1,846 acres in Phippsburg, Sagadahoc County
In October 2006, an anonymous donor gave The Nature Conservancy 1,910 acres in Phippsburg, including more than 4 miles of coastline surrounding the Basin, a saltwater inlet on the New Meadows River. In 2012, the Conservancy transferred 64 acres to the town of Phippsburg to be used for town recreational access and school programs. The Basin Preserve is a recreational and scenic treasure, providing coastal access for clamming, fishing and miles of hiking trails. The Basin is the Conservancy’s largest coastal preserve in Maine and one of the Conservancy’s most valuable individual land gifts.
Ecological Value & Features
The acquisition of The Basin Preserve is a substantial addition to existing protected lands and waters in the Kennebec Estuary. Comprised of Merrymeeting Bay and the Lower Kennebec River, the Kennebec Estuary is the largest tidal estuary on the East Coast north of the Hudson River.
In addition to protecting important estuary habitat of the Basin and shoreline of the New Meadows River, The Basin Preserve features extensive stands of rare Pitch Pine Woodlands. A series of ridges run down the length of the preserve in a northeast/southwest orientation. One of the larger ridges on the peninsula, Pasture Ridge, runs down the middle of the preserve and hosts an exemplary stand of Pitch Pine Woodland, one of the largest in Maine. These beautiful woodlands are influenced by past fires and pitch pine’s ability to persist in harsh growing conditions of acidic, thin soil on exposed granite ridge-tops. Sedge meadows, shrub marshes and black spruce bogs occupy the valleys between the ridges and provide excellent habitat for many plants and animals. One large stand of black gum, a southern tree species at its northern limit in Maine, is found on the preserve.
Sprague Pond Trail
(6 miles; trailhead off the Basin Road): The Sprague Pond Loop Trail begins at the parking lot on the Green Piece, just off of Basin Road. A fenced area at the northern end of the Green Piece protects a newly planted chestnut seed orchard, which is an effort by The Nature Conservancy and Maine Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation to produce blight resistant seeds of chestnut for future forest restoration projects. The trailhead is located at the south end of the Green Piece and takes hikers through mixed hardwood forests and pitch pine woodlands. The trail ascends and descends low granite ridges. The valleys between these ridges feature abundant wetlands and bogs. The trail eventually leads to Sprague Pond Preserve, owned and managed by Phippsburg Land Trust. Sprague Pond is a deepwater pond, and a side trail marked with white blazes offers a nice walk along its banks.
Mica Mine Trail
(2 miles round-trip; trailhead off Meadowbrook Road): The Mica Mine Trail traverses an old roadbed from Meadowbrook Road up the southwestern slopes of Fuller Mountain to a pitch pine woodlands, a rare natural community in Maine. The understory is dominated by broom crowberry, a small shrub that is rare in Maine. Near the end of the trail, a series of rectangular pits are located along the north side of the path. These pits are the remains of an old mica mine, an industry that was active in the early 20th century. Mica is incredibly heat resistant and was used for electrical insulation and heat shields in furnaces. An old cog railroad took the mined material downslope to the shores of the Basin, where the mica was loaded onto ships.
Denny Reed Trail
(2.4 miles round-trip; trailhead off Decker Hill Road): This short hike offers a unique look into the human history of the Basin Preserve. The trail starts by crossing an old mill dam at the head of the Basin before crossing old abandoned farmland, where apple trees are still abundant. To the east of Denny Reed Point, the remains of an old stone dam are visible at the south end of the Basin. This dam was part of a tidal mill, one of several mills present in the Basin in the early 19th century. Archeological evidence suggests that tides at the Basin were harnessed to power a sawmill, a gristmill, and a carding mill to serve three industries– lumber, agriculture, and textile manufacturing.
From the north, take Route 1 into Bath and take the first exit into Bath as you are coming off the Sagadahoc Bridge. Turn left at the first traffic light onto Washington St. This will take you under the Route 1 viaduct and past Bath Iron Works. Follow Washington Street to Route 209 (High St.). Turn left onto Route 209. Go 6 miles and turn right on Basin Road. Follow the Basin Road for 3/5 of a mile (the road will turn to gravel) to a grass field (the Green Piece) and a parking area on the left side of the road.
From the south, take Route 1 into Bath and take the Phippsburg/Route 209 exit. Turn right onto Route 209. Follow Route 209 for approximately 7 miles and turn right on Basin Road. Follow the Basin Road for 3/5 of a mile (the road will turn to gravel) to a grass field (the Green Piece) and a parking area on the left side of the road.