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Maine

Saco Heath

Saco Heath features unique plants that are adapted to thrive in its nutrient-poor soils.


Saco Heath formed when two adjacent ponds filled with decaying plant material called peat. Eventually, the two ponds filled completely and grew together to form a raised coalesced bog, where the surface of the peat is perched above the level of the groundwater. Located in a rapidly growing area of southern Maine, the 1,223-acre preserve features a self-guided hike along a woodland trail to a boardwalk through the heath’s varied peatland communities. In the spring, the heathland plants bloom, spreading a carpet of lavender, pink and white across the heath.

Location

Saco, Maine

Size
1,223 acres

 

Hours
Dawn to dusk

Conditions
The preserve is accessible through a 1-mile trail and boardwalk. The terrain is relatively level and easy.

Preserve Guidelines
To learn more about the logic behind these rules, please read our complete list of preserve use policies.

  • Foot traffic only
  • Please stay on the trail and boardwalk to protect this fragile ecosystem
  • No collecting of plants or animals
  • No pets
  • Carry out all litter
  • No fires, smoking or camping

What You’ll See
The Heath features a unique assemblage of plants that are adapted to thrive in its nutrient-poor soils. These include Labrador tea, leather-leaf, rhodora, cottongrass, sheep laurel and scattered pitch pine, Atlantic white cedar, black spruce, and tamarack. These plants grow on a mat of sphagnum moss. The woodland areas of the preserve include red maple, white pine, hemlock and black gum trees. This is the southernmost example of this type of raised bog and the only place where Atlantic white cedar grows on a northern raised bog.

The Atlantic white cedar at Saco Heath is one of the largest stands in Maine and supports one of only two populations of Hessel’s hairstreak butterfly in Maine. The caterpillars of this species feed exclusively on Atlantic white cedar. The Heath is also home to deer, moose, snowshoe hare and a variety of other wildlife. The acidity of the heath keeps mosquito numbers low by making the abundant standing water inhospitable to mosquito larvae.

Download a map of the trails at this preserve.

Download a brochure of this preserve.

Directions

Take Exit 36 (formerly exit 5) off I-95/Maine Turnpike. Take the first exit after the tollbooth and turn left onto Industrial Park Road. Turn right onto Route 112, Buxton Road. Follow Route 112 about two miles. The parking lot for the Saco Heath Preserve will be on your right in a wooded area.

Discussion

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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