Riverfront Woods Preserve

We are working today (January 2019) to complete this project! Stay tuned for more details. The Riverfront Woods Preserve will be owned and managed by the Town of Yarmouth, protected by conservation easements held by the Royal River Conservation Trust. The 50-acre project conserves one of the last remaining pieces of unfragmented habitat and shoreline along the Royal River in Yarmouth. This section of 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 will be accessible from a new town trail head parking lot at the end of a new town street (Riverfront Drive) being built off East Elm Street near the intersection with North Road. As trails are built and as the acquisition is completed we will continue to update this web page.

The Town of Yarmouth is working on a draft management plan for this Preserve. Drafts and information on public process is posted here on the Town’s web page, including information on a February 6, 2019, public meeting. 

More Information

Maps

Riverfront Woods Preserve with conceptual trails (trails not built): Downloadable PDF

Riverfront Woods Preserve region/vicinity:  Downloadable PDF

Trails, Trailheads, and Accessibility

While the trailhead parking lot is now built at the end of Riverfront Drive (new street off East Elm Street near North Road), no trails have been built to date, and boundaries have not been marked to help you avoid private property.   Riverfront Drive is not today on most GPS systems.

While trails are planned for construction in 2019 or 2020, today the preserve is inaccessible for many recreational users.

Off-trail recreation is allowed; the CMP corridor is easily navigated and the easiest way to experience the property today.

The shoreline of the preserve is easily accessed by canoe, kayak, or SUP as part of the Royal River Water Trail.

Rules and Regulations and Hunting
  • The Town of Yarmouth is working to develop rules and regulations for this new property. Stay tuned.

Alerts, & Cautions
  • NO TRAILS: This new preserve does not yet have marked or developed trails.
  • 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, Conservation History, Campaign Donors

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 the Town of Yarmouth and the Land for Maine’s Future program.  Campaign and donor information is here.

Natural Resources, Habitat and Historic Interpretation

The preserve includes lush forested 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.  Below is some history of the land, prepared for grant applications and title research during the campaign.

  • 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 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 call the Hoyt, which in the early 1890s navigated this section of the Royal River between Yarmouth’s East Elm Street and the 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 burned some of the forest on the Barker parcel, according to Yarmouth’s Open Space Guide.  It may have also affected the forest on the Dugas parcel. Here’s a forecaster article on the fire. The CMP powerline easement across the Dugas parcel 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 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.
  • WABANAKI NAMES: One Wabanaki name for the river Pumgustuck means “falls river.” The Wabanaki name “Wescustogo” includes the tidal section of the river, meaning “muddy.”
  • IMPOUNDMENT & DAMS: The first dam and mill was built at East Elm Street’s “Fourth Falls” in 1759 to power an iron refinery. The dam’s impoundment reaches the Riverfront Woods Preserve, and continues upriver beyond Route 9 in North Yarmouth.