Difficulty: Easy. The 1-mile loop trail in Corea Heath Preserve travels over fairly even terrain, with one small hill. The first part of the narrow trail is smoothed by gravel and features several bog bridges, which are narrow. The ground gradually becomes more uneven, with plenty of roots and rocks, so watch your step.
It may be best to wear waterproof boots. Beaver activity has created wet areas that put parts of the trail underwater in spring and summer. The bog bridges in the wettest areas were in the process of being replaced in April 2021, which should result in the hike being much drier.
From left (clockwise): A trail leads to overlooks a beaver bog in Corea Heath Preserve in Gouldsboro; A sign marks the parking area for Corea Heath Preserve in Gouldsboro; A small brook flows under a footbridge in Corea Heath Preserve in Gouldsboro. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Information: Covering 600 acres of wetlands and upland forest in Gouldsboro, Corea Heath Preserve is owned and managed by the Frenchman Bay Conservancy. A loop trail on the property visits several different habitats, including a jack pine woodland, a coastal plateau bog and a pond created by beavers.
This property is especially good for birding. Keep an eye out for a variety of warblers, woodpeckers and flycatchers, especially in the spring. Wood duck nesting boxes are located out in the middle of the pond, where a variety of waterfowl can often be found.
Starting at a kiosk at the edge of the preserve parking lot, the hiking trail begins as a fairly smooth path that traces the edge of wetlands and crosses several long stretches of bog bridges. Early on, the trail crosses a brook on a narrow wooden footbridge. This brook is filled with tannins that make the water appear startlingly orange.
About 0.2 mile from the trailhead, the trail splits into a 0.8-mile loop. If you turn right and hike the loop counter-clockwise, you’ll climb very gradually to reach a stand of jack pines. There you’ll find exposed bedrock and plenty of fluffy reindeer lichen. Interesting fact: Jack pine trees invade areas where mineral soil has been exposed by major disturbance, such as fire.
The trail then descends slightly and threads through the woods to the edge of a beaver-made pond. There you’ll find two separate overlooks of a large beaver dam. The trail then heads back into the woods with a short uphill climb, crosses a brook and closes the loop.
Corea Heath itself covers about 250 acres and is considered to be a coastal plateau bog, which is a type of peatland in eastern Maine in which the surface is raised above the surrounding terrain, with the bog perimeter sloping sharply to mineral soil. The raised surface generally features lawns of deer-hair sedge and few trees. Black crowberry and baked apple-berry are also common.
Corea Heath and the neighboring Grand Marsh are considered the two most ecologically significant features of the state-designated Gouldsboro Grand Marsh Focus Area, which encompasses the peninsula east of Prospect Harbor. The heath supports several species of rare plants, including Pickering’s reed grass, screwstem and swarthy sedge, according to an online document about the focus area by the state-operated Beginning with Habitat program.
Located not far from Acadia National Park’s mainland parcel, this quiet preserve is the perfect place for nature lovers to enjoy a peaceful walk. The preserve abuts the 431-acre Corea Heath Division of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which features a 0.2-mile wheelchair accessible trail to an observation platform overlooking the heath. To limit confusion between the two properties, Corea Heath Preserve is often referred to as Northern Corea Heath, while the national wildlife refuge property is called South Corea Heath.
Dogs are permitted at the Corea Heath Preserve but must be kept under control at all times. Access is free. Stay on trail, pick up after yourself and your pet and leave the wilderness as you found it.
For more information, visit frenchmanbay.org or call 207-422-2328.
Personal note: In April, a bunch of birds return to Maine to pair up, build nests and raise young. It’s a great time to be outside, soaking up the sun, especially since black flies and mosquitoes have yet to emerge. And believe me, it’s just a matter of time before they do.
So on April 14, I wrangled up my husband, Derek, and our dog, Juno, for a little midday nature walk at Corea Heath Preserve. Right off the bat, Derek spotted a fairly large garter snake basking in the sun on a bed of dead leaves. Then I spent several minutes trying to photograph golden-crowned kinglets, which are tiny songbirds that are known for being difficult to photograph because they flit about so much. One, I noticed, was collecting dead grass for its nest.
From left (clockwise): A garter snake rests in the sun beside a trail on April 14, in Corea Heath Preserve in Gouldsboro; A golden-crowned kinglet collects materials for a nest on April 14, in Corea Heath Preserve in Gouldsboro; A hermit thrush perches on a branch beside a hiking trail on April 14, in Corea Heath Preserve in Gouldsboro; A black-capped chickadee clings to a tree branch covered with catkins on April 14, in Corea Heath Preserve in Gouldsboro. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
A little bit farther down the trail we came across two hermit thrushes, which sing the most hauntingly beautiful song. Near the edge of the beaver-made pond, I spotted several palm warblers, which are among the first warblers to arrive back to Maine in the spring. With bright yellow plumage streaked with copper, they’re especially cheerful looking birds — and easy to pick out among the leafless shrubs.
We also saw and heard plenty of black-capped chickadees. At the edge of the pond, I found a cluster of carnivorous pitcher plants. And even though it wasn’t the right time of day for it, every once in a while, a spring peeper would call out. It’s amazing how loud those tiny frogs can be.
Directions: From the Sullivan side of the Hancock-Sullivan bridge, drive north on Route 1 for 9.1 miles. Turn right onto Route 195 (Pond Road), heading south to Prospect Harbor and Corea. Drive 4.8 miles. At the junction with Route 186 in Prospect Harbor, turn left and drive 0.1 mile, then turn right onto Route 195 (Corea Road). Drive 2 miles, then turn left into the parking lot, which is marked with a wooden Frenchman Bay Conservancy sign.
To reach the nearby Corea Heath Division of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge and it’s wheelchair accessible trail, continue on Route 195 (Corea Road) 0.6 mile, past Paul Bunyan Road, and the parking lot will be on your right.