The map below shows the network of trails that will lead you around Merryspring. Most of these feature easy walking, but use care and watch for exposed tree roots. Trail #2 is an old farm lane that bisects the upland center of the park and offers a good orientation to its general layout; you might wish to start your hike here. To get the full flavor of Merryspring take Trail #1, the perimeter trail, which is an easy 30-40 minute loop around the park. If you’re a wildlife lover, be sure to visit the lower parts of our Arboretum, which abuts the Goose River wetland. The quickest way to get there is via Trail #6. For panoramic views to the north and south, take a quick hike out Trail #4.
The Interpretive Trail
Showcasing both natural landscapes and cultivated gardens, Merryspring offers many points of special interest with unique histories. The Interpretive Trail, shown in yellow, outlines six of Merryspring’s interesting features, highlighting the convergence of both the human and natural histories that have shaped this landscape.
The Spring at Merryspring
At the bottom of this slope lies a circle of stones that marks one of the many naturally occurring springs that dot the Merryspring property.
Set upon a limestone dome, Merryspring’s surface is a permeable substrate through which ground water easily drains. After trickling through the earth, the water reaches an impermeable granite layer, where it begins to flow outward. When the water reaches the slopes of the dome, it emerges clean, clear, and filtered as a spring.
The land on which Merryspring now sits has been at times a quarry, a sawmill, a farm, and a homestead. When the back meadows were used as grazing land for sheep, this spring was used as a source of fresh, clean water for livestock and humans.
American Chestnut Restoration Orchard
This orchard of American Chestnut trees was planted in 1999 by the Maine Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation as part of its effort to restore these trees to the American landscape.
Once one of the most abundant and economically viable deciduous trees of the East Coast, the American Chestnut was almost completely wiped out by an invasive fungal pathogen from Europe and Asia, brought to North America in the 1920’s and 30’s.
The American Chestnut (Castanea dentate) stands apart from many other native trees with its distinctive foliage and fruit. The leaves are long and smooth with deep saw-tooth lobes. The spiny, green burrs that form in late summer drop and split open in fall, exposing sweet, edible nuts.
These American Chestnut trees have been cross-bred with a specials of blight-resistant Chestnuts native to Asia. With each generation of seed produced from cross-bred trees, the newer trees are one-step closer to being resistant to the blight fungus, while retaining more and more characteristics of the original native American species. After planting, trees are eventually given the blight fungus in order to study their resistance to the pathogen.
For more information on this project, please visit www.me-acf.org.
The North Meadow
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Merryspring was a homestead site. Situated between Rockport and Camden, the area would have been suitable farmland close to the two commercial centers. What is known now as “old farm road,” a broad dirt path running from north to south on the property once connected the two communities. A rock wall bordering the road is made of stones displaced by plowing. Ancient apple trees once used for cider still flower in the spring, with many still producing fruit. An old cellar hole still exists where a house once stood. The four acres now referred to as the North Meadow were once a cleared grazing pasture before being repurposed as a lumber yard, and eventually set aside for Merryspring.
A long-term goal of Merryspring is to restore this meadow. Once a place abundant with bobolinks and other ground-nesting birds, the meadow is now overgrown with invasive weeds. A project is currently underway to restore habitat through mowing, seeding native grasses, and amending the soil. If the first test plot is successful in bringing back native grasses and wildlife, the same methods will be employed to the meadow on a larger scale.
Vernal Pool at the Pattison Woodlands
With a hard rock bottom and surrounded by forest, this abandoned Rockland-Rockport Lime Company quarry hole became a perfect place for a vernal pool habitat to form. The rock bottom prevents pooling water from snowmelt and runoff to absorb into the ground. The trees surrounding the pool to provide shade to prevent the water from evaporating. A constant supply of downed limbs and leaves provides detritus for nutrients and shelter for the creatures that live in the pool.
In early spring, you may hear the “quacking” of wood frogs as they make their mating calls. By April, the pool is filled with the jelly-like egg masses of wood frogs and spotted salamanders. Later in the spring, the pool comes alive as wood frog tadpoles and spotted salamander larvae hatch from their eggs. Predaceous diving beetles, dragon fly larvae, and hellgrammites (Dobson fly larvae) are top predators in the pool, while small amphibious snails, red water mites, caddisfly larvae, and many other unique invertebrate species can be observed in the pool’s waters.
By early autumn, the vernal pool dries up. Certain species of plants thrive in the fertile, damp soil. Falling leaves provide next year’s pool with nutrients and shelter as detrivores break them down on the pool bed. Winter brings snow and ice to the pool. The yearly cycle begins again as late-winter thaws and early spring rains begin to fill the pool back up with water.
Kitty Todd Arboretum
When Merryspring was first purchased, the area now known as the Kitty Todd Arboretum had previously been leveled by loggers on the property. Once a mature spruce and pine forest, thousands of board feet of timber were felled here, leaving behind a 10-acre expanse criss-crossed with deep ruts by skidders and logging trucks. The park’s founders, seeing an opportunity, decided this area would be a good place to manage as an arboretum.
One of the most densely forested areas at Merryspring, the Kitty Todd Arboretum is named after a famous conservationist. The Arboretum boasts over 70 species of native trees, shrubs, ferns, and flowering plans. While some of these were deliberately planted by humans, most of the specimens found in the arboretum have sprouted naturally. Many of the seeds arrived here on their own through the work of songbirds, squirrels, deer, and the natural forces of wind and water.
Narrow trails wind throughout the Arboretum, following the natural contours of the rocky sloping land. Species are labeled throughout the Arboretum with black plaques on wooden posts. Copies of a detailed Arboretum guide can be found in the main office inside the Ross Center.
Scrubland Succession Habitat
When the power lines were installed, the forest was leveled. In its place grasses, woody shrubs, and young trees have established a habitat called scrubland. The scrubland is undergoing a process called succession.
The first plants to reclaim the felled forest were grasses and ground cover plants. After the soil became more stabilized, small bushes and shrubs were able to take root, forming a scrubland habitat.
If this trail were left alone, it would in time become a young forest. Because it is necessary to prevent overgrowth from getting too tall beneath the power lines, visitors will always be able to find plants indicative of succession here. Common juniper, bayberry, goldenrod, blackberry, and milkweed are several of the native plants that thrive in this habitat. Many species of small mammals and birds find shelter here.