The Cathance River meanders through Bowdoin, Topsham, and Bowdoinham. The River was once home to the first saw mill in Topsham, and feldspar was milled on its shores into the early 20th century. With almost no development along the immediate shore, the river provides a unique wilderness-like experience very close to the population centers of Brunswick and Topsham. The lower reaches of the Cathance River lie within the state’s Kennebec Estuary Focus Area of Statewide Significance.
The Cathance River is valued for recreation, offering over 8 miles of public hiking trails along or near its banks, boating, and diverse fishing opportunities. Cold water trout populate its tributaries, while smelt and stripers frequent the tidal reaches. The river’s paddling opportunities may be its best known feature. The upper stretch of the river is an easy flatwater paddle. The 2.5-mile middle section is “a gorgeous class III-IV creek run” according to American Whitewater but should only be attempted by seasoned paddlers who are “stout of heart”. Below the head of tide – or the furthest upstream that the river is affected by tidal fluctuations – the river widens and paddlers can enjoy miles of grassy and forested wetlands and observe birds ranging from osprey and eagle to migratory duck and wading birds.
Cathance River Resources at a glance:
Traditional Land Uses
Rare Natural Communities
Exemplary Streamshore Ecosystem
Freshwater Tidal Marsh
Significant Wildlife Habitat
Tidal Wadingbird and Waterfowl Habitats
Inland Wading Bird and Waterfowl Habitats
Significant Vernal Pools
Deer Wintering Areas
Rare Animal Species
Rare Plant Species
Open fields, prime soils, active farms
Notable Landscape Features
High Value Grassland Habitat
Cold Water Fisheries: Eastern Brook Trout
Significant Undeveloped River Frontage
Significant Undeveloped Forest Blocks
Cathance River Conservation Properties:
Click an image below to learn more about each property in this conservation focus area.
Alora Drive is a 13-acre fee property, donated by the Town of Topsham, contains about 1,500 feet of frontage on the Cathance River.
The 19-acre easement on Fairwinds Farm in Topsham protects riparian and upland habitat along the Cathance River.
Mill Forest is approximately 29 acres in total, located on the western shore of the Cathance River in Topsham.
Head of Tide Park
Head of Tide Park is located at the highest tidal reach of the Cathance River, and became Topsham’s first waterfront park through a partnership between the Land Trust and the Town of Topsham.
Head of Tide Farm
The 14-acre easement at Head of Tide Farm protects over 1,000 feet of riparian area adjacent to Head of Tide Park in Topsham, ensuring the continuation of scenic views and natural habitat at the Cathance River’s head of tide.
The Howard Property is a 4 acre easement property located in Topsham that allowed for a trail connection from Head of Tide Park to the Cathance River Nature Preserve.
Cathance River Nature Preserve
The Cathance River Nature Preserve is a 230 acre easement property that runs adjacent to the Cathance River in Topsham and provides over 5 miles of trails.
Odell is a 17-acre landlocked property owned by the Land Trust with about 1,600 feet of frontage on the Cathance River.
The Rogers Property is a 32-acre easement property located on Beechwood Drive off of Cathance Rd.
The Tardiff Property is a 121-acre property that spans between the Cathance and Muddy Rivers in Topsham.
Bradley Pond Farm
Bradley Pond Farm Preserve is a 163-acre easement property located adjacent to Bradley Pond, the head waters of the Cathance River.
Cathance River Wetlands Preserve
Cathance River Wetlands Preserve is a 115 acre network of stream floodplains, wet meadows, and scrub-shrub wetlands, including approximately 1.5 mile of shore frontage along the Cathance River.