The low ground at the southeastern tip of Woodward Point provides the easiest landing place to connect with the preserve trail system. Christine Wolfe photo

November is a magnificent month to explore our coastal estuaries by canoe. Despite the recent chill, there are still a few sunny 60-degree days before you bury your canoe under a tarp in the backyard.

A tranquil place to experience the best that November has to offer is Woodward Point Preserve in Brunswick on the western shoreline of the New Meadows River. Most people arrive by car, but we decided to arrive by canoe. A morning start may help you avoid the chilling sea breezes that often arise around noon.

Launch your canoe or kayak at the public boat launch on the Princes Point Road a few yards west of Route 24 just before the Gurnet Bridge. Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 6) for help in getting there.

Depending on the tide, there may be a stiff current a few feet off the boat ramp from water entering or exiting Buttermilk Cove north of the Princes Point Road bridge. Use care getting into your boat.

To pass under the Gurnet Bridge, time your arrival with slack tide or flow with the outgoing tide under the bridge. With an incoming tide you may not be able to power against the tidal flow to get through. Paddlers should be skilled paddling in moving water and strong swirling currents in the bridge area.

Once through, we paddled around Lower Coombs Island before heading north a mile up to the southeastern tip of Woodward Point. A bald eagle flew over as we neared the island. Three blue herons stood along the shoreline watching us pass. A migrating group of 50 cormorants splashed in the water on our right.

A pair of Bonaparte’s gulls perches on oyster farm nets in Woodward Point. Christine Wolfe photo

A string of oyster farm nets appeared on the water ahead. On top of them stood a large gathering of Bonaparte’s gulls. They allowed us to paddle within a few yards. These delicate birds are the smallest in the gull family, and the only gulls to nest in trees. They are named for a cousin of Napoleon, Charles Bonaparte, who was a noted Philadelphia ornithologist in the early 1800s.

The low ground at the southeastern tip of Woodward Point provides the easiest landing place to connect up with the preserve trail system. Before heading up into the preserve we relaxed on a colorful ledge dotted with white quartz.

We basked in the mid-morning sun and gazed down the New Meadows River toward the brilliant yellows of maples and golden browns of oaks at the end of Foster Point. We heard the voices of a couple coming down through the woods to the shore. The husband summed up the spot perfectly, “a good place to bring a picnic.”

The preserve is a recent collaboration of Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, made possible by the generosity of the Cook-Ellis family who farmed the property for many years. Nearly two miles of clearly marked trails meander through green meadows and through pine, hemlock and oak forests. It seemed odd walking through a preserve with the call of chickadees, blue jays and crows mixing with the sound of gulls. One of the meadow trails swings by a picturesque farm pond displaying artistic reflections of the pines bordering the pond. The white flowers of yarrow mixed with the yellow of dandelions and purple of clover. We even found a few strawberry blossoms. Was it really November?

We had agreed that Sunday afternoon would be dedicated to planting bulbs and window washing. It was hard to leave. We paddled around the spruce-lined shoreline of Lower Coombs and, as luck would have it, rode the incoming tide under the Gurnet Bridge. We then headed north up Long Reach, stopping to admire a few weathered fishing shanties built years ago on thick foundations of flat rocks gathered from the surrounding shoreline.

As we landed at the boat launch a young man was pulling some of his oyster nets up onto the concrete ramp to inspect them. He had a plastic bucket of small oysters to enjoy while watching the Patriots game later in the day. We planned to have our windows spotless by then.

(Note: Be sure to wear your hunter orange while hiking anywhere in November.)

Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses, and schools. Contact:

[email protected]


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