The Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary features open fields, apple orchards, alder lowland, and mature white-pine and hemlock forest. The trail network provides access to these diverse habitats, highlights historic features near Mill Stream, and offers excellent wildlife viewing of shorebirds, song birds, and resident mammals.
Maine Audubon runs summer camps and programming at the sanctuary. The area around summer camp buildings has many connecting trails and paths, however, users should not have a problem navigating around the area. Below the major trails on the sanctuary are described.
Ridge Trail (1.6 miles): This trail provides access to all other sanctuary trails and begins at the kiosk in the parking lot. It is also reached from the Link Trail off the service road. The Ridge Trail winds through most types of habitat in the sanctuary, as well as past an old dam site and the historic mill-master’s house, now a private residence for sanctuary caretakers.
Orchard and Deer Run Trails (0.5 miles): The Orchard Trail branches from the Ridge Trail soon after the Ridge Trail entrance at the parking lot. It leads to the Deer Run Trail, which rejoins the Ridge Trail. These trails pass through orchard, former farm fields, and mixed coniferous forest of pine, hemlock, and fir.
Mill Stream Trail (0.3 miles): Branching off from the Ridge Trail/service road at the dam site 0.3 miles southeast of the parking lot, the Mill Stream Trail follows the stream through riparian (river) habitat and overlooks the maple swamp before meeting back up with the Ridge Trail. Mill Stream cascades over a historic dam and mill site before flowing into the tidal waters of the Harraseeket River.
Bench Loop Trail (0.25 miles): The Bench Loop Trail branches off from the Ridge Trail 0.8 miles north of the paring lot and features the best views of a hemlock ravine.
Estuary Trail (0.4 miles): Beginning and ending at the Ridge Trail/service road, the Estuary Trail, which is steep in places, takes you through field-grown white pines to the point over-looking the estuary.
The name “Mast Landing” dates to the early 1700s when the British navy sought ship masts made from massive white pines then common to southern Maine forests. Loggers hauled to a nearby ship landing the trees they felled and trimmed on what is now sanctuary land. The sanctuary’s Mill Stream once powered a saw mill, a textile mill, two gristmills, and a woodworking shop. Destroyed by fire in the early 1860s, the mills and shop were not rebuilt, and their foundations are visible where Mill Stream flows into the estuary. In 1795, mill master Abner Dennison built the house that still overlooks the stream and estuary, and is a private residence for sanctuary caretakers.
Up until the middle of the twentieth century, stock grazed on cleared land within the sanctuary, much of which has since reverted to Forest. In 1962, Maine Audubon founded Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary on land donated by the L.M.C. Smith family. The family’s commitment to conservation helped protect much of Freeport’s shore land. Four years later, Maine Audubon launched summer day camp sessions at the sanctuary which, along with educational walks for local schoolchildren, continues to provide children with unique ways to discover the natural world.
The sanctuary is open to the public, dawn to dusk, year-round.
Donations for sanctuary maintenance are appreciated!
Visit Maine Audubon online for more information or contact:
From US Route 1 (Main Street) in Freeport, turn onto Bow Street (directly across from the L.L. Bean flagship store). After one mile, turn left onto Upper Mast Landing Road. The sanctuary entrance is up the hill on the right.
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