There are few kayaking excursions that evoke the true coastal nature of southeastern Maine than the newly acquired Smelt Brook Preserve in York, less than an hour from Portland. While this 292-acre York Land Trust-owned preserve is not yet accessible by land (it's so new that walking trails have yet to be developed for this property), it can be experienced by water via kayak or canoe.
Distant farms add color to this compelling waterscape. — Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik
Access is possible from the bridge on Scotland Bridge Road in York (near 25 Scotland Bridge Road), a half a mile from Route 91 (Cider Hill Road). At high tide, kayakers simply slip their boats into the adjacent York River and head upstream. After a half mile of paddling the wide York River, kayakers bear right at the “partings” (the separation between the York River and its tributary, the Smelt Brook) for a dramatic change in scenery.
Entering Smelt Brook — Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik
The water route immediately narrows as kayakers find themselves surrounded by expansive, open plains of sea grass and marsh plants waving in the wind currents. In the distance, farm houses and fields add to the horizon-to-horizon feel of this place. Paddlers marvel at this uncommon opportunity to view a classic wetlands environment, an experience usually not accessible by land.
There is a rare, cherished stillness as paddlers make their way along the narrow, winding Smelt Brook. The steady hum of offshore breezes combines with sights of cormorants, herons and other sea birds for welcome immersion in a vibrant, yet serene coastal ecosystem.