Located off the eastern coast of the United States near Portland, Maine, Mackworth Island is part of the city of Falworth, Maine and is a designated bird sanctuary, offering a variety of natural outdoor activities for visitors. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


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The islands of the Casco Bay were the traditional home of members of the Wabanaki Confederacy, a group of affiliated First Nations indigenous tribes. The bay’s name is believed to have been derived from the Abenaki indigenous term aucocisco, which is roughly translated as “place of herons,” though it may have also evolved from mapping of the Maine coastline done by Portuguese explorer Estêvão Gomes, who referred to the bay as the bahía de cascos, or “bay of helmets.” By the time of the first permanent European settlement in the region in the early 17th century, located on the site of present-day Portland, Maine, the bay and settlement were referred to as “Casco.” The bay’s islands are also sometimes referred to as the Calendar Islands, due to a famous 1700 quote from English Colonel Wolfgang William Römer stating that there were “as many islands as there are days in the year” in the bay.

In 1631, the 100-acre Mackworth Island was granted to its namesake Arthur Mackworth by Sir Ferdinando Gorges. The island is best known as the former home of Maine Governor Percival P. Baxter, who deeded his summer home and the surrounding land of the island to the State of Maine in 1943 for the creation of a wildlife sanctuary and public state facilities. In 1957, a portion of the deeded lands were used to construct the private Maine School for the Deaf facility, known today as the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf.

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Today, Mackworth Island is operated as a legislated bird sanctuary and is open to the public as a natural refuge, offering visitor trails and opportunities for outdoor activities. The island is the site of the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf campus, which is not open to the public. A causeway at the mouth of the Presumpscot River connects the island to mainland Falmouth, which is accessible from Andrews Avenue and Route 1. The island is open year-round, with visitor access allowed between 9:00am and sunset. All island visitors must pass through a tollhouse, with limited visitor parking offered on the island.

A 1.25-mile loop trail maintained by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands encircles the 100-acre island, offering views of the island’s rocky shoreline and the surrounding Casco Bay and providing opportunities for surf fishing. As the trail’s surface is constructed from packed soil and wood chips, visitors should be advised to take caution during inclement weather conditions, as the trail may become slippery. The main trail loop is generally level, with slopes reaching a maximum incline of 10%. While there are no major barriers such as stairs for visitors with accessibility concerns, both small side trails that lead down to the shoreline may be too steep for some visitors to scale, and young visitors should be monitored carefully around the trail’s steep shoreline access areas. One access trail on the island’s south side has recently been outfitted with a handrail and stairs for easier accessibility.

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Much of the island is heavily wooded with oak and pine trees, though an open area near the entrance and parking lot is heavily populated with native wildflower species such as baneberry, goldenrod, nightshade, and wood anemones. Within the forested area, wildlife such as foxes, grouse, rabbits, skunks, and squirrels are plentiful, along with bird species such as warblers and sparrows. Several unique structures are located within the forest, including the Listening Tree, which features a growth that resembles a giant human ear. A number of benches and swings along the trail offer places for visitors to rest and enjoy views of the surrounding Casco Bay. Intertidal pool exploration is allowed within the island’s shoreline areas, though collecting is not permitted. The shoreline area also provides opportunities for bird watching for species such as eider ducks, great blue herons, osprey, and cormorants. Though the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf is not open to the public, Governor Baxter’s pet cemetery facility, where his horse and Irish setters are buried, may be explored by visitors.

The island is best known for its Fairy House Village, which is located on the trail’s inland side near the pet cemetery facility. A number of miniature fairy houses have been constructed by the island’s guard, Steve King, and are displayed in the area alongside a sign that offers a fairy poem written by King. Visitors may examine existing fairy house constructions and are invited to create their own houses to add to the village while on the island. All fairy houses must be constructed of fallen materials on the forest’s ground floor, including pinecones, pebbles, twigs, and acorns.

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Mackworth Island

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