Around Town with Michael

| Michael Fralich |

Presumpscot River Preserve

My wanderings took me out of town this week. We met up at the Presumpscot River Preserve with family and Lindsay, a staff member from Portland Trails. Portland Trails is a non-profit that conserves land for trails in Greater Portland. We had gathered to honor Julie’s dad, Phil Thompson, who over thirty years ago was instrumental in getting conversations started around the idea of a trail network in Portland for all people to use to foster mental and physical well-being. Creation of the Presumpscot River Preserve began in 2001. The preserve today is forty-eight acres bordering the Presumpscot River. It is jointly owned by the cities of Portland and Falmouth, Portland Trails and private landowners.

It was a cool damp day as we wound our way through residential neighborhoods off Washington Avenue in Portland. Our GPS kept drawing us deeper into these neighborhoods, and it seemed unlikely that a nearly fifty-acre preserve could be found here. We came to a dead end where we spotted various brothers and cousins of Julie’s, already out of their cars and conversing. We were soon joined by Lindsay from Portland Trails. She expressed her deep regard for Phil’s legacy before we headed out onto the trail.

We quickly dropped down a slope through a mixed forest of pines, hemlocks, maples, beech and yellow birch. We left behind the noises of the neighborhood with its traffic and people. We were now wrapped in the peaceful quiet of the forest, where the sounds were of birdsong and wind through the canopy above our heads. We crossed numerous bridges over small streams, one of which was nearly a hundred feet long. I marveled at the work that went into all of this infrastructure. From having done trail work on my own property, I knew full well what was involved in getting building materials into the woods over only foot trails. I was very impressed.

We came to a T in the trail where the Presumpscot River came into view, wide and moving fast through the screen of foliage. We turned to the right to continue on for another .4 miles to the falls. The trail hugged the shore now, and it became clear quickly that we were in for a visual treat. The riverbed became rocky. The river narrowed. Soon the only sound we could hear was that of water rushing over rocks as we neared the falls. Fifteen years ago there was a dam here. When it was removed, the river could once again run wild through the woods. My pulse began to quicken with the escalation of sound. I love being anywhere near water, but water that is leaping, splashing and playing is my favorite. I was not disappointed.

When we came to the best overlook spot, I stood rooted to the earth and tried to take in the energy and beauty of the scene before me. I had to keep reminding myself that I was not in the White Mountains but rather, fifteen minutes from downtown Portland! I never in my wildest dreams could have envisioned the sight before me so close to the city. After what seemed like way too soon, we turned back. I am now so excited to share this magic place with others. I will return soon and often.

Wildlife sightings:

Deb Bastian on the Intervale Road has been hearing whip-poor-wills calling in the evening from her backyard. I cannot remember the last time I heard a whip-poor-will call. Lucky Deb!

Feel free to pass along your sightings. Send me an email at with a subject line reading “Wildlife Sightings.”