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Overview | Conservation History | Mt A & Tatnic Hills | York Pond & York River | Braveboat Harbor & Gerrish Island

York Pond & York River

The York Pond
The York Pond's 50 acres of open water and 150 acres of sphagnum wetlands provide year-round flow as the source of the York River and the historical mill sites along its shores as it makes its course to head tide. Just downstream from York Pond, Bartlett Mill Pond is home to a heron rookery and osprey nest. This area has been the focus of a cooperative conservation effort that has conserved 600 acres in the watershed, helping to protect both the wildlife and the water quality of this important resource.

The York and Rookery Ponds are also part of a 2,800-acre block of land that is not traversed by development or paved roads. This open land supports species such as black bear, moose, fisher cats and the endangered Blanding’s turtles as well as migratory songbirds such as the Hermit Thrush and many warbler species.

Cultural history is also an important aspect of the York Pond region. The homestead foundations, gravestones, and wells of historic Punkintown can be found by interested hikers, as can the surface quarries worked by the region’s early settlers.

Sewall's Dock on the York RiverThe York River

The York River has a tidal flow of roughly eight and three-quarter miles to the sea through salt marshes, farms, forests, residential development and the port of York Harbor. The watershed drains 21,729 acres, or thirty-three square miles, with several brooks and streams bringing fresh water into the upper reaches. Seventy-two percent of the watershed is in the Town of York with the remainder in Eliot, Kittery and South Berwick.

Over the past thirty years, there has been considerable improvement in the water quality of the York River and its ability to nurture fish and shellfish. The Town of York put in a sewer system in the late 1970’s, and in 2001, the last “overboard discharge” septic system was removed. The water is Class B, suitable for fishing, clamming and swimming.

The Maine Natural Areas Program lists the York River as having statewide ecological significance. Research conducted by Michelle Dionne, Ph.D., from the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve (a Mt. Agamenticus to the Sea Coalition partner) found twenty-nine species of fish in the York River, or one half the species found in the Gulf of Maine. The fish found, particularly in the extensive marshes and brooks at the upper reaches of the river, were at all life stages and included two species of Herring, Alewife, Brook Trout, Brown Trout, White Perch, Winter Flounder and Smallmouth Bass. Lobster and several clam species are also found in the river.

While the York River is currently healthy and supports a diverse population of fish species, it is also listed as a Priority Coastal Watershed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a designation given by the Maine DEP for watersheds it deems at the greatest risk for degradation from non-point source pollution. Principal threats include land use change and loss of riparian buffers.

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