110 Belvedere Road, Damariscotta
One of the Damariscotta River Association’s most exciting and beautiful protected lands is the 115-acre farm on the Great Salt Bay in Damariscotta.
Generous Donors. Thanks to a generous personal gift from the late Mrs. Elizabeth Noyce and a substantial grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, DRA was able to purchase the Great Salt Bay Farm in 1994.
A Range of Habitats. The farm includes over one mile of shorefront, extensive wetlands providing both fresh and saltwater habitats, and rolling fields that have been worked for 200 years. It is home to a wide variety of plants and wildlife and affords spectacular views across the bay.
All-Season Enjoyment. Great Salt Bay Farm has become a community destination and education center with numerous physical and programmatic enhancements. Locals and visitors alike make use of the Farm year-round for walking, skiing, nature observation, sledding, and gardening, and more than 1,000 students of all ages take part annually in our education programs based there. Birdwatchers seek out the property for its exceptional waterfowl, wading birds, and grassland birds, among others.
Open for Use. The property is open to the public for pedestrian use daily from dawn to dusk. Dogs must be leashed at all times in all seasons except on Oyster Creek Trail (note that the field across the street is newly under agricultural production, so dogs must be now be leashed there for health concerns.) Motorized and wheeled vehicles are prohibited because of the sensitive habitat areas, however, snowmobiles may pass through the property along the designated spur trail. Please use caution as children are often present.
Amenities at Great Salt Bay Farm:
The original 18th century farmhouse – known as the Heritage Center – serves as a home for DRA, a base for many of our educational programs, and a visitor center with interpretive displays about the natural history of the area. Mounts of local birds and mammals, a salt water fish tank with local species from the estuary, touch tables and more help provide a fuller sense of the estuary and its denizens.
The Heritage Center’s conference room is also often available for non-profit meeting space – just ask us. While we welcome small donations to defray cleaning costs, we make the facility available free of charge. The Heritage Center is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visitors are welcome. We are at 110 Belvedere Road in Damariscotta (directions).
DRA Organic Community Garden
Not everyone has ideal conditions at their home to grow fresh food, but the DRA Organic Community Garden provides the community with a venue to grow healthy, local produce.
Additionally, the DRA supports locally grown food and community agriculture by hosting the Damariscotta Farmers’ Market and partnering to conserve agricultural land for active production.
Plans for restoration of freshwater wetlands at Great Salt Bay Farm were realized in the summer of 1997. In earlier days, when this was a working farm, a large freshwater marsh below the farm house was ditched and drained to increase the acreage available for growing crops. However, removal of much of the water greatly diminished the value of the wetland as wildlife habitat.
A naturally shaped berm was built separating the remnants of the freshwater wetland from an adjoining tidal saltmarsh. This had the effect of raising fresh water levels to increase both the depth and size of the wetland. Beneficiaries include many species of birds and waterfowl, including Great Blue Heron, American Bittern, Virginia Rail, several species of ducks including Black Duck, Wood Duck, and Hooded Merganser, as well as migrating shorebirds and Redwinged Blackbirds. The marsh is now a birder’s paradise and groups from Audubon are regular visitors.
Financial support for this restoration project was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, and DRA members. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife contributed technical assistance and helped develop a management plan for the rejuvenated wetland and its wildlife.
In order to take advantage of new wildlife viewing opportunities afforded by the restored freshwater wetland at Great Salt Bay Farm, DRA created a wetland observation platform set back from the marsh edge among low trees. Now visitors to the farm will have the opportunity to observe wildlife in the wetland from a semi-blind vantage point. The platform provides clear and intimate views and a stable base for spotting scopes and tripods.
Many thanks to Garrett Grant, who replaced the steps and repaired the platform in 2017 as part of his Eagle Scout project. Garrett also cleaned up the approach to the platform, to make it safer and more accessible.
Great Salt Bay Farm is the base for most of DRA’s educational programs for youth and adults, ranging from Camp Mummichog summer day camp to multi-week Oyster Gardening courses, after school programs to birding trips led by Tom Arter or Kenn Kaufmann.
See “EVENTS & PROGRAMS” for more information.
Native American Village
Each year in October student groups taking part in DRA’s Wabanaki Living Skills and Culture Program help to construct dwellings made of local natural materials based on traditional designs. Weather takes its toll, but the temporary structures may often be viewed down toward the Great Salt Bay for some time after the programs take place. Notably, this area is known to have been the location of an actual Wabanaki summer encampment more than 1,000 years ago, and oyster shell middens on the property are among the more visible signs of native settlement.