The Scarborough Marsh is a great place to explore the state’s largest salt marsh by foot or canoe. The center provides a variety of guided and self-guided walks, and canoe tours, as well as exhibits, a nature trail, canoe rentals and a Maine Audubon Nature Store. All guided programs are led by trained naturalists.
Owned and managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the 3,100 acre estuary known as Scarborough Marsh is the largest salt marsh in the state, comprising tidal marsh, salt creeks, freshwater marsh and uplands. The marsh is particularly important for wildlife as a resting, breeding and feeding ground.
Daily, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. in-season
Rent a canoe or kayak, and we\’ll also provide a map and nature guide. You\’ll be all set to take a self-guided tour of the meandering Dunstan River to explore the unique habitat of the salt marsh.
At least one person in your group must be 18 years or older, and children must be at least 4 years old. Dogs are not permitted in the canoes.
Scarborough Marsh provides critical habitat for a broad array of wildlife, particularly birds. Waterfowl, egrets, herons, glossy ibis and many species of shorebirds depend on this rich ecosystem for food, a place to rest during migration and, in some cases, nesting habitat. The marsh is also an excellent spot to find a number of grassland songbirds not commonly found in other parts of Maine, as well as various birds of prey that hunt in the marsh throughout the year. Muskrat, mink, otter, and deer also frequent the wetland.
For a virtual tour of a salt marsh, and detailed guides to the plants and wildlife you\’ll find there, visit Robert Zottoli\’s excellent Field Trip to a New England Salt Marsh .
Scarborough Marsh has a long history of human use. Sokokis Indians hunted, trapped, clammed and fished on the wetland. When European settlers arrived in the 1600s, they harvested the salt hay as fodder for cattle and sheep and used the marsh as summer pasture. The 19th century saw increased ditching, filling of pannes and the introduction of tidal gates, which prevent the tide from flooding portions of the marsh. Channels were dug to allow boats built inland to float through the marsh out to sea.
When haying declined in the 1900s, people began to view marshes as sacrifice areas for airports or cheap space on which to fill and build. Scarborough Marsh was even proposed as a site for the town dump.
Recognizing that a significant coastal wildlife habitat was threatened, in 1957 the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife began the twenty-year process of acquiring the marsh. In 1972 Maine Audubon initiated a partnership with the state to convert into a nature center an old clam shack at the edge of the marsh.
Today, Scarborough Marsh is a livelihood for clam diggers, a classroom for schoolchildren, a laboratory for biologists, prime territory for fishermen and hunters and a fascinating, ever-changing world for naturalists, especially birders. Every spring and summer more than 10,000 people begin their journey into the marsh at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center.