Owned and managed by the Town of Yarmouth, Spear Farm Estuary Preserve is a scenic 55-acre property with diverse habitats, ranging from stately oaks and pine forest to the open salt marshes of the Royal River estuary, and a small freshwater pond with a fringing marsh. The preserve includes 1.6 miles of gentle, well-maintained trails over rolling, coastal terrain perfect for foot or ski travel and ideal for bird watching. There is an excellent picnic spot and overlook on the pond’s northern shore, as well as on the edge of the salt marsh. In the winter the pond offers great skating opportunities, with attention to safety. Conservation Easements held by the Royal River Conservation Trust protect the property.
Trails, Trailhead, and Accessibility
Trails begin and end at the trailhead parking area and barn off Bayview Street in Yarmouth. To get there from ME-88 (Spring Street) in Yarmouth, follow Bayview Street 0.9 miles to a parking lot on the right.
GPS Address: 445 Bayview Street, Yarmouth, ME
The off-road parking lot is plowed in the winter. Trails are mostly wide and well-maintained with mostly gentle slopes and good for easy strolls or runs.
More trail information is here, on the Town’s site.
The interface between the freshwater impoundment and the salt marsh create the opportunity for a wealth of wildlife sightings. The freshwater pond was constructed in 1968 by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Five interpretive signs stationed along the trail describe aspects of local ecology. Good birding sites are in the oak and pine stands, along the bluffs, the salt marsh edge, on the earthen dam, and the north end of the freshwater pond.
For more information on birdwatching visit: Best Birding in the Royal River watershed
The next menu tab (this web page) provides a narrative guide for nature walks on the preserve.
Nature Walk and Ecology
Spear Farm Winter Walk is a 20 page powerpoint presentation.
Or read below for a self-guided nature walk on the preserve, thanks to naturalist Ronald Dupuis, Jr.:
Located on the coast of Maine in Yarmouth, Spear Farm is a small estuary preserve that combines the smell of woods and salt air and can be a nature walkers dream. As you walk along the 2.2 miles of well-marked trails, you move in and out of several different types of natural communities and ecosystems that will inspire even the casual walker through the trail system. These trails provide insight to the many different types of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles that can call this wonderful place their home or just a pass through on their migratory routes up the coast of Maine in the spring. Also, in the spring, the wildflowers and ferns begin to emerge amongst the trees and shrubs contained in the 55 acre preserve. Planning a 2 to 3-hour visit to the preserve will provide a nature experience that provides a wide-array of observations and identification opportunities. There are also several interpretive signs along the way to assist the hiker. In the spring and early summer, the trails can be wet and leaf covered and this is also the time of year where bug dope is needed and the presence of ticks should be known.
At the beginning of the walk, which is located off the small parking lot off from Bayview street, the head of the trail contains an information kiosk. Veering to the right will bring you to a trail that walks along the Royal River. You walk through a small meadow to get to an incline that brings you to a stand of tall red oaks that looks down over a salt marsh along the river. These red oaks are majestic and have stood the test of time weathering many storms and droughts during their time at this location. One should notice along the trail the many ferns that can be enjoyed. Sensitive ferns, fragrant wood ferns, and royal ferns are just some of the ferns that populate the preserve. Through the spring and summer season, Lady ferns, Bracken fern’s, and Royal ferns will cover the floor of several environmental communities within the preserve as well.
The preserve has the distinction of containing many types of coastal and inland birds. Within minutes of walking into the preserve, once can start to hear and see many types of birds that will excite even the most seasoned birder. Looking towards the top of the trees in spring, birds migrating from their winter locations can be seen. Several types of warblers can make their way through the preserve that include black-throated green warblers and black and white warblers. Hold overs from winter, like nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, and hairy and downy woodpeckers become busy. Different shore birds and song birds intermingle in the preserve with peak time during the spring where the migrants spend their time in the preserve. Semipalmated sandpiper and plovers, different types of gulls (Bonaparte, herring and ring-billed), and osprey dot the skies and mudflats along the shore of the preserve.
During this time, these song birds will feed on the nectar from different type of tree buds that are present on the twigs and branches. Red oak and red maples are primary trees in the preserve but three different types of birches (gray, yellow, and white), white pine, eastern hemlock, and red spruce also populate this diverse ecosystem. Glossy buckthorn line the edge of the pond with buttonbush and elderberry are located throughout. The invasive Asiatic bittersweet unfortunately occupies the preserve, which has thinned out the last several years but the visitor to the preserve can also find raspberry, elderberry, and honeysuckle during their walk.
Wildflowers are very prolific in the preserve. Depending on the time of year, the walker can find Jack-in-the-pulpit, star flowers, meadow sweet, and coltsfoot. During the fall, goldenrod and jewelweed can be found along the paths and in the openings within the preserve. The preserve is magical because as the year progresses, different types of wildflowers show their brilliance and it is exciting to spend the time to locate and identify.
As mentioned earlier, there is a small pond within the preserve that holds different types of amphibians and reptiles. The northern green frog and the inviting spring peeper are located along the pond and its song is always a welcome sign because it is a sure sign of spring. Later on, in the year, the painted turtle and snapping turtle make their home along the pond and can be seen sunning themselves on an exposed rock or stump near the pond. Of course, getting a closer look is challenging because they are very shy. The garter snake is the most popular snake in the preserve but occasionally a water snake may be lurking because of the presence of the pond.
The preserve is home for many resident mammals throughout the year. The eastern gray and red squirrel make their homes here and they enjoy an abundance of seeds and nuts to raise their young. Chipmunks are here as well and compete for the food that the squirrels enjoy. White-tail deer can be seen from time to time in the early morning and at dusk and the red fox is very prolific around the area of the preserve. Raccoons and porcupines reside here as well and although very elusive, analyzing scat along the trails shows the presence of these creatures. Muskrats move back and forth from the river and the pond and one can see them swimming in the pond from time to time.
The preserve contains several different information kiosks and benches for observation along the walking paths. Several of these observation areas overlook the marsh and river at different spot’s and there is a quiet location with a bench that looks over the pond. These are very quiet areas where the walker can observe all of the activity of the creatures in the preserve. The above narrative is only a sample of what can be found and experienced during a visit to Spear Farm. This location provides a year-long window into a healthy and active ecosystem in southern Maine.
Conservation History, Management Plan, and RRCT’s Baview Marsh
Owned and managed by the Town of Yarmouth, the Spear Farm Estuary Preserve is protected by a conservation easement held by the Royal River Conservation Trust. The 55-acre preserve was conserved in three phases, along with an upriver 17-acre parcel. The most recent phase of conservation was a gift of land in 2011 by the Cattell family. The first two phases, in 2004 and 2005 were made possible by remarkably generous donations from neighbors and Royal River Conservation Trust members, the Land for Maine’s Future program, federal funds, and the Trust for Public Land. This Town of Yarmouth Management Plan includes detailed background information on history, ecology, geology, forestry, management, and more.
A nearby 17-acre section of salt marsh, just upriver from Spear Farm Estuary Preserve, was donated to the Royal River Conservation Trust by Ann Donaghy and Nancy Gunzelmann in 2004. Known as RRCT’s Bayview Marsh, this property protect marsh ecology and today has no public access (except by river).
To learn about other nature walks in the watershed visit: Best Nature walks in the Royal River Watershed.
Rules & Regulations
- The Town of Yarmouth maintains and enforces various rules and regulations, posted on site. Here are some frequently asked questions:
- Bicycles are not allowed.
- Use of metal detectors is allowed only by permit.
- Crossing the salt marsh to the tidal river is not encouraged; please stay off these areas to avoid damaging the native natural communities which are sensitive to even the lightest foot traffic.
- Hunting is allowed but strictly regulated by permit from Town Hall. No discharge of firearms is allowed within 300 feet of a home, road or trail. Wear blaze orange during hunting seasons in May, October, and November.
- Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash when they are within 300 feet of any trail head, and on leash or under voice control on all trails. Pack out any solid waste and please pay attention to your dog’s interaction with the natural world on this protected property.