Difficulty: Easy. The footpaths of Reid State Park are short, fairly wide and travel over a variety of surfaces, including pavement, gravel and soft sand.
How to get there: The park is located at 375 Seguinland Road in Georgetown. To get there from Route 1 in Bath, on the east side of the bridge crossing the Kennebec River, take Route 127 south and drive 10.5 miles, passing through the towns of Arrowsic and Georgetown. Turn right onto Seguinland Road and drive 2.2 miles to the entrance of Reid State Park, on the right. An entrance fee is collected at the entrance gate.
Information: Maine’s first state-owned saltwater beaches are located at Reid State Park, which was donated to the state by Georgetown resident and successful businessman Walter E. Reid in 1946. The park was established just a few years later, according to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Land website.
Today, the park is extremely popular, especially in the summertime. Thousands of people visit each year to walk the park’s long sand beaches and explore the easy, family-friendly trails. The park is open year round, 9 a.m. to sunset unless otherwise posted at the entrance gate. Dogs are permitted on park trails if on leash but are prohibited from all Maine state park beaches from April 1 to Sept. 30.
The park’s main beaches are East Beach, Mile Beach and Half Mile Beach. All three are sandy, though East Beach is smaller, quieter and has coarser sand. Both Mile Beach and Half Mile beach are important nesting areas for two endangered birds: least terns and piping plovers. During nesting season, sections of the beaches’ sand dunes are fenced off and signed so people are aware to keep their distance from these two species, which are both small and relatively well camouflaged. Since both species roam and hunt outside their nesting areas, it’s important visitors stay alert and give them space.
Both Mile and Half Mile beaches face southeast into the Gulf of Maine and receive large surf, according to an online geologic tour of the beaches at www.maine.gov/dacf/mgs/explore/marine/sites/apr02.pdf.
Short, easy walking trails are located near each of the three beaches. The most difficult trail starts near the parking area for Mile Beach and leads up a set of uneven stone steps to the top of Griffith Head, where there are coin-operated viewing scopes. From that spot, visitors can spot the lighthouses on Seguin Island, The Cuckolds and Hendricks Head. Also visible from Griffith Head is Outer Head, which is a tern sanctuary, and Southport, where Rachel Carson wrote “Silent Spring.”
If looking for a walk in the woods, a 2.2-mile ski trail starts not far from the park entrance gate. The trail is used year round by skiers, walkers, runners and bikers, according to the gate attendant.
A downloadable park map can be found at www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/docs/maps/reid.pdf but does not include the ski trail. State park rules and regulations are posted at www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/park_passes_fees_rules/park_rules.shtml.
Personal note: I visited Reid State Park for the first time after traveling to the nearby Popham Beach to meet a biologist for a story about piping plovers and least terns, two endangered species in Maine. I asked the biologist for a nearby spot with walking trails, and she pointed me to Reid, which is also home to the two endangered birds.
While walking Mile Beach, I was lucky enough to spot an adult piping plover as it dashed from the surf to the grassy sand dunes, where it lingered to watch me as I walked by (giving it plenty of space). Then, while walking the length of Half Mile
Beach, I paused to watch terns fishing. However, not being a bird expert, I couldn’t tell if they were the endangered least terns or some other kind of tern (we have several species in Maine).
My absolute favorite spot in the park was East Beach, which was much quieter (and smaller) than the other two beaches, and had a different, much coarser type of sand that I sunk into right up to my ankles.