Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The preserve features four short trails that are connected and together create a hike that is just over 1 mile long. The trails are marked with blue blazes and travel over a fairly smooth forest floor. Watch out for a few exposed tree roots and rocks. The trail to the top of the bluff features a few steep rocky areas, a section of rock stairs, and some wooden steps.
How to get there: From the intersection of Mines Road (Route 15) and Route 176 in Sedgwick, turn onto Rope Ferry Road and drive approximately 0.2 mile to the parking area and trailhead, which will be on your righthand side.
Information: The Bluff Head trails in Sedgwick officially opened to the public on Aug. 18, with a celebratory hike guided by the Blue Hill Heritage Trust. The short, easy trails, which together total about 1 mile, lead to the rocky top of a bluff, where hikers can sit and enjoy a stunning view of the Bagaduce River.
The trails are located in the 58-acre Bluff Head Preserve, property purchased by BHHT in 2013 with the help of a grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act program.
The grant — a $1 million matching grant — was awarded to a partnership that included Blue Hill Heritage Trust, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Conservation Trust of Brooksville, Castine and Penobscot in 2012, for a multi-parcel land conservation project on the Bagaduce River watershed. The creation of Bluff Head Preserve is just one of 17 land projects completed in the years 2013 to 2014 to fulfill grant obligations.
Starting at the gravel parking lot for Bluff Head Preserve, a single trail travels through a hardwood forest filled with ferns and other low-lying woodland plants. This trail is known as the Oaks Trail because of the forest’s abundance in tall, oak trees in this area.
Marked with blue painted blazes, the trail weaves through the forest, and at 0.34 mile, the trail splits into a loop. To the left is the Pine Trail, which passes through a stand of tall white pines; and to the right is the Erratic Trail, which travels by a number glacial erratics, which are boulders that were transported to the area by glacial ice thousands of years ago.
It doesn’t matter which trail you choose, since they connect, forming a loop that is about 0.3 mile long. And arcing off that loop is the 0.2-mile Bluff Overlook Trail, which travels to the viewpoint atop the bluff. The Bluff Overlook Trail is steep in a few places and includes a long section of rock steps and two short sections of wooden stairs.
From the overlook atop the bluff, hikers can see above the trees to the north, west and south to the Bagaduce River and surrounding forestland and fields. At the overlook is an open area where you can settle down on rock or a layer of fallen pine needles and rest for a bit before continuing your hike around the loop and back to the trailhead.
The trails are for foot traffic only. BHHT asks that visitors to the preserve stay on marked trails and carry out what they take in. Dogs are permitted on the property but must be leashed at all times.
Founded in 1985 by residents of the Blue Hill Peninsula, the BHHT is a nationally accredited nonprofit with the mission “to conserve in perpetuity land and water resources that support the long-term health and well-being of the natural and human communities on the Blue Hill Peninsula.” To date, BHHT has protected more than 7,000 acres.
For more information, visit bluehillheritagetrust.org, call BHHT at 374-5118, or visit the land trust office at 258 Mountain Road in Blue Hill. The office is open year round, 8: 30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, however, there are times when the office is unexpectedly closed when BHHT staff are out working on land trust property.
Personal note: I couldn’t make it to the grand opening of the Bluff Head trails on Aug. 18, but thanks to BHHT outreach and development coordinator Chrissy Beardsley Allen, I had the information I needed to explore the new trails on my own just a few weeks later. Allen had sent me a trail map and directions by email, but that information is now available on the BHHT website so the public can access the property easily.
Mine was the only vehicle at the preserve trailhead on Thursday, Sept. 1, when I headed into the woods with my dog, Oreo, pulling impatiently on his leash. It didn’t take long for us to reach the top of the bluff. Fluffy white clouds dotted the sky over the Bagaduce River, which I had visited with BHHT in June on a guided walk to find prehistoric-looking horseshoe crabs. The Bagaduce is one of the few places in Maine where horseshoe crabs breed, and our group was lucky to find two of them in the shallows doing just that.
The Bagaduce River is about 12 miles long and is one of the most productive estuaries in Maine because of its narrow constriction and broad coves, according to Beginning with Habitat, a collaborative program of federal, state and local agencies and non-government organizations to maintain sufficient habitat to support all native plant and animal species currently breeding in Maine. The tidal fluctuations within the Bagaduce River’s waterways provide favorable conditions for a productive shellfishery. The intertidal flats beyond the Narrows include more than 1000 acres of habitat for soft-shell clams, marine worms, and other invertebrates. Furthermore, waterfowl and wading birds flock to the river’s watershed for the more than 2700 acres of available habitat ideal for feeding, breeding and resting during migration.