Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

The Wetland Wanderer: Exploring the Coastal Marsh Trails at Winslow Park

by Brenda Zollitsch

My son Zachary’s exploring hat took us on another wetland wandering adventure this month to a wonderful little gem called Winslow Park in Freeport, Maine.  Zachary and I love to camp there.  With views out to the ocean, seaside tidepooling and a great salt marsh trail, it is the perfect place to spend the night or a week!

On this latest visit, we started with the trail that follows just above the tidal marsh on the cove-side of Winslow’s park’s peninsula.  From the trail’s starting point at the tip of the park, we could look over to Freeport Harbor and watch sailboats coming and going.  We wandered out across a muddy expanse of between-tides salt marsh grasses, nearly losing our shoes in the black goop (much to my son’s glee).  At the tip, he enjoyed seeing where the seagulls crack open shells on the rocks.  We chatted about their aerial maneuvers and how gulls open their food.  He picked up a black gull feather that he now proudly keeps in his room at home.

The walk is just the right length to allow for examination of different flowers and ferns and views along the way.  We crossed a small bridge and looked out into a small cove to see three blue herons, each standing still with one leg tucked up, waiting and watching.  Zachary was entranced by them, “What are they DOING, Mom?!”  He thought they might be flamingos and we discussed the differences between the two species of birds and how they live in different locations.  The park has done a nice job of installing benches for sitting (or in a six-year-old’s case, jumping off).  The benches have name plates dedicated in memory of donors’ family and friends.  What a nice way to celebrate a cherished life – allowing someone to sit with a spectacular view out onto a peaceful marsh.  And, just to add an air of excitement for my little expedition leader, there were a few patches of dangerous poison ivy to avoid along the trail.

The final stretch of the trail rises up onto an expansive boardwalk, which allowed us to walk over the wettest part of the trail without sinking in or damaging the local flora. The trail ends back at a campground, where we had already set up our tent.  There, we washed the black mud “socks” off our legs and met up with my husband and daughter at our campsite.

After refreshment, we walked just a hundred feet or so from our site to a steep wooden staircase.  The steps lead down to water-level on the ocean-side of the peninsula, where the kids can explore tide pools and look for creatures among the salt marsh grasses.  The view is gorgeous from this side, dotted with numerous little Maine islands and an array of watercraft out enjoying a Maine summer day.

Down among the grasses, Veronica was delighted to find a tiny crab all on her own and made sure we all came over to admire it.  Much to both children’s delight, there were little sea lice zipping around in the pools, live periwinkles with their rubbery black “feet” sticking out to examine, and several different types of interesting rocks to put in and out of buckets.

After a night camping out, we talked about what we had seen and done the day before. The delight that my son had experienced was still evident in his beaming smile, eager eyes, and animated descriptions.  In a very busy life, I have come to recognize that these moments are really what it’s all about.  I could pack a hundred lunches, go to a year’s worth of doctor’s appointments, help with piles of homework and attend dozens of little league games (all of which I do) to be a responsible and caring parent.   But one afternoon spent together in a salt marsh, ankle deep in black mud and watching sea lice zip around a tidepool side by side…priceless.

To learn more about Winslow Park, click here.

Download a Winslow Park brochure here.

For information about Maine’s salt marshes, check out the publication, Maine’s Salt Marshes: Their Functions, Values and Restoration.

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