The Riverfront Woods Preserve is owned and managed by the Town of Yarmouth, protected by conservation easements held by the Royal River Conservation Trust. The 50-acre preserve includes one of the last remaining pieces of unfragmented habitat and shoreline along the Royal River in Yarmouth. The river supports beavers, otters, deer and a variety of bird species and distinct flora, creating a surprisingly remote experience for paddling in the summer and skating, snowshoeing and skiing in the winter. The preserve’s shoreline is roughly one mile upriver from the East Elm Street boat launch, and is accessible from a trailhead parking lot at the end of Riverfront Drive — off East Elm Street near the East Elm & North Road intersection. The trails are designed for wheelchairs, baby carriages, and comfortable walking. Dogs and bikes are not allowed, increasing the remote experience of the preserve.
Trails, Trailhead, and Accessibility
A paved trailhead parking lot with an informational kiosk is located at the end of Riverfront Drive (new street off East Elm Street near its intersection with North Road).
The Carriage Trail is designed for robust accessibility.
The Carriage Trail begins from the parking lot and extends along the powerline corridor to the Royal River. The Carriage Trail has been graded to have minimal slopes. The first third of a mile of trail is surfaced with hard packed gravel and is a minimum of 4 feet wide with 5-foot wide passing areas at least every 200 ft. At a quarter mile from the parking lot there’s a crossing of a railroad line which, although inactive, still has the rails in place. The gravel surfaced portion of trail terminates at a wide bridge which doubles as a viewing platform for an inactive beaver bog. Additional gravel work in 2024 will extend the accessibility of the Carriage Trail to the Royal River. That trail segment today is cleared for hiking with natural (uneven) soils and foot path.
Side trails are narrow and have very uneven trail treads. The side trails contain several wetland boardwalks, some of which have a small (less than 8 inch) step up on either end.
The shoreline of the preserve is easily accessed by canoe, kayak, or SUP as part of the Royal River Water Trail.
Rules, Regulations, and Hunting
For questions on all rules and management, contact the Town of Yarmouth.
Hunting and trapping is significantly restricted by municipal ordinances, and noting nearby residences. Please review kiosk postings, the management plan, or call Town Hall before hunting. Regardless, all hikers should wear orange during all hunting seasons.
Bikes are not allowed.
Dogs are not allowed at Riverfront Woods Preserve; please consider one of the many other local trail systems where dogs are welcome.
Wabanaki and Historic Interpretation
The preserve includes lush forested flood plain and riparian habitat for beaver, deer, fox, coyotes, and more. Several potentially significant vernal pools are mapped and documented, providing educational opportunities and habitat for amphibians. These natural resources are the basis of growing Wabanaki interpretive resources for this preserve.
WABANAKI NAMES & LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:
- On September 23, 2023, Yarmouth’s Parks & Lands Committee unveiled its Wabanaki land acknowledgement at the Riverfront Woods Preserve. “The current stewards of open space in what is now known as Yarmouth, Maine recognize that the lands and waters we inhabit and enjoy are places from which Wabanaki peoples were forcefully removed. The Abenaki and other tribes of the modern Wabanaki Confederacy lived here and are still present. They stewarded these lands and waters as part of an interconnected ecosystem for thousands of years prior to European colonization. Let us respectfully acknowledge and learn from this significant history, while also appreciating the current beauty that exists here and recognizing the social, health, and other benefits we now derive from these unceded ancestral lands of indigenous people.“
- New trail names and other resources in Wabanaki dialects were also unveiled in 2023, recognizing the role of the Abenaki and other tribes of the modern Wabanaki Confederacy in present-day Yarmouth. For a map of these trail names, see the “Maps” tab above.
- Riverfront Woods Preserve translates as Sipuhsisuwi Kchiq in Passamaquoddy/Maliseet, one of the Wabanaki dialects still spoken today in this territory.
- The Wabanaki name Wescustogo includes the tidal section of the Royal River, perhaps meaning “muddy banks at the outlet of the river (estuary).” Other times Wescustogo is interpreted as the name of the entire Royal River not merely the outlet or estuary. From 1646 to 1680, Wescustogo was the British-Massachusetts Bay Colony name for the entire township (later named North Yarmouth when Maine became part of Massachusetts). Old North Yarmouth (old Wescustogo) was later split into Yarmouth, North Yarmouth, Freeport, and other Maine towns.
- JACOB R. PRATT HOMESTEAD FARM: The Pratt family owned land in the North Road and Ledge Road area since before 1805. The family had been residents of Yarmouth (and the previous North Yarmouth) since at least the early 1770s when the first Pratt births were recorded. By 1871 there were at least 4 Pratt family farms on North Road, all near the junction with East Elm Street. In 1848 David Pratt and Jacob Pratt owned the now-Dugas parcel and sold a corridor to the railroad to allow railroad construction. The Dugas riverfront parcel was part of homestead farm of Jacob R. Pratt until 1895, then Eugene Pratt until 1927. Eugene Pratt owned the parcel in 1924 when a cattle underpass with “1924” carved in the keystone was built under the railroad.
- TURNER FAMILY OWNERSHIP (Dugas riverfront parcel): 1948 (Max and Ruth) to 2016 (Anne and Warren). (Book 1873, p 313)
- HILDA BARKER PRESERVE: Hilda Barker sold this parcel to the town in 2001. Her son Jim was one of the founders of the Friends of the Royal River (now Royal River Conservation Trust), founded in 1992. He was once the chairman of the Yarmouth Conservation Commission. The Barker family acquired the land from Helen Greenlaw in 1957, the same years as the Pole Yard fire (below).
- RIVERBOAT: The Town of Yarmouth acquired a significant portion of the preserve from the Dugas family. The Dugas family’s use of Riverboat, LLC, comes from a grandfather’s family business Riverboat Electric.
- STEAMBOAT HOYT: Linc Merrill of the North Yarmouth Historical Society writes that Yarmouth businessmen Charles Russell and A. O. Sands built a small steamboat 35′ long that could carry about 30 passengers, perhaps called the Hoyt, which in the early 1890s navigated this section of the Royal River between Yarmouth’s East Elm Street and the short-lived Wescustogo House resort and springs in North Yarmouth.
- POLEYARD FIRE: A fire in 1957 originating at the CMP Pole Yard on the western bank of the Royal River (Sligo Road) burned some of the forest on the Barker parcel (now Riverfront Woods Preserve), according to Yarmouth’s Open Space Guide. It may have also affected the forest on the Dugas parcel (now Riverfront Woods Preserve). Here’s a forecaster article on the fire. The CMP powerline easement crossing the Preserve was granted in 1956.
- SAINT LAWRENCE & ATLANTIC (GRAND TRUNK) RAILROAD. The railroad was proposed and built beginning in the 1844, and began operating in 1853. The Pratts sold rights to cross the now-Dugas parcel in 1848. The railroad was likely rebuilt in 1924 (see Cattle Crossing narrative below.) The railroad was the vision of John Alfred Poor of Portland and Andover, Maine, brother of the founder of Standard & Poor’s. Grand Trunk’s president Charles Melville Hays died on the Titanic in 1912. The former headquarters of Grand Trunk, in Portland’s Old Port, is now a flagship office building of Gorham Savings Bank. The railroad line between Portland and Auburn (though Yarmouth) was acquired by the State of Maine around 2000. Freight service to the last customer (B&M Baked Beans) was discontinued in 2015. The line has been recently studied as a possible route for passenger rail or commuter light rail service to Lewiston-Auburn, or Montreal; it is also being studied for “Trail Until Rail” or “Rail Trail” proposals.
- RAILROAD CATTLE CROSSING. Parallel to and very near the existing Riverfront Woods Preserve trail crossing of the Grand Trunk railroad, an old cattle crossing (culvert) goes under the railroad tracks, connecting historic farm land. The cement cattle crossing has the year 1924 prominently inset in the cement. It has largely filled in with mud and water, but perhaps allowed five feet of vertical passage in its prime.
- IMPOUNDMENT & DAMS: The first dam and mill was built at East Elm Street’s “Fourth Falls” in 1759 to power an iron refinery. Earlier dams had been built downriver at various lower falls. The East Elm Street dam’s impoundment reaches the Riverfront Woods Preserve, and continues upriver beyond Route 9 in North Yarmouth.
Alerts & Cautions
- RAILROAD TRESPASS: It is always illegal and unsafe to walk on railroads; there is only one legal crossing (trail crossing) of the railroad at the Riverfront Woods Preserve.
- NEIGHBORS’ POSTINGS: Please respect various postings on private abutting land.
Stewardship History and Conservation History
Owned and managed by the Town of Yarmouth with conservation easements held by the Royal River Conservation Trust, this preserve was the result of a successful campaign between 2017 and 2019. Significant funding came from RRCT donors, the Town of Yarmouth and the Land for Maine’s Future program. Campaign and donor information is here
The Town of Yarmouth has adopted a final management plan for this new preserve in 2020, posted on the Town’s web page.