Old Harris Road Preserve is a 14-acre parcel located off of Elmwood Road in Pownal across from the Pownal Elementary School. Owned by the Royal River Conservation Trust, this parcel is primarily managed for habitat and ecology and protects a key 0.6 mile snowmobile trail connection. The trail crosses Thoit’s Brook, providing fishing access.
Trails, Trailheads, and Accessibility
The Old Harris Road Preserve, located off Elmwood Road in Pownal currently has no marked trailhead. Parking is available on the shoulder of Elmwood Road along the Cemetery boundary (across Elmwood from Pownal Elementary School). The trail heads south off Elmwood Road along the edge of the cemetery, briefly sharing a boundary with a small manufacturing facility before entering the woods. The 0.6 mile trail (1.2 miles round trip) is maintained for snowmobiling and is available for other uses, including hiking, Thoit’s Brook fishing access, hunting access, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. While the snowmobile trail continues onto private land after 0.6 miles, many abutting landowners allow snowmobile use only. Please respect all abutters’ postings.
Accessibility of the preserve is limited by steep slopes on the trail approach the brook, and a snowmobile bridge that requires careful footwork. ATV use is prohibited due to steep erodible slopes.
Rules, Regulations, and Hunting
- The preserve is primarily used for snowmobiling and access for hunting, trapping, and fishing. Hiking, snowshoeing and skiing are allowed. Bikes and equestrian use are not recommended due to steep banking and a snowmobile bridge that is not fit for horses. ATV use is prohibited.
- Dogs are welcome, but on leash or voice control, with strict attention to pet waste removal. Due to deer wintering, we ask that dogs be on leash during periods of deep snow; deer struggle to maintain energy during the winter; dogs and humans cause them to expend this precious energy.
- Please respect various postings on private abutting land; snowmobile trail permissions typically do not extend to other trail users.
- Safe and responsible hunting and trapping 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. 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.
- Smoking is prohibited at all RRCT preserves.
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 tocarrie@RRCT.org
- SAFE HUNTING: Safe and responsible hunting and trapping 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.
Stewardship & Conservation History
Royal River Conservation Trust (RRCT) purchased the 14-acre Old Harris Road Preserve in Pownal from the Sweetser-Adcock family in 2007. The purchase was made possible in part by funding from Maine DACF’s Land for Maine’s Future program. The primary purpose of the preserve is to preserve habitat, provide recreational access, and perpetuate the snowmobile trail on the property. As part of the acquisition, the Town of Pownal granted a recreational trail easement to RRCT on town land adjacent to the lot. The trail connects Elmwood Road to the lot via Old Harris Road. The acquisition was part of the larger Bradbury-Pineland initiative. This trail and lot were conceived of as part of a plan for regional motorized recreational connectivity.
Natural Resources, Habitat, and Historic Interpretation
The preserve is a hemlock forest co-dominant with red oak. To a lesser degree the lot has communities of white pine, poplar, and beech. More sparsely the lot had sugar maple, ash, paper birch, balsam fir, and spruce. Looking at historical aerials, the last timber harvest on the preserve was in the 1970’s. The forest floor is also healthy with downed trees and nurse logs throughout the parcel.
The trail crosses Thoit’s Brook, which joins the East Branch of the Royal River within a half mile of the trail bridge. Thoit’s Brook supports brook trout; the East Branch is typically stocked.
In the 1940s, Pownal rejected proposals to dam Thoit’s Brook to create Lake Pownal to enhance the new Bradbury Mountain State Park. Old Harris Road shows on maps as recently as the 1940s, but disappears from maps by the 1960s. Old stone walls line parts of Old Harris Road on the preserve.