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Broad Cove Reserve, Cumberland

Updated: Feb 17

Hey alewives, you have company. The horseshoe crabs have arrived.

This is such an exciting time of year! Come to find out, it's also the year that my inner science nerd blossomed. The more time I spend outdoors, the more fascinated I become with the details of the natural world. Along those lines, I just finished a webinar about horseshoe crabs through the Cumberland Chebeague Land Trust, so I have all kinds of fun facts to share with you. First, let's talk about this beach, which is one of the best kept secrets in Cumberland.

Although I posted about this beach almost a year ago, I did not know then what I know now. It is one of the few, special places along the Maine coast where horseshoe crabs come to lay their eggs from mid-May to mid-June. It is also a gorgeous little stretch of beach that sits on 104 acres, including woods and trails.

Located in Cumberland Foreside off of route 88 near the intersection of Tuttle road, this reserve offers a stretch of sandy beach, a dock, meadows, woods and lime green marine grass...and horseshoe crabs. In the wooded Stonewall Trail, you will find remains of the old town farm and quiet walking trails. Parking is allowed at the top of Beach Drive in a lot you will see on your right as you enter. From there, you can walk down the long, steep drive to the beach. Broad Cove Reserve was once the site of important fishing grounds for the Abenaki people. Later, is served as the Cumberland town farm. Now managed by the Town and CCLT, it welcomes public access.

Park in the main lot, then take the Broad Cove Access Trail through the woods towards the beach. Or take the longer, Spears Hill Trail, which winds through a larger section of woods filled with ferns and moss.

Once through the Broad Cove Access Trail, walk down the hill towards the beach, where you will find all kinds of horseshoe crabs in the water (mid-May to mid-June). Here are some pics.

After exploring, you just may be offered a ride back to the parking lot by a friendly man in a golf cart...if you're lucky. These kids were.

Now for some facts I learned from the CCLT horseshoe crab webinar...which was great, BTW.

  1. Horseshoe crabs have been on the Earth, nearly unchanged, for 445 million years. That is well before the dinosaurs existed...which would explain their prehistoric appearance.

  2. They may look threatening, but don't actually pinch, sting or bite. This may give you courage to handle the harmless creatures, but please leave them be. They have a big important job to do, laying all of those eggs.

  3. Their favorite food is soft shelled clams.

  4. Predators include turtles, fish, gulls, raccoons, fox and shorebirds.

  5. Native Americans ate them and used their shells for food bowls and to bail out boats.

  6. The Red Knot bird travels 10,000 miles to the Canadian Arctic and could not achieve this distance without the fuel that horseshoe crab eggs provide for them.

  7. The long pointy tail of the horseshoe crab is used to flip itself over by burying the tail in the sand. It is crucial to their survival, so never grab one by the trail.

  8. They are well adapted for spending long periods of time out of water and breathe oxygen through gills.

  9. The blood of a horseshoe crab, which is milky blue, is used to test for bacteria in vaccines. There has been a huge increase in the amount of horseshoe blood needed this year, as a result of the COVID vaccine. Luckily, horseshoe blood draws do not actually kill the horseshoe crabs and they are supposedly returned to the ocean, unharmed. Hmm...that seems questionable, but I'll go with "ignorance is bliss" on that one.

  10. The only time you should pick up a live horseshoe crab is when it's in distress. For example, it may be stuck on it's back in an awkward position. In that scenario, go ahead and help the fella out.

Enjoy your adventure!


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