Aerial view of boardwalk at Saco Heath Preserve
Saco Heath aerial Aerial view of the boardwalk at Saco Heath Preserve. © Ian Patterson

Places We Protect

Saco Heath Preserve

Maine

A remarkable and unique landscape is located just minutes from Portland.

Saco Heath - Honored by Down East magazine as Maine’s “Best Overlooked Gem!”

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 1,218-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.

 

Hours
Sunrise to sunset

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.