Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The preserve’s 1.5 miles of trails travel over fairly even terrain with just a few small hills, exposed tree roots and rocks.
How to get there: The preserve is located on Burby Road, about 0.75 miles from where it intersects with Route 1 in Perry. To get there from the west, from the intersection of Route 1 and Route 214 in Pembroke, follow Route 1 north for 3.8 miles, then turn right onto Burby Road. To get there from the east, from the intersection of Route 1 and Route 190 in Perry, follow Route 1 south 2.8 miles, then turn left onto Burby Road. There are two gravel parking areas in the preserve, both on your right-hand side as you’re driving out onto the peninsula. The first parking area is the closest to the trails on the north side of the preserve, and the second parking area is near a picnic spot (with a picnic table) and is closest to the trails on the south side of the preserve.
Information: Located on a peninsula between Sipp Bay and East Bay, the 92-acre Sipp Bay Preserve is a great place for hiking, picnicking, paddling, wildlife watching and berry picking. Two small trail networks explore the preserve’s mossy forest, maintained fields and scenic shoreline, and two hand-carry boat launches give easy access to paddlers looking to explore the area by boat.
Maine Coast Heritage Trust acquired the preserve in two chunks, one in 2010 and the other in 2011, with supporting funds through the Land for Maine’s Future program and the Open Space Conservancy’s Saving New England Wildlife Fund.
The preserve trails are divided into two small networks. One network explores the northern half of the preserve and the other explores the southern half. Marked with blue painted blazes, the trails travel over fairly unimproved forest floor, which means plenty of exposed tree roots and rocks. While narrow, these trails are well maintained and easy to follow, and both trail networks lead to stunning views along the shore.
While conserving the property, MCHT dug into the history of the area and learned that Passamaquoddy Indians and their ancestors used to hunt and camp on the property. They called the general area Kci-puna-muhkatik, meaning “big frostfish spawning place.” From the peninsula, they used to paddle Sipp and East bays by canoe, fishing for frostfish, also known as tomcod.
MCHT also learned that Sipp Bay was named after Scipio Dalton, an African American who lived on the property in a cabin with his wife in the late 1700s. A former slave, Dalton moved to Maine after being freed by Isaac Smith of Boston in 1781.
More recently, the property was a part of Knowlton’s Dairy farm and the former Knowlton Campground.
Cedar forests on the property serve as winter habitat for white-tailed deer and cover for many bird species, according to MCHT. And stands of red oaks and white pines on the peninsula shelter a number of other wildlife species, including a pair of bald eagles that have nested in the tall pines for years. The preserve is also a great place to spot a variety of tidal wading birds and sea ducks, which fish just off shore.
The preserve is free to visit year round. There are no restrooms. Dogs are permitted but must be kept under control at all times. And visitors are welcome to handpick wild raspberries and blueberries found along the trails.
Because there is a private residence near the preserve, it’s especially important preserve visitors remain on marked trails and roads and respect the privacy of neighbors. It’s also important to keep in mind that the preserve is used for marine harvesting, such as clam digging.
For more information, visit https://mcht.org, call MCHT’s main office at 207-729-7366, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Personal note: Dotting thorny bushes along the gravel road, wild raspberries were just beginning to ripen in mid-July at Sipp Bay Preserve in Down East Maine. Wildflowers stirred in the breeze, and grasshoppers clacked their legs together in the afternoon sun, producing rattling sounds that I’ve come to associate with summertime in Maine.
That morning, to gather information and photos for a BDN story, I had gone on one of MCHT’s most popular summer trips, a boat tour of Cobscook Bay. (Tough assignment, I know.) After the tour, I had ordered chicken wings at the Eastport Chowder House and finished writing a story on their deck by the water. And then, before buckling up for the 2-hour ride home, I had headed over to Sipp Bay Preserve to stretch my legs and check another MCHT preserve off my list.
When I arrived at the preserve, both parking areas were empty, and as I explored the trails, I didn’t see another soul — well, aside from a particularly large woodpecker, a few cute chipmunks, a yellow clouded sulphur butterfly and a plump gray and white bird called a dark-eyed junco. My dog, Oreo, would have loved the mossy trails and easily-accessible water, but because of the morning boat trip, it didn’t make sense for me to have him with me that day.
In addition to wild raspberries, I found ripe low-bush blueberries along a short trail near the preserve picnic area. Also along that trail, I came across a cluster of trees covered with wispy, pale green lichen known as old man’s beard. I’ve seen it plenty of times before, but never in such an abundance. Trailing down from the tree branches, the lichen swayed in the salty wild. I stood beneath it, tilted back my head to gaze upward, and almost lost my balance. Laughing at myself, I continued on my way, following the trail until it ended at the rocky shore.