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The Shores of Orr’s

By Ed Robinson

When our son Eric was at Bowdoin he was fortunate to spend the summer of 2006 doing research at the college’s Coastal Studies Center on the northern tip of Orr’s Island. A visit introduced us to this lovely 118-acre property and the wide variety of trails on offer. If you have not visited, you owe it to yourself to do so in any season of the year.

A fine old farm, the parcel was donated to Bowdoin in 1981 by Irma and William Thalheimer for recreational and research use. With 2.5 miles of coastline, 3.6 miles of trails and a number of different habitats spread across the land, it was a wonderful gift indeed. Today students from biology, environmental, earth and oceanographic science conduct a variety of research studies on land, in the sea and in a marine lab building. When you visit, please be careful not to disturb the marked research areas, and note that the large boat dock is not intended for recreational use.

From Mountain Road, drive south on Route 24, the Harpswell Islands Road, for 2.6 miles and take a sharp right turn onto Bayview Road. It is one mile to the well-marked parking areas on both sides of the road. Lace up your walking shoes, hiking boots, cross country skis or snowshoes depending upon the weather conditions. Looking at the kiosk or the Bowdoin website’s trail brochure, you will see there are several trail options. You have your choice of direction, scenery and distance to suit your ability and interests.

My favorite walk starts with the Stone Wall Walk (0.4 mile) skirting the edge of the open field (look for blueberries in summer). On your right will be a spruce-fir swamp and soon an old apple orchard with mast for birds and the local deer herd. After reaching the old stone wall, you have your choice of trails. I like to head northeast on the Long Cove Loop (0.8 mile in total), which takes you through a beautiful forest on the western shore of the cove. Keep your eyes open for a fat old porcupine but keep your dog away from those quills!

At the northern tip of the trail you can step out on the rocks to enjoy a fine view of Harpswell Sound and Dogs Head Island. It’s a good place to take a break or to share a sandwich while keeping an eye out for seals. From there, I switch to the Brewer Cove Trail (0.8 mile) so I can walk along the shore back to the old farmhouse.

Another favorite trail is the Dipper Cove Path (0.6 mile), which takes you down to the water’s edge with a nice view of Wyer Island and the southern reach of the Sound. At very low tide you can reach the island but take note that it has poison ivy to balance the beautiful rugosa roses. This trail also brings you close to an active osprey nest so you may see or hear them during nesting season.

In her 1882 book, The Pearl Of Orr’s Island, Harriett Beecher Stowe described “…the magnificence of the evergreen forests…groves of birch, beech and oak in picturesque knots and tufts…while the sea seems to flash and glitter like a new gem…through the framework of a new setting.” One hundred and thirty years later, you can see it for yourself!

October 2013