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From the downtown area of Wells, ME, drive about a mile north on Rt. 1 to get to the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. The road is clearly marked: it's Laudholm Farm Road. The reserve is supported by the Laudholm Trust, a non-profit organization. The old Laudholm farm buildings are a few steps from the parking area. A donation box to pay for parking and for day use is available.
The farm building themselves are intriguing, painted a soft yellow, and have a 10 am opening time. Near the entrance, trail maps are available, try the "Cart Path." The trail map claims that the "Little River Loop" route is 1.4 miles.
The woods are lovely and contain a peaceful, sunlit estuary, with a group of Canadian geese leading their goslings on a little morning swim. The trees are full of small singing birds, the twists and turns of the estuary are calm at mid-tide.
Another part of the trail is named the Farley Trail. The land slopes up a bit and becomes a little drier, with chipmunks rustling in the bushes. Soon the trail loops back to the Laird-Norton trail: all of these trails are clearly marked with helpful signs. Here there is a meadow, filled with wildflowers and butterflies. A sign explains that the wildflowers are a result of the practice of mowing the meadow each year; otherwise, over a period of years, the woods would move in.
The next section of trail is called the Saw-whet trail, after a type of owl. There is some kind of cabin along this trail, which looked like it was set up for school groups to learn important lessons about this environment.
The Saw-whet trail ends at the entrance road. Check out the visitor's center to pick up a few handy brochures, including a list of 99 common birds. The volunteer in the visitor center can explain some of the upcoming activities. The Laudholm Trust appears to have some good organizers working or volunteering to keep it going. They recently added a residence for visiting scientists.
Note that the beaches in this area are the chosen nesting spots for two types of endangered birds, the Piping Plover and the Least Tern. Some of the beach areas are fenced off to prevent people from frightening the little nesters away. Walking along the northern end of Wells Beach, you can see some of the fencing in place at the end of the Little River. It's great to know that the idea to set aside these beautiful wetlands is actually working, and the birds are enthusiastically mating and raising their babies. Without getting too close, you can hear the plovers piping like tiny piccolos, and see the terns zipping through the air with tiny silver fish in their beaks. A wonderful wilderness experience, just a few minutes drive from town.