Great Wass Island Preserve

Great Wass Island Preserve


Great Wass Island Preserve in Beals is a relatively hidden Bold Coast gem.  Paddlers can launch in Jonesport and explore the inlets and islands around Beals and Great Wass.  On-road access winds through the heart of a lobster fishing island community built on 150 years of family tradition.  The Nature Conservancy purchased the Preserve property 40 years ago, another testimony to the desire of local folk to keep the Bold Coast intact for future generations.

Great Wass Island Preserve’s 4.5-mile hiking trail traverses exposed granite ledge through the preserve’s unique coastal forests and bogs, and then rambles along the shore of Eastern Bay.  Mounds of green moss and lichen carpet the rocks and forest floor along the way. Adventurous explorers can extend their hike by heading south along the shore toward Red Head and The Pond, a large tidal inlet that’s open to the full brunt of the Atlantic Ocean.

At the shore, exposed granite bedrock drops steeply into the sea, revealing the “Fundian Fault,” a long crack in the Earth’s crust extending from the Bay of Fundy to New Hampshire.  The trail along the beach crosses boulder beaches, gravel beaches, mudflats, and great rounded granite headlands.  Moose Peak Lighthouse is visible from these headlands.  During a hot afternoon in the summer, when the tide comes in over the sun-warmed beach sand, this is a perfect place to test one’s ability to swim like a local in the refreshing salt water of the Atlantic Ocean.     

Great Wass Island, connected to Beals Island via causeway, projects farther out to sea than any other land mass in eastern Maine. The Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy meet just east of Jonesport; their mixing produces a cool, humid oceanic climate ideal for rare plants and natural communities.  Extreme conditions like constant wind, salt spray, harsh winter storms, and cool summers greatly influence the species types found here, and creates unique ecosystems.

Great Wass Island Preserve supports one of Maine’s largest stands of coastal jack pine on soil so thin that few other species besides these twisted and stunted trees can survive. This particular community of jack pine has evolved to successfully reproduce without the heat of fire typically required to open seed cones.

Great Wass also has bogs unique to this part of the state.  Maritime slope bogs formed on top of coastal bedrock, and raised bogs formed as sphagnum moss accumulated in the scoured basins left by retreating glaciers.  Carnivorous plants like sundew and pitcher plant thrive on Great Wass.

Premier outdoor recreation activities include hiking, road-biking, Plein air arts, birdwatching, botanizing, and sea kayaking.

Directions/Signage: Great Wass Island is accessed via the Beals Island Bridge; the trailhead is approximately 4.3 miles from the Bold Coast Scenic Byway.  The bridge is visible from the Byway and marked with signage.  Once on Beals, signage points the way to the Preserve.

Trail Skill Level: The coastline portion of the trail is moderately difficult at points due to rocks and slope; the remainder is moderate.  At high tide, the going is a bit rougher.  However, stalwart children can easily handle this trail.

Black Duck Cove Rd, Beals, ME 04611