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Fore River Sanctuary, Portland

Updated: Feb 17

Finn and I have fallen into a sweet little routine on Tuesday and Friday mornings. After Henry head's off to Longfellow Elementary at 7:40, Finn and I head over to the Fore River Sanctuary to run Romy before he needs to be at Lincoln Middle for 9:40. I once lamented the fact that Henry and Finn's in-person school days didn't have a larger overlap. But as with most events this year, I've learned to adjust my perspective in order to make current situations more palatable. Now these morning runs with my 12 year old are a highlight of my week. It's been a gift.

Not to be confused with the Fore River Trail, which I shared with you last week, the Fore River Sanctuary is an 85-acre preserve with 5.6 miles of trails encompassing some of the most diverse habitats in Portland. It is home to Jewell Falls, Portland's only natural waterfall, which I have written about in the past. Today I will lead you along the former Cumberland Oxford Canal and towpath, which is located on the other side of the preserve. To access this part of the preserve, park in Maine Orthopedic Center’s lot off of Frost Street. There you will find 5 designated spots for Portland Trail users. The trail will lead you past the medical building to the marsh where you will find a large bridge leading you over the old canal.

Follow this trail until you reach a small bridge leading you back over the water towards the woods. You will be led into the woods and along various boardwalks. We usually follow the white blazes, but you are welcome to chart your own course. There are endless trails in here and you could explore for many happy hours.

I will leave you with some history on the Cumberland & Oxford Canal and tow path, which is written on a sign located along this trail.

"A canal is a manmade river. In the 1800's, canal boats carried farm products, lumber and other materials from rural areas to seaports for shipment all over the world. On the return trip inland, the canal brought city-manufactured good to farmers and country communities. The tow path did two things: it helped hold the water in the canal and it provided a walkway for the horses that towed the boats."

The canal was dug by immigrant Irish laborers in 1827. It operated from 1930-1870. When you walk this trail, you will stand on sections of the tow path. Try to envision the horses that once stood there. Just a little history to top off your beautiful walk. Enjoy!


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