Saco Heath Preserve

Saco, Maine
Spanning 1,223 acres, the Saco Heath Preserve in Saco, Maine is a testament to nature’s remarkable resilience and beauty.
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About This Location

The Saco Heath Preserve in Saco, Maine, overseen by The Nature Conservancy, is a testament to nature’s remarkable resilience and beauty. Spanning over 1,223 acres, the preserve is renowned for its unique raised coalesced bog, the southernmost specimen of its kind. This bog came into existence when adjacent ponds filled with peat, a decaying plant matter. Over time, as plants proliferated and added to the peat, the peatlands eventually merged, rising above the water table, and forming this distinctive peatland landscape.

Visitors to the preserve are treated to an eclectic mix of flora. From the aromatic Labrador tea to the rugged leather-leaf, and from the cottony cottongrass to the vibrant rhodora, the preserve is a botanist’s delight. Scattered among these are pitch pines, Atlantic white cedar, black spruce, and tamarack, all growing atop a blanket of sphagnum moss. The woodlands within the preserve are teeming with red maple, white pine, hemlock, and the rare black gum trees. Of particular interest is the Atlantic white cedar, unique in that Saco Heath is the only location where it grows on a northern raised bog. This cedar stand, one of Maine’s most expansive, is vital as it supports the Hessel’s Hairstreak butterfly, an endangered species that exclusively feeds on the cedar.

Wildlife enthusiasts would be thrilled to spot deer, moose, and snowshoe hares among other fauna. Additionally, the preserve’s acidic nature serves as a natural deterrent for mosquitoes, ensuring a more comfortable exploration experience. The Saco Heath Preserve Trail, extending 2.1 miles, is the primary trail for visitors. Though it takes roughly 30-45 minutes to complete, many linger to soak in the vistas. The trail is replete with informative signs, guiding visitors through its myriad wonders. A significant portion of the trail is a boardwalk, offering an up-close view of the raised coalesced bog.

Visitors are urged to be mindful of the preserve’s guidelines to ensure its continued beauty and ecological significance. The preserve is open only for day use, and foot traffic is encouraged to minimize environmental impact. Sticking to the trail and boardwalk is essential to safeguard the fragile ecosystem. The collection of plants or animals is prohibited. Pet owners should note the no-pet policy. In the spirit of conservation, visitors are reminded to carry out all litter, refrain from lighting fires, smoking, or camping within the preserve.

Reaching the preserve is straightforward. From the interstate, taking Exit 36 off I-95/Maine Turnpike leads to I-195. Following this route and making a few turns eventually brings visitors to the preserve’s parking lot on Buxton Road. This dirt parking lot, situated conveniently at the preserve’s trailhead, offers around 10 parking spaces, and there are no parking fees. Open from sunrise to sunset, the Saco Heath Preserve invites visitors to immerse themselves in a slice of untouched wilderness, urging them always to leave no trace and ensure the area remains as pristine for future generations.

Location

Address: Buxton Road, Saco, Maine
Place GPS Coordinates: 43.541361, -70.481500
Parking GPS Coordinates: 43.541361, -70.481500
Parking Notes: There is a dirt parking lot on Buxton Road located right at the trailhead to the Saco Heath Preserve. There are about 10 parking spaces and parking is free.

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