Last weekend was the 10th anniversary of the annual Pumpkinfest and Regatta in Damariscotta – possibly the only place you can see giant pumpkins raced, eaten, dropped and piloted along a river in a single weekend.

For its anniversary year, the Pumpkinfest brought an estimated 10,000-15,000 people to the small, beautiful coastal town, including me. It was a warm, (mostly) sunny fall weekend, and I wish I could have spent more time enjoying the impressive pumpkin boats, astounding craftsmanship and fun events. All the more reason to return next year.

One thing I did enjoy in great amounts was pumpkin pie, so before returning to Portland I wanted to get in a little hiking at one of the local preserves. The Damariscotta River Association land trust owns, co-manages or assists with more than 30 public access properties in the Damariscotta River region, including several wild islands and ledges in the Damariscotta River estuary and Johns Bay.

For my post-pie hike I picked the Dodge Point preserve, state-owned land that’s managed with assistance from the association.

Dodge Point is easy to find on River Road, only about five minutes south of Route 1 and the town of Damariscotta, marked by a large sign and parking lot on the south side of the road. An expansive network of trails offers a number of ways to explore the 500-acre preserve, with access to 8,000 feet along the Damariscotta River. For a 3.5-mile hike with more than a mile right along the shore, I recommend following the Old Farm Road Trail and Shore Trail in a clockwise loop.

Leave the parking lot on the eastern side, to the left of the information kiosk and head onto Old Farm Road Trail. The trail follows easy grades on – fittingly – old farm roads, used by farmers in the 1800s and loggers more recently. The stands of tall red pines in the surrounding forest belie the point’s history; before it was purchased by the state in 1989, the land was an award-winning tree farm.

After about half a mile, the trail makes a hard swing to the right, where it passes Ice Pond, which was a local source of ice for ice boxes in the days before refrigerators. While the pond has lost its utilitarian purpose since then, it still offers much in the way of aesthetics. The bench stationed on the southeastern shore of the pond is a perfect place to sit and watch for wildlife, or just enjoy the gentle swaying of the flora in the water.

At the junction with Ravine Trail – which offers some more-challenging hiking through the center of the preserve, with hills, rocks and roots – and Shore Trail, turn left to head toward Brickyard Beach. Looking across the wide Damariscotta River, you can see the opposite shore in South Bristol, and small Prentiss Island across Dodge Upper Cove. Lower your eyes and you’ll see how Brickyard Beach got its name.

In the 1800s, several brickyards were established along the Damariscotta River – according to Josh Hanna’s “Pemaquid Peninsula: A Midcoast Maine History,” there were 22 brick factories along the shores of the river by 1870. Most of the bricks produced here were shipped away, supplying markets from Nova Scotia to Massachusetts.

These kilns on the Damariscotta River fired much of the brick that was used to build Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.

For all the bricks that were shipped elsewhere, a good number also ended up here on the shores of the river. Brickyard Beach is covered in orange, red and pink bricks and brick pieces, extending past the tideline. The muddy beach is even more striking from the water, where the colors seem to roll out of the woods like their own surf.

The Shore Trail follows closely along the water for about a mile, with great views over the water, where you may see egrets, ospreys, herons and eagles wheeling through the air.

Two beaches along the way, Sand Beach and Pebble Beach, are great places to dip your toes in the water, relax on the riverbank or stop for lunch or a snack.

Keep your eyes peeled for horseshoe crabs, which are plentiful here as the protected Great Salt Bay at the river’s nearby terminus is their northernmost mating area.

After Pebble Beach, the trail continues around Baker Landing to the southern point of the preserve, where there is a Damariscotta River Association dock, before swinging back up toward Old Farm Road. There is one moderate pitch where the trail rises a little more steeply, but otherwise it’s an easy mile walk back to the trailhead to complete the loop.

When I returned to the parking lot, I felt lighter of spirit (and of pie) for my walk along the Damariscotta River. With the plantation pines, brickyard bricks and old ice pond, walking through Dodge Point felt a bit like walking through history, one that’s easy – and beautiful – to explore.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: