Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site

MTF

Trailhead

From North: Coming from the north on US Route 1 in Damariscotta, turn right at Belvedere Road, and follow it 0.1 mile to stop sign. Turn right and follow US Route 1 Business/Main Street another 0.5 mile. The parking lot and trailhead are on right.

From South: Coming from the south on US Route 1 in Damariscotta, turn left at Belvedere Road, and follow it 0.1 mile to stop sign. Turn right and follow US Route 1 Business/Main Street another 0.5 mile. The parking lot and trailhead are on right.

Description

The trail is a half mile loop that takes hikers past an apple orchard and along the east bank of the Damariscotta River. At this site, remnants of an historic shell midden can be seen and the trail loops back around to the trail head.

Shell middens, also called "shell heaps" and "shell mounds", are scrap piles left by prehistoric peoples, usually in coastal areas, consisting of discarded oyster shells along with related cultural materials, such as bones, ceramic pots, and stone tools. Ranging in size from a thin scattering of shells along the shore, to deep layered accumulations like the ones found here, middens show thousands of years of annual migrations of Native Americans. Evidence from these shell middens show that these people harvested oysters in late winter/early spring probably coinciding with the annual mid May migration of alewives. During the rest of the year, these natives traveled inland to farm and hunt and there is no evidence of permanent settlements at these sites.

The shells contain calcium carbonate, creating an alkaline environment. Am alkaline environment reduces soil acidity and thus preserves animal remains over long periods of time giving archeologists valuable clues as to the climate, season, hunting patterns, and other conditions existing during periods when the site was occupied. Artifacts, such as the ceramic pots and stone tools, help determine when middens were created and enable us to better understand the way of life and technologies of the people that built them.

The upper Damariscotta River is famous for its enormous oyster shell heaps, called middens. Native Americans created the middens over a period of about a thousand years, between 2,200 and 1,000 years ago.

This site once contained a massive shell heap named Whaleback because of its shape and was one of the largest in the area. Much of this midden was removed in the late 1880's to supply factories with shells for the manufacture of Oyster Shell Grit which was used as chicken feed. As a result, only a small portion of the Whaleback remains today.

Other Information

Please observe the carry-in, carry-out policy of this property to ensure it can be enjoyed by future visitors.

Please stay on the designated trail and respect the privacy of our neighbors.

Visitors should also take precautions when hiking on the property to prevent Lyme disease. Please check for ticks on yourself and your pet after walking along the trails.

The Division of Parks and Public Lands has partnered with the Damariscotta River Association for the management of the property.

Trail Manager

Visit Whaleback State Park online for more information, or contact:

Maine Division of Parks and Public Lands
Southern Region Parks Manager
State House Station 107,
Augusta, Maine 04333
Phone: (207) 624-6077
ron.hunt@maine.gov

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The path leaving the parking area and winding towards the midden.
The path leaving the parking area and winding towards the midden.
Photo courtesy:Maine Division of Parks and Public Lands

This half mile interpretive trail takes visitors on a short hike along the shore of the Damariscotta River where historic shell mounds created by native people over a thousand year period can still be seen.

Quick Facts

Activity
  • Hiking / Walking
TownDamariscotta
DifficultyEasy
Length0.5 miles, Loop
SurfaceMowed Grass, Crushed Stone, Dirt/Forest Floor,
PetsPermitted
FeesNo
Other ActivitiesNone

Current Weather

April 16, 2014
weather icon
Overcast
30°F feels like 23°F

Wind:
From the WNW at 7 MPH
Humidity:
79%
Dew Point:
24°F

Source:
Weather Underground
5-Day Forecast

Nearby Geocaches

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Check for nearby geocaches to Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site.

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