Crooked Farm Preserve in Bristol encompasses 130 acres of open fields, forested uplands and wildlife-rich wetlands, including over a mile of frontage on the placid Pemaquid River. More than three miles of foot trails wend through this scenic parcel, offering hikers plenty of opportunity for exploration.

The preserve was established in 2002 through the cooperative efforts of the Crook family, the Carpenter’s Boat Shop, the Pemaquid Watershed Association and the Damariscotta River Association. The local community and the Land for Maine’s Future Program, in conjunction with the Maine Department of Conservation, provided critical funding to make the project a reality. The preserve is owned by the PWA and co-managed with the DRA.

To reach the trailhead, travel south from Damariscotta for 10 miles on Route 130, then turn left onto Old County Road and go another 0.8 miles. A small parking area is on the left, just before Carpenter’s Boat Shop.

From the kiosk, the Crook Trail meanders west through the woods, quickly reaching a junction. Straight ahead, the Canoe Launch Trail leads to the Pemaquid River and a put-in for paddlers. The short Pine Loop Trail branches off from this spur. Both are worthwhile diversions.

Bearing right, Crook Trail traverses a large field, passing several solitary white spruce along the way. At the wood line, the trail forks. To the right the trail takes to the high ground. On my visit I went left, opting to start out on the lowland route.

Near the river, the trail passes through a stone wall and for the next mile follows the winding Pemaquid, close to the river’s bank at first, then separated by a hardwood marsh further ahead. The footway is soft and wet in places, but plank bridges span the worst of it. The understory is lush and green with young spruce and fir, while the overstory showcases impressive examples of old growth spruce.

At the eastern boundary, a side trail leads a quarter-mile to Boyd Pond, really just a wide section of the Pemaquid River. It’s a fine spot to enjoy a picnic lunch, and a good place to see beavers, muskrats, herons, ducks and perhaps even an eagle or hawk.

Back to the main loop, the Crook Trail continues on, keeping to the right of a moss-covered stone wall that marks the property line. Ahead, the trail bears right and climbs gently to a ridgeline, which it follows for another mile, weaving in and around more stone walls and tracing the long farming history of this coastal land.

All too soon your footsteps will bring you out of the woods and back across the big field to the end of the trail. Before you go, be sure to donate a few dollars if you are able, as every little bit helps these wonderful land trusts do what they do so well.

Nearby PWA properties offer more miles of hiking trails leading through a variety of natural landscapes. These include the Osborn Finch Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Doyle, Bearce-Allen, Little Falls Brook, Bass Rock and La Verna preserves.

For added fun, bring your canoe or kayak and launch at one of the five designated locations to enjoy some paddling on the lakes, ponds and river portions of the Pemaquid River watershed. Popular trips include the Pemaquid Paddle Trail — an easy 10 miles from Pemaquid Pond to Bristol Mills – and the section from Duckpuddle Pond south to Pemaquid Pond.

PWA publishes a Hike and Paddle Pocket Guide to its preserves and hiking trails, as well as canoe and kayak routes on the Pemaquid River. To get more information, go to www.pemaquidwatershed.org or call 563-2196.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is a freelance writer and avid hiker. Comments are welcome at:

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