Difficulty: Easy-moderate. The preserve’s trial network is made up of about 2 miles of trails that travel through mixed forest to the edge of Torsey Pond. The terrain is fairly level. Footing may be tricky in some areas because of roots and long bog bridges.
How to get there: From the intersection of Route 17 and Route 41 (Chimney Road) in Kents Hill, go 1 mile north on Route 41 to the preserve’s small gravel parking lot on the right. The trailhead is at the far end of the parking area.
Information: Torsey Pond Nature Preserve — with mixed forest uplands, a mile of shoreline and significant wading bird and waterfowl habitat — is one of the richest biological areas in Readfield, according to the Readfield Conservation Commission.
The 92-acre preserve is owned by the town of Readfield, which purchased the land in 2001 with funds from the Maine Land and Water Conservation Fund, a town appropriation and local contributions. In 2003, Kennebec Land Trust accepted the land as a conservation easement, to be permanently protected for wildlife and recreation.
Since then, approximately 2 miles of walking trails have been constructed on the land. The trails, which form a few loops, are color-coded; each trail is named after the color of its blazes. For example, the Yellow Trail, which leads to the trailhead, is marked with yellow blazes (paint marks on trees and rocks); the Orange Trail is marked with orange blazes; and so on.
A wildlife observation blind — a small building with a partially open front — is located at the edge of Torsey Pond, where visitors can watch a variety of wildlife, including loons, geese, ducks and migratory songbirds. To get there from the trailhead, walk down the Yellow Trail. You’ll come to a large wooden footbridge that spans a small stream. After the bridge, the Yellow Trail ends at a juncture with the Green Trail and Blue Trail. Turn right and hike down Green Trail, which ends at the wildlife observation blind.
The Green Trail meets the Orange Trail a short distance before the pond. The Orange Trail loops back to the Yellow Trail. A short side trail off the Orange Trail leads to the pond’s shore. A map of the trail network is located at www.mainetrailfinder.
The preserve is open for day use year round. Dogs are allowed if on leash. Be considerate of wildlife and other walkers by keeping your dog under control at all times and picking up your dog’s waste. Fishing and boating are allowed on the pond.
Camping, fires, littering and smoking are not permitted. Hunting and trapping is prohibited, except with permission.
Torsey Pond was originally called Bean Mill Pond, then Greeley Pond. But in 1892, it was renamed in honor of Henry P. Torsey, an ardent fisherman and the headmaster at Kents Hill School in Readfield in the mid-1800s.
Today’s Torsey Pond is combination of an original natural pond and a man-made pond, according to the Torsey Pond Association. The natural pond began to expand in 1770, when a man named James Craig constructed a dam at the pond’s present dam site and began operating a sawmill. The foundation of this sawmill is visible across Old Kents Hill Road from the existing dam.
The pond now covers an area of 770 acres. It’s long and irregular in shape, extending north to south about 2.5 miles, from the inlet at Tingley Brook to the outlet at the dam on Old Kents Hill Road. At its widest point, the pond is almost a mile wide, and it has two narrows, each about 0.25 mile wide.
Kennebec Land Trust, established in 1988, works with landowners and communities to conserve forests, shorelands, fields and wildlife in central Maine. To date, the land trust has partnered with landowners in 21 communities to protect more than 4,660 acres on 59 properties through land donations, fee purchases and conservation easements. On that land, they’ve constructed 32 miles of trails.
To learn about the many properties and trails owned and maintained by the Kennebec Land Trust, visit www.tklt.org or call 377-2848.
Personal note: I was lucky enough to visit Torsey Pond Nature Preserve for the first time during the spring, when the forest and pond was teaming with migratory birds. Even with my dog Oreo in tow, I saw a variety of wildlife while walking the preserve’s well-marked and maintained trails.
By Torsey Pond, I spied a yellow bird, almost entirely yellow, but wasn’t quick enough to take a photo, and so I can’t positively identify it. (Too many yellow warblers!) Also at the pond were a number of red-winged blackbirds, which liked to perch on the cattails along the shore.
The highlight of our hike was sitting on the wooden bench in the wildlife observation blind (with Oreo eating treats at my feet). There, I watched a large group of Canada geese swimming in Torsey Pond, and to my surprise, they were fairly tolerant of our presence. As I captured photos of the geese, I realized, swimming among the adults were chicks — little, fuzzy, yellow baby geese!
I was so impressed by Oreo’s calm demeanor as I photographed birds that after the hike, I rewarded him with a soft-serve vanilla ice cream at a nearby convenience store. We sat in the grass, and for some reason, Oreo would only eat his ice cream if I fed it to him with a spoon — something that attracted a bit of attention from passersby.