach (above) and elsewhere.
RRCT & You: Updates, Alerts and 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 Stewardship@RRCT.org.
- Spring mud season postings: the entirety of Pemasong Lane and the preserve parking lot is typically closed to all preserve vehicle traffic during mud season (parts of February, March or April) to protect the condition of the road. Please respect seasonal postings.
- Hunting: While the preserve is closed to hunting, preserve users might encounter hunters on abutting private lands, or duck hunters in the intertidal zone. RRCT allows duck hunters to access the intertidal zone by crossing preserve land, though most arrive by boat. All hikers should wear orange during hunting season on all trails and parks.
Rules, Regulations and Hunting
Parking limitations are posted onsite, and strictly enforced. Please scroll above for more information.
All users of the preserve should respect property boundaries, with courtesies to island residents and neighbors, and pets under control and off private property.
Dogs are welcome on leash when on the road (the lane) and on leash or voice control always, with strict attention to waste removal. Please do not allow dogs to chase wildlife or waterfowl. Please help us educate all pet owners toward a good community culture as you meet on the path. Please carry out all waste, especially pet waste, including waste left by those before you. Pet waste has very real impacts on clam flats and water quality in Casco Bay. We appreciate pet owners who work to create a culture of responsibility.
Bicycles are not allowed on the trails, but are allowed on Pemasong Lane and Pemasong Lane Extension. Bike parking is at the waystation, where the trail leaves the lane. Bikes are a great way to get to the preserve without worrying about vehicle parking.
While the preserve is closed to hunting, preserve users might encounter hunters on abutting private lands, or duck hunters in the intertidal zone. RRCT allows duck hunters to access the intertidal zone by crossing preserve land, though most arrive by boat. All hikers should wear orange during hunting season on all trails and parks.
- The preserve is open during daylight hours only. Police take notice.
- The way station (see map) is not a drop-off pick-up location. Please do not drive through the “private” gates to the way station for any reason.
- No smoking.
- No fires.
- No metal detectors.
- Please only access shoreline on established paths to reduce erosion.
- Please respect private property, private shorelines, and private trails.
- Due to high demand for parking, geo-cache installations or other promotions are prohibited.
- Please contact RRCT for specific permissions for commercial use, school and group use, or other unusual requests. School and group use is welcome with no permission provided compliance with parking rules.
- Spring mud season postings: the entirety of Pemasong Lane and the Preserve parking lot is typically closed to all Preserve vehicle traffic during mud season (parts of March or April) to protect the condition of the road. Please respect seasonal postings.
- Please report public safety observations to the Yarmouth Police Department (911) or to the Royal River Conservation Trust (207) 847-9399 | info@RRCT.org
- Your comments, observations, and suggestions are helpful to maintain strong relationships and best-possible land stewardship. Please contact the Royal River Conservation Trust for any reason.
Royal River Water Trail and Boating Access
This preserve is a day-use water-access picnic spot listed as part of the Maine Island Trail and the Royal River Water Trail. Maine Island Trail staff and volunteer stewards provide important assistance to the Royal River Conservation Trust as we manage the use and capacity of this treasured island. More information on the Royal River Water Trail is here.
There is no boat launching permitted or suitable. Access by water is welcome – we invite paddlers to launch elsewhere and paddle to the property for daytime picnics, beaching on the property. Water access from Sandy Point Beach is described above, this webpage. Access with motorized boats is allowed by risky due to tides and shallow approaches. Approaching from the water, all docks are private and off the preserve. The preserve offers only natural landing spots, beaches and ledges.
Littlejohn Island Preserve has a concentration of migrant birds and is also a site for the Morning Flight Phenomenon. You can also scan the water for Common Eiders, Black Guillemots, Ospreys and Bald Eagles. For more information visit: Best Birding in the Royal River watershed
Stewardship and Conservation History
Seventeen acres of the 23-acre preserve were protected in 1990 by a conservation easement with no guaranteed public access. In November of 2006, the entire 23 acres was acquired by the Royal River Conservation Trust to secure public access and open space. Stone stairs to the ocean were installed in 2012 and 2017, each time with the assistance of the Maine Conservation Corps. A new expanded parking lot was built in 2015 by neighbors and deeded to RRCT. Linear board walks were installed in 2011. Horizontal boardwalks were installed in 2016, to enhance accessibility for some stretches of the trail. A bronze interpretive panel identifying islands in the view from the point was installed in 2018.
The Place of Peace: Wabanaki History
The land that is now the Littlejohn Island Preserve is part of the ancestral land of the Abenaki. For thousands of years, the Abenaki and other shifting tribes and cultures used Littlejohn and the islands of Casco Bay as a late winter and spring source of food, spending seasons year-after-year on the islands harvesting oyster, seals, and more. This history is recorded in shell middens and archaeology, oral history, and other sources. Lanes Island, also within sight, had burial grounds now lost due to shifting currents and eroding shorelines. Year-round settlements with agriculture existed for some eras, with year-round settlements recorded or theorized on Cornfield Point, Lanes Island, and Mere Point (Maquoit Bay.)
The Wabanaki Confederacy (“People of the First Light” or “People of the Dawnland”) is a confederation of five principal nations: the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot.
Casco Bay (variably Cascoak or Aucocisco) is translated as a place of Great Blue Herons. It is also known to the Wabanaki as a place of peace. The Abenaki were allied with other peoples as part of the Wabanaki Confederacy in both peace and war. For centuries the quiet waters off Littlejohn Island and between the many islands of Casco Bay were canoe routes for both the Abenaki and other travelling Wabanaki. The Upper Carrying Place was a canoe portage route leaving the north end of Maquoit Bay at Bunganuc, later laid out in 1717 as Maine Street in Brunswick. The Upper Carrying Place portage connected Casco Bay to the Androscoggin* above Brunswick’s falls, and later hosted British expeditions and commerce as a short-cut to the Kennebec. The Tarratines of eastern Maine and the Bay of Fundy quickly adapted to European sailing vessels for both attacking and peace-making journeys to Casco Bay from afar. The waters off Littlejohn Island were used by canoes, war canoes, and sloops travelling between Maquoit Bay and present-day Portland and Boston. Today the same waters host ferries, fishing boats, and recreation.
The satellite imagery above provides a striking understanding of the glacial ecology that made the Upper Carry Place, Maquoit Bay, and Brunswick appealing as a portage route from Casco Bay to the Androscoggin and Kennebec. Northern Casco Bay hosted a conference of thirteen chiefs (sagamores) from Maine’s rivers and the Maritimes in the cold winter of 1698 and 1699. The resulting Mere Point Treaty of 1699 shaped the Wabanaki Confederacy’s diplomatic and military alliance. In all, Casco Bay (Munjoy Hill, Falmouth Foreside, Mere Point, and various islands) hosted six peace summits between 1678 and 1732. While numerous sources document the various peace treaties of Casco Bay, see especially Brooks, Lisa Tanya, “Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War” (2018). https://ourbelovedkin.com/awikhigan/peace
The Wabanaki Confederacy was aligned against the British with objectives of defense and survival. After the Wabanaki aligned with the French, the French and Indian Wars — especially King George’s War — defined the settlement patterns of the region during the mid 1700s. After the French defeat at the Battle of Quebec in 1759, the Wabanaki were without their military ally and were in a weakened position. King George II promised to respect Wabanaki territory in a proclamation issued in 1763, but the various Governors of Massachusetts did not recognize the proclamation as valid.
In 1980, a land settlement between the State of Maine and some of Maine’s Wabanaki nations resulted in Wabanaki ownership of roughly 1% of Maine’s forestland, none of it near Casco Bay. Maine’s Abenaki were not recognized in the settlement. the Abenaki have sovereign or recognized status in Canada and various northeastern States but not in Maine.
Littlejohn Island may have been known to the Abenaki as Pemasong, though there is no known historic record to support this point. “Little John” refers to John Cousins, also the namesake of Cousins Island and the Cousins River. Among the earliest European colonizers in Yarmouth, Cousins soon left Maine wrapped in narratives of incidents of violence.
* An alternate route was “from Lewiston Falls across country to the valley of Royal’s River in New Gloucester, down Royal’s River to North Yarmouth, and then out into the bay.” Page 35, Starbird, Charles M., “The Indians of the Androscoggin Valley: Tribal History, and their Relations with the Early English Settlers of Maine” (1928). Prior to the 1950s, the Royal River flowed between Cousins Island and the mainland (under today’s bridge.) In the 1950s, a new channel was dredged connecting the Royal to the Bay closer to Lanes Island, sending marine traffic between Mosier and Littlejohn.
Archaeological excavation in 2022
In early 2022, RRCT identified a shell midden on RRCT’s Littlejohn Island Preserve, near the point. Shell middens on the coast are reminders of indigenous presence and heritage over thousands of years, in the place we today call “Maine.” Oyster and clam shells disposed on the shoreline after seasonal habitation are highly alkaline, and create unique archaeological opportunities typically preserving and concentrating ancient fish bones, animal bones, tools, and other artifacts. Midden excavation on nearby Great Mosier Island in Yarmouth in 1985 documented Late Archaic activity (5800 to 3200 years ago), before the era of agriculture or ceramics.
Scroll above (previous tab) for more information on Wabanaki perspectives of Casco Bay.
In the spring of 2022, following consultation with the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People and indigenous residents of Yarmouth, RRCT authorized small test pits which confirmed the size and interest of the site.
Between July and September, archaeologists excavated six square meters (eight 50 cm x 50 cm test pits and two 1 meter x 1 meter digs) along with volunteers from YCARE (Yarmouth Racial Equity). All digs are now fully filled in (restored). Along with expected shells, we found human-made shards of Kineo rhyolite, chertz, and quartz (for example from production of tools or arrowheads), charcoal likely from cooking fires, and more. We also found ceramic fragments from the ceramic era (post-Archaic), and a significant quantity of bone (not human), not-yet analyzed, especially on the southern edge of the site.
Leadership of the project includes Prince Memorial Library’s Thomas Bennett, USM Associate Professor of Archaeology Nathan Hamilton, USM students, and Littlejohn resident Chris Landry.
The Press Herald and Forecaster published an article describing the work and the larger context of climate change. “It’s important to conduct this midden excavation work now as we face continued sea level rise,” said Chad Fierros, stewardship director of Royal River Conservation Trust, which conserves Littlejohn Island. “We’re already having to revive the history of this area from the effects of colonization and displacement of Abenaki and other Indigenous people, and rediscovering/retelling this cultural history will be even more difficult as middens and other sites become submerged or altered with sea level rise.”
For more information on Casco Bay’s Shell Middens, and to meet (on video) Thomas Bennett, consider watching a few largely technical recent videos here: https://www.princememorial.org/recordings/
Below are photos from 2022 digs.