Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The trail system is made up of about 2.4 miles of trails, some of which follow an old, overgrown road. Near the water, the trails become more narrow but are well maintained and marked.
How to get there: If driving from the west, from Route 1 in Jonesboro, turn right onto Old Route 1 just after Swamp Yankee BBQ and drive 0.8 mile, then turn right onto Roque Bluffs Road (also known as Great Cove Road).
If driving from the east, from Route 1 in Jonesboro, turn left onto Old Route 1 just before The White House Restaurant and drive 0.4 mile, then turn left onto Roque Bluffs Road.
Once on Roque Bluffs Road, drive 1.5 mile and the gravel parking lot to Tide Mill Creek Preserve will be on your right, marked with a wooden sign. Park and start your hike on the old road that travels into the conserved land. In about 0.4 mile, the old road comes to the start of a 2-mile loop hike created by the blue-blazed Bear Creek Trail and the green-blazed Honey Pot Trail. At the trail intersection is a kiosk displaying a trail map.
Information: A 200-acre forested peninsula in the eastern Maine town of Jonesboro, Tide Mill Creek Preserve features over 2 miles of trails that travel through a dense evergreen forest to the banks of Tide Mill Creek, which feeds into the mouth of Chandler River as it empties into Englishman Bay. The trails travel along the grassy shore, offering many opportunities to spy waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds that frequent this tidal area year round.
The land was acquired and conserved in 2000 by Great Auk Heritage Trust, which has since merged with Quoddy Regional Land Trust to become Downeast Coastal Conservancy. Last year, the DCC created a new parking area for the preserve near Roque Bluffs Road because beavers were consistently flooding the road that lead into the conserved land to the old parking area. Now visitors are asked to park and walk down the road, which is about 0.4 mile long, to the old parking lot and the start of the preserve’s marked trails. I suggest wearing waterproof boots, as the road may be flooded in some areas, and the trails may simply by muddy in places, especially in the spring.
Once you’ve made it down the old, overgrown road, there is a kiosk at the old parking lot that displays a trail map and preserve guidelines. This kiosk is being upgraded this summer, and some areas of the trails are being improved. The most up-to-date trail map of the preserve is available online here, through the DCC website.
From the kiosk, you can start your hike on the Bear Creek Trail, which is marked in blue painted blazes and starts right behind the kiosk, or you can start your hike on the Honey Pot Trail, which is marked with green painted blazes and is south of the kiosk (to your right if you’re facing the kiosk). The two trails, measuring about 1 mile each, both visit the water’s edge and connect, forming a nice 2-mile loop with a smaller loop at the end of the Honey Pot Trail.
A word of caution: The Honey Pot Trail can be extremely muddy in the spring and even into the summer. During that period of time, DCC suggests you hike on the Bear Creek Trail, check out the tiny loop formed by the Honey Pot Trail near the water, then head back on the Bear Creek Trail. Improving the Honey Pot Trail is on the organization’s agenda.
The forest of the peninsula is mostly composed of spruce and fir trees, which grow close together, making the trail feel like more of a tunnel in some areas. This habitat is frequented by moose, deer, coyote, fox, snowshoe hare, a variety of birds and more, according to the DCC.
Tide Mill Creek was named after a Revolutionary-era sawmill that was located at the mouth of the creek. The mill operated by collecting the incoming tide behind a dam, then releasing the water to turn the mill. The remnants of the dam are still visible at low tide.
The preserve is open at no cost from dawn to dusk. Hunting is permitted. Fires, camping and motorized vehicles are not allowed. Visitors are asked to stay on trail to avoid damaging surrounding vegetation, and dogs are permitted if they are on leash or under voice control at all times.
For information, visit www.downeastcoastalconservancy.org or call 207-255-4500.
Personal note: I squinted, the glare of the sun off the snow nearly blinding me as I trudged along the old road, kicking up slush. In some spots, the snow cover had melted away entirely, leaving the soggy ground bare, while in others, the soft, melting snow reached just below my knees. But I refused to wear snowshoes. It was March 31, and it felt like spring. If a little snow spilled into my boots while I explored Tide Mill Creek Preserve, oh well.
With a great whooshing sound, a grouse took to wing to my left. My dog Oreo, wading through the snow just ahead of me, froze. He stared into the dense evergreen forest, his muscles tense.
“Hey! Stay with me,” I warned him, and just like that, the bird was forgotten and his interest turned to a nearby puddle.
It was a sunny Saturday, and after a long winter, it felt warm, though the temperatures were only reaching the low 40s. And to our delight, we had the preserve all to ourselves.
The road leading to the trails of the preserve was actually a pretty little walk, passing by some beaver habitat, where Oreo snuck off trail and waded into a pool of freezing water. Also along the road I stopped the photograph a tree full of old man’s beard, a lichen that trails from branches in long, crimped, pale green stands.
At the kiosk, we turned onto the Bear Creek Trail and followed the blue blazes through the woods to the banks of Tide Mill Creek, where we walked out onto the matted down grass and watched bufflehead ducks from a distance, their species easy to pick out due to the bright white patch on the male’s iridescent head.
Continuing through the woods close to shore, we listened to crows raising a racket nearby, and every now and again, we popped out onto the shore to check out driftwood and search the waves for waterfowl. At a rock overlook, I sat and enjoyed the sun, then called Oreo out of the salt water, which he was starting to drink. Salt water can make dogs extremely dehydrated and sick. Oreo’s been there, done that.
We then connected over to the Honey Pot Trail, where I found a neat wildlife-viewing blind, which was essentially a wooden fence lined with some sort of plant.
While the snow had all but disappeared along the shore, it became deep again as I followed the wide Honey Pot Trail back to the kiosk. In fact, it was so deep that Oreo walked behind me, stepping in my footprints rather than breaking trail ahead. By the time we got back to the car, he was ready for a nap.