(photo by Maine Natural Areas Program)
The fifty-eight mile long Sheepscot River rises in the hills of
West Montville, widens into Sheepscot Pond in Palermo, then falls
swiftly over rocks and gravel through the rural Whitefield countryside
to the picturesque village of Coopers Mills, where spars for the
U.S.S. Constitution were cut. Farther downstream it drops over
the Head Tide Dam to mix with the incoming tide, flowing by the
delightful antique houses of Alna. After meandering through Sheepscot
Village, with its reversing falls, the river slides through Newcastle
and bustling Wiscasset, once one of the busiest ports in North
America. Now a broad river, it passes Westport, Southport, Hendricks
Head Light and Boothbay on its way to the sea.
contains more than
30 lakes and ponds and about 55 miles of streams.
The West Branch, which enters in Whitefield,
is approximately 15 miles long and holds Branch
Pond in its headwaters. From the head of tide
in Alna down to Wiscasset is a five-mile long
upper estuary with extensive mud flats and
river here, the Dyer River in Sheepscot Village and the Marsh
River and Deer Meadow Brook just above Wiscasset. The Marsh River/Deer
Meadow Marsh complex is a highly productive brackish marsh system
(rare in Maine) that harbors many threatened and endangered species.
and kayaks blossom with the first wildflowers.
As the river races to the ocean, full with
the melting snow, excellent rapids appear,
especially between King’s Mills and
Alna’s Head Tide Dam. As the seasons
change, residents and visitors use the river
and its banks for bass and trout fishing
or turkey and deer hunting. The lazy days
of summer find children splashing in the
swimming holes with their adult companions
splashing away beside them. Cross-country
skiing and snowshoeing have become popular
winter sports especially with plentiful winter
(Photo by Sheepscot River
in the river’s
rich tidal mud flats, which support rare
mussels and plant species. Fish and invertebrates
attract osprey, eagles and other mammals
that feast on the river’s bounty. Its
forested banks provide habitat for moose,
white-tailed deer, and many other creatures.
of the last remaining rivers with remnant populations of the
nearly extinct native Atlantic salmon. These and other anadromous
fish such as striped bass, shad, alewife and eel, return from
the sea to spawn in the river’s clean gravel bottom before
migrating back to the ocean.
Sheepscot River has the state’s highest
water quality rating and the upper portions
are relatively pristine, the watershed nevertheless
faces a variety of problems. These include
high nutrient loadings, sediment from eroding
banks, elevated temperatures, reduced levels
of dissolved oxygen and various sources of
Valley Conservation Association has amassed a record of
committed stewardship through its efforts to conserve the natural
and historic resources of the watershed. The Association currently
has several major programs underway to address the river’s
problems and preserve its assets.
a traditional land trust and
a river advocacy group. As a land trust, the Association
has acquired 1,005 acres either through purchase or donation
and holds conservation easements on an additional 500 acres
of land in the watershed. These lands include the 55-acre
Griggs Preserve in Newcastle, the oldest of the SVCA’s
public preserves. A hiking trail there is open to the public.
On the banks of the Sheepscot in the preserve, one can look
north and see the reversing falls in Sheepscot Village and
south to the railroad bridge in Wiscasset.
in Alna was purchased in
1998 with assistance from National Fish & Wildlife Foundation,
Land for Maine’s Future, the Sweetwater Trust and the
Grand Circle Foundation. The SVCA recently purchased an additional
36 acres abutting the preserve, more than doubling its size.
Hiking trails lead through mixed forestlands to the Sheepscot
River and an old fishing camp.
located at the confluence of the West Branch and the Main Stem
of the Sheepscot. Several miles of trails wind through 56 acres
of pine forest and along the river. This property fronts along
some of the finest salmon spawning and rearing grounds in the
river and a holding pool well known by local fishermen.
newest and most ecologically diverse property. The preserve is
74 acres and is situated along the upper reaches of the Sheepscot.
Several vernal pools, streams and a red maple swamp are located
on the property. Approximately 1 mile of trails are complete
and a new interpretive trail will be open in 2006.
protect the Forever Wild Corridor, a three-mile
stretch of river from Alna Head Tide to Sheepscot
Village. Only three houses are visible from
the river in this entire stretch. But since
it is located in fast-developing midcoast
Maine, preservation of this wild experience
is of tremendous importance.
the Sheepscot River, the SVCA has been an active participant
in developments affecting the river. From the design and installation
of the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant, the redesign of the
Wiscasset and Dyer River bridges to the discussions concerning
a Wiscasset bypass, the SVCA has been an outspoken advocate for
protecting watershed resources.
the Sheepscot River Watershed Council, the SVCA has worked to
restore and protect Atlantic Salmon habitat in the Sheepscot
River through restoration and easement and acquisition efforts.
Surveys of the riverfront were performed over the past few years,
identifying damaged habitats where elevated temperatures have
resulted from the removal of tree canopy overhanging the river
or where sediments or pollution enter the river.
the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Atlantic
Salmon Commission, the SVCA is working with private landowners,
the Watershed Council and state and federal agencies to restore
these sites and to identify and protect riverside land adjacent
to critical salmon spawning and nursery habitat.
over 200 volunteers planted native shrubs (purchased with funds
from the Atlantic Salmon Commission) on the riverbanks at the
Maxcy Mills power substation in Whitefield. Restoration of the
native buffer on the river will help keep the waters cool at
the height of the summer and prevent bank erosion, protecting
the adjacent Atlantic Salmon nesting habitat.
(Photo by Sheepscot River Watershed Council)
eleventh year of monitoring river water quality at over 30 sites
on the river above Sheepscot Village. Results from this volunteer
program have been used to illustrate the effects of contamination
from several overboard discharges that have since been removed.
In addition, data from this highly successful volunteer effort
have been used to identify areas with elevated water temperature
and depressed dissolved oxygen levels, both of which can have serious
impacts on salmon and other anadromous fish populations.
its Geographic Information System (GIS) Support Center to provide
GIS mapping services at cost to non-profit conservation organizations.
Maps are used by these land trusts and environmental groups to
enhance conservation planning and land management, attract funders,
increase membership, and to document the progress of their land
acquisition programs. While the intent was to allow GIS maps
to enhance the conservation work of each individual organization,
this program has resulted in increased communication among organizations.
This has enhanced regional planning and the exchange of techniques
and resulted in several joint projects involving multiple groups.
624 Sheepscot Road
Newcastle, ME 04553