Difficulty: Easy-moderate, depending on the trails you choose. Leonard’s Mills is home to a number of gravel roads (that aren’t open to vehicles), footbridges and about 2.5 miles of nature trails.
How to get there: Start at the intersection of Route 9 and Route 178 in Eddington and drive 4.5 miles north on Route 178; then turn right onto Government Road in Bradley and drive 1.25 miles to the parking lot for Leonard’s Mills, which will be on the right.
Information: Established in 1960, the Maine Forest and Logging Museum at Leonard’s Mills is an authentic reconstruction of a logging and milling community in the 1790s. Located on about 400 acres on Blackman Stream in Bradley, it was once the site of an early pioneer settlement, identified by the remains of a stone dam and the foundations of several houses.
Today, the open-air, living history museum is a perfect place for families to explore, with a variety of interesting historic structures, picturesque footbridges and educational displays. The property is also home to a network of nature trails that vary in difficulty from easy to moderately challenging.
Among the structures on the property is an operating “up-and-down” sawmill, a blacksmith shop, a bateau, a trappers’ line camp, a fishway and a settlers’ log cabin.
The museum hosts school tours and a variety of public programs, such as the Living History Days, which this year is scheduled for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 4-5, and will feature volunteers wearing period clothes, wagon rides, cider pressing, beanhole beans and biscuits, a Maine Civil War encampment, blacksmiths, weaving, spinning, pottery, woodworking and more. Cost of the event is $10 for adults and $5 for children.
The public is welcome to visit Leonard’s Mills for self-guided tours year-round during daylight hours. To learn the current hours of operation, which changes depending on the season, visit the museum’s Facebook page or call 974-6278. Admission is free but donations are welcome and can left in a box located in the cover bridge.
Photographers aiming to use the museum as a studio must contact the museum office in advance for fees, scheduling and to review policies.
Just past the museum gates is a kiosk, where small maps are available. Continuing on the gravel road, you’ll walk past a gift shop and up a hill to the covered bridge and sawmill.
More than 150 covered bridges spanned Maine rivers and streams in the 1800s, but today, few remain standing. The Leonard’s Mill bridge was constructed in 1987 according to old designs and speaks of days gone by.
A large painted map that labels all the historic buildings on the property is posted in the bridge. Referencing the map, you’ll see where the nature trails begin beside the hovel (number 10 on the map).
Interpretive signs along the nature trails, which are about 2.5 miles in total length, help walkers learn about local flora and fauna. The main trail is easy and fairly wide and even. The other three trails — the Bridge Trail, White Trail and Red Trail — are moderately challenging, with more exposed tree roots, rocks and uneven terrain.
Personal note: I was on a mission to find a family-friendly hike last weekend, a place with trails that would be easy enough for my 3-year-old niece, Willa. I chose Leonard’s Mills because I thought she’d enjoy all of the interesting structures — the bridges and wagons and quaint cabins — in addition to the easy nature trails. Turns out, I was right.
Willa climbed into the wagons and the bateau by the shore of Blackman Stream. She peaked in the windows and, with help, pumped water out of the well. And at the same time, my boyfriend Derek and sister Jillian (Willa’s mom) enjoyed reading the educational display and learning a bit about the state’s history.
While the Bridge, Red and White trails had too many exposed rocks and roots for Willa to navigate on her own, the main trail, which is about 0.5 mile long, was a perfect introduction to hiking for her. On that particular trail, pine needles covered the forest floor, cushioning Willa’s few falls. A few roots here and there taught her to watch the ground, but in most areas, she could run along without fear of tripping.
We stopped for sandwiches at a bench beside the main trail, where the forest opened up to provide a view of a manmade bog. At the end of the main trail, Derek lifted Willa on his shoulders so we could explore the more difficult Bridge Trail, which led to the Red Trial, where we turned back.