A visitor to the Basin Preserve casts from shore.
Casting at the Basin A visitor to the Basin Preserve casts from shore. © Ian Patterson

Places We Protect

The Basin Preserve

Maine

Pitch pine woodlands, stunning coasts and great trails make this a memorable destination.

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.

Trail System

Download a trail map of the Basin 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.

New Meadows River Trail
(1.6 miles round-trip; trailhead off Decker Hill Road): This multi-use trail is open to hiking, horses, and motorized use. The trail follows an old road through mixed woods down to the shore of the New Meadows River. The trail descends gradually at first, passing westerly through young woods which were open fields less than 100 years ago. As the trail turns to the south, it descends the hill toward the river’s edge. Cundy’s Harbor lies directly across the river and Bear Island can be seen to the south. Bald eagles sometimes nest on Bear Island and osprey may be seen in the summer months.

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.

Visiting Guidelines

  • Day use only
  • No fires
  • Please do not smoke while visiting the preserve
  • Bikes and horses permitted on New Meadows Trail only
  • Pets prohibited on hiking trails
  • Please stay on trails
  • No collecting of plants or animals
  • Carry out all trash; leave no trace