Swan Island by Beginning with Habitat

Swan Island is located in the Kennebec River between the towns of Richmond and Dresden. The island is well known for its abundant and often quite visible wildlife, especially nesting bald eagles, white-tailed deer, and wild turkey.  

The island is the site of a small, abandoned town formerly known as Perkins Township, and it has long been recognized for its interesting history. Native American tribes, early explorers, and settlers used the island, and it was reportedly visited by American historical figures such as Aaron Burr and Benedict Arnold. The Maine Historic Preservation Commission, with cooperation from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), successfully added Swan Island to the National Register of Historic Places.  Each year, more than 4,000 people visit Swan Island. Visits to the island are limited by the MDIFW.

Several hundred acres of tidal flats surround the island.  The shoreline has a range of substrates—soft and firm mud, sand, gravel, cobble, and ledge—that provide suitable habitat for seven rare plant species. Wild rice dominates much of the marsh at the southern end of the island, joined by associated species such as waterworts (Elatine spp.), three-square bulrush (Schoenoplectus pungens), and false pimpernel (Lindernia dubia). Some of the wild rice may have originated from historic seeding efforts by MDIFW. 

The island’s upland forests of mature oak and pine have regrown on former pastures. A long-standing prohibition on hunting, however, has resulted in a large deer population that is impeding forest regeneration by overbrowsing seedlings and saplings.

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