Great Wass Island Preserve

Remoteness has its benefits. There are many times when people in our area grumble about how far they have to drive to get to certain conveniences…On the other hand, it’s only a few minutes’ drive to a stunningly beautiful wilderness oasis, if you like that sort of thing!

The Great Wass Island Preserve is actually part of a chain of islands, connected by bridge to Beals Island, which is connected by bridge to Jonesport on the mainland. Hard to imagine, but since the bridge was only built in 1958, generations here still remember children taking a boat to go to school, and some remember watching the bridge being built as teenagers.

Great Wass Island extends farther out into the ocean than any other point in Maine, and is situated where the Gulf of Maine meets the Bay of Fundy. It gives you the feeling of standing on the very edge of the world…And what a beautiful edge it is!

A visit to the Great Wass Island Preserve is really a full-day commitment. It’s a five mile loop, but more than that, there is so much varied beauty in the landscape that you really want to give yourself lots of time for frequent stops to take it all in and soak it all up!

The trailhead begins in the forest, and on this particular day, we chose to take the loop in the clock-wise direction.

A hot cup of coffee is always a great way to start a trail…
all geared up!

three kiddos…
…so excited to stretch their legs!

It’s a lovely wander through a woodland sprinkled with small meadows and rocky outcrops. Interesting mosses and lichens abound. The trail is easy on the feet and the kids sporadically scatter in all directions as some new excitement catches their attention. Climbing trees, climbing rocks, finding a spot to lay in the sun, hearing a bird or seeing a squirrel, all the usual pleasures of a day on the trail!

As we exited the forest onto the dramatic coastline, the wonderful world of crashing waves and sparkling tide pools stretched out before us. So much to see! So much to explore!

Not. Bad.
Vivi calls these “man-caves”, and runs around everywhere with Spencer to find them!
Just a little girl and her backpack…
…searching for two brothers and adventure!
It’s a wide world out there!

It is an intensely colorful coastline at any time of year, though it becomes even more splendid when summer blossoms like purple irises and pink roses are in full-bloom. Today, the pink granite rocks were warm in the bright sunshine, and the ocean was a brilliant blue beyond, distantly dotted with the tranquil forms of eiders and scoters and loons, and even a pair of Canada Geese.

Of course, most of our excitement on the coast centered around the tide pools, which were simply overflowing with delightful creatures!

…whatcha doin’?
Poking anemones, of course!
A beautiful collection of anemones in the tidepools at Great Wass Island Preserve. Sea anemones are so peaceful to watch, often gathered in a beautiful variety of colors and sizes, sheltering among the seaweed in the tranquil pools…And so fun to touch! Their tentacles feel just like velcro, gently tugging as they try their hardest to sting you and gobble you up!
Barnacles feeding in the bright sunshine at Great Wass Island Preserve. They are soooooo BUSY! I never get tired of watching the barnacles, tirelessly combing the waters for their daily bread.
 I don’t know what these snails are up to, but if they were anything else I would say they were snuggling!

Back in the forest for the return loop, we looked forward to one more unique feature of this beautiful preserve – pitcher plants! These wonderful little insectivores house a pool of clear liquid at the base of their brightly-colored leaves. It’s a pool of digestive fluid, and when hapless insects like black flies and mosquitoes wander in, they can’t escape but are slowly transformed into nutrients for these fiercely beautiful plants!

These are just babies, emerging like bright flames from the midst of the pale reindeer lichen. They will grow in size and deepen in color, and later in the summer they will blossom in a really spectacular display of tropical-looking flowers on tall stalks.

The remains of last year’s blossoms still decorate the heath like graceful statues commemorating their former glory.

There is so much to see here that the kids kept telling us, “Wait, that’s part of this trail, too? I remember seeing this before, but I thought it was a different trail.” Spencer summed up the experience of the Great Wass Island Preserve this way: “I remembered all these different things that were some of my favorite things to do, like climbing the rocks in the forest, and seeing the tide pools, and the little beaches along the way, and the trail going over the pink granite rocks next to the ocean, and the marshes with the pitcher plants…I just didn’t remember that they were all in the same place!”

Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

(Psalm 40:5, NIV)

You can read more about Great Wass Island Preserve here.

by Sydney Michalski

2 thoughts on “Great Wass Island Preserve

  1. Wow! I think one of the things I enjoy about your beautiful photos is seeing plants and landscapes I have never seen before – like some ever (no photo or anything). What a fun-filled day!

    1. Thank you! It’s funny, even in familiar places, we find ourselves always seeing new things! We were looking for the pitcher plants, because we had seen them before – and yet, we had never see the way they start off red, and we had never seen the prior-year blossoms. And I had never before noticed the variety of mosses, all displaying different early-season colors. God’s creation truly never runs out of wonders – just like Him!

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