DAYTRIP DESTINATION: SWAN ISLAND (KENNEBEC RIVER), MAINE

View of the Kennebec River, Swan Island at left | Photo by Paul VanDerWerf, Flickr.com

The Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has made it easier to visit and camp on Swan Island on the Kennebec River. Visitors can now use an online reservation system to book their stay, complete with a new campground map. Campers can also use the system to reserve specific campsites.

→ Click here to make a reservation.

Further, the parking lot at the Richmond hand-carry launch area has been renovated and now features additional spaces.

While a ferry runs between the town of Richmond and the island, you can also paddle there in a kayak or canoe. If arriving by powerboat, note that the landing dock on the northwest tip of the island can only be used to pick up or drop off passengers and gear.

Canoes and kayaks can be pulled up on shore, close to the campground, on the eastern shore of the island. Larger vessels must anchor offshore, which can be tricky given the river’s tidal currents. The closest launch site is the town landing in Richmond, but trailer-boat facilities can also be found in Bowdoinham and Bath.  


Camping

Each of the island’s 10 campsites has a firepit next to a 3-sided lean-to, or Adirondack Shelter, which sleeps up to 6. You can also pitch a tent in the vicinity of the shelter.

Drinking water and restroom facilities for campers are available at the campground. Campsites are spread out for privacy and sit at the edge of a grassy field overlooking Little Swan Island and the Kennebec River.

All camping is by reservation only.

The island is laced by 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, and kayaks and canoes are available for rent. Bald eagles, deer, osprey and leaping Atlantic sturgeon are often sighted on or near the island.

During summer, special events also held on the island, including traditional lobster bakes featuring clams, lobster, corn, potato, salad, and desert. Cost is $40, and includes a boat tour of the waters off Little Swan Island, which usually hosts nesting bald eagles. The event is offered 4 times over the course of the summer. Other events involve boat tours, truck tours, paddle tours, historic tours and a Family Field Day.


History

Swan Island is an abandoned 18th and 19th century town called Perkins Township. This wildlife management area, about 2,000 acres in size, is located in the Kennebec River between the towns of Richmond and Dresden.

Today, the island is managed for a variety of wildlife and enjoyed by many visitors each season. Five of the historic homesteads still stand. The cemetery and agricultural landscape, along with stone walls and other remnants, stand testament to the islands’ rich history.

Swan Island’s public visitation season runs from May through October. There are ten Adirondack shelters available for overnight use; picnic facilities for day use; modern bathroom facilities at the campground; drinking water; hiking trails; kayak rentals and wildlife viewing.


Reservations

If you wish to visit the Swan Island Wildlife Management Area, you must make reservations for the ferry and/or campground. You may access the island, for day use, via personal canoe or kayak without a reservation; admission fees may be deposited in “iron rangers.”


Fees

Children 5 and under: free

Day use: $8 per person

Overnight camping: $8 per person, plus $20 per site, per night.

→ Learn more about Swan Island.

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