Wells National Estuarine Research  
            Reserve at Laudholm
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      Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve

      at Laudholm


      Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve

      342 Laudholm Farm Road

      Wells, Maine  04090

Phone:           207-646-1555

Website:        www.wellsreserve.org

Products and Services:

-One of 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves

-Coastal research and monitoring

-Guided tours

-Maine Coastal Ecology Center

-Dorothy Fish Coastal Resource Library

-Just for Kids Camps & Jr. Researchers Camps

-Coastal Training Programs

-Extensive trail systems

-School programs

-Special events and workshops

-Woodlands, wetlands, fields, dunes

-Land and water resource management 

-Weddings and facility rentals

-Laudholm Store 

-Visitor Center    

What Makes The Wells National Estuarine

Research Reserve So Unique?

There have always been many distinctive qualities and a special sense of place in regards to the property that constitutes the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm.  Its beautiful wetlands, forests, fields, and the ocean attract many visitors. As one of the twenty-eight National Estuarine Research Reserves found in the United States, it is a source of pride to the state of Maine.

The Wells Reserve was invited to be profiled

in the Unique Maine Farms’ project because of its rich history of being situated at Laudholm Farm.  Two separate webpages relating to the agricultural pursuits that took place at Laudholm Farm in the first half of the twentieth century are included in this profile on the Wells Reserve.  These webpages highlight many of the progressive features that set Laudholm Farm apart as a flourishing “state-of-the-art” farm at that time. 

Since the farm was first settled by the Boade family in 1642, the property has been distinguished by its diverse habitats and its exceptional natural beauty.  There has always been a sense of appreciation for the significant uniqueness of the property.  A strong emphasis over the years has been placed on the need for thoughtful environmental practices and a willingness to incorporate progressive ideas in its preservation and management.

Because of the foresight and the amazing efforts of some concerned individuals, Laudholm Trust was officially established in 1982 to create the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve and to assure that the land and critical habitats of Laudholm Farm would remain protected from the threat of development that had encroached and affected so much of southern coastal Maine.

By working in partnership with the Department of the Interior -U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the U.S. Department of Commerce -National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the State of Maine - Department of Conservation; and the Town of Wells, the Wells Reserve manages 2, 250 acres of coastal habitats.  It serves as a stellar example of what can materialize through collaboration and a commitment to environmental stewardship.

The present focus of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm is heavily concentrated on scientific research and monitoring; education and training; committed stewardship and conservation; and preservation and protection.  An array of research studies is continuously being conducted by scientists and interns. Research facilities include the Michele Dionne Coastal Lab and the Adams-Nunnemacher Research Lab.  An extensive collection of books and audiovisual materials are available through the Dorothy Fish Coastal Resource Library. The Alheim House is a facility that provides exceptional accommodations for twenty visiting researchers and interns.

Some of the research at the Wells Reserve focuses on salt marsh habitats and their degradation and restoration,  plant communities, and water quality monitoring.  Weather, water quality, and nutrient data are collected and biological surveys are also conducted.  Although much of the research is advanced and complex, the Reserve has done an excellent job adapting their programs and exhibits to be appropriate for individuals of all ages and educational backgrounds to enjoy.  There are interpretive signs throughout the property that help visitors  understand the landscape.  Three different self-guided tours (geared for children of six to twelve years of age) are available through the Discovery Program Trail Guides and Backpacks.

There is an extensive system of trails at the Wells Reserve that explore the forests, fields, and wetlands.  A walk to Laudholm Beach provides

spectacular views of the ocean and the barrier beaches that protect a mud flat that is home to many shorebirds and marine life. The trails provide opportunities for hiking, cross country-skiing, and snowshoeing.  They are open every day from 7 a.m. to sunset.  A small admission fee, which includes parking, is charged from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day.

Educational opportunities abound at the Wells Reserve.  Over the years, thousands of fourth grade students have been introduced to the natural wonders of the property by docent-led tours with many activities specifically designed for their age group.  There are Bird Banding Demonstrations

led by long-time volunteer, June Ficker, every Wednesday morning from 7 a.m. to noon in June, July, and August.  Various walks such as the History of a Saltwater Farm, Life Between the Tides, and Secrets of a Salt Marsh are scheduled throughout the season.  Check out the many offerings on the Calendar on the Wells Reserve website:  www.wellsreserve.org

The Maine Coastal Ecology Center has several

exhibits that concentrate on the research taking place at the Reserve.  There are presentations on

the salt marshes and tides, watersheds and water

quality, plankton, and fishes of the estuary.  A special storybook and puppet corner is available for guests of all ages to enjoy!

The Visitor Center in the Laudholm Farmhouse houses exhibits that chronicle the changing landscapes from fourteen thousand years ago to the present. There is an information desk in the Visitor Center which is monitored by a volunteer and interactive exhibits, backpacks for self-guided tours, information about volunteering and supporting Laudholm Trust and the Wells Reserve, and a gift shop.

A Coastal Training Program was introduced at the Wells Reserve to assist communities in protecting clean water; maintaining healthy ecosystems; and achieving a balance between conservation and development.  Workshops, field trips, seminars, and technical assistance are the components of this program that reaches out to various agencies, municipalities, and businesses.  Curriculum kits have been created that can be rented to bring environmental learning into the classroom or educational facility.

The emphasis on conservation and stewardship is aligned with the thoughtful management practices that focus on the fish and wildlife habitats at the Wells Reserve.  A keen interest is exhibited in protecting rare plants and endangered animals.  Attempts are initiated to control invasive plants, while plantings that benefit wildlife are encouraged.  Work is carried out to restore salt marshes and threatened habitats.  A Stewardship Advisory Committee with representatives from various agencies and disciplines has been established.

Many special events are offered at the Wells Reserve including the Laudholm Nature Crafts Festival, Punkinfiddle, and the Wells Outdoor Antique Show.  There are a variety of concerts, specialized talks and workshops, preschool programs, Just for Kids Camps, and Junior Researcher Camps.  The grounds and facilities at the Wells Reserve can be rented for weddings, conferences, meetings, etc.

The Master Gardeners of the York County Cooperative Extension are hosting a Four-Season Garden Series at the Wells Reserve.  Some of the topics covered include composting, sheet mulching, drip irrigation, and yardscaping. Master Gardener volunteers have planted and are tending a Three-Sisters’ demonstration garden at the Wells Reserve.  Corn, beans, and squash have been planted in accordance with Native American traditions to increase soil fertility.  The Master Gardeners are also involved with the planting of pumpkins and corn for the Punkinfiddle Fest in September. Some of the vegetables that are grown will be donated to Harvest for Hunger.

It might seem somewhat overwhelming to learn about all the different activities and programs that

are offered during the present time at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. There is no question that the Reserve is a vibrant place teeming with plants and animals and human activity. A key factor to remember is that the property is very spacious and visitor-friendly. The trails are well-marked and visitors receive a warm welcome.  Benches have been placed in various spots for those who would appreciate a chance to rest.  There are picnic tables and restrooms. A distinct sense of organization and preparedness is evident in all of the public programs. Underlying all of the activities is a thoughtful regard for the environment and a sensitivity to the fact that there will be visitors of all different ages and educational backgrounds.

There is always a feeling of peace about the Wells Reserve.  It is no wonder that many artists and writers have been drawn to the Wells Reserve.  There is a special sense of place. The several historic buildings are showpieces and the signage that explains the origin and the use of each structure situated on the farm is fascinating. It is amazing to observe how the efforts of some passionate environmentalists have resulted in such an impressive research and educational facility. A dedicated staff and a corps of committed volunteers have played a key role in contributing to this farm’s evolution from an agricultural-based property to a nationally-regarded research, educational, and environmental entity.


Paul Dest - Wells Reserve Director

Insect research conducted by the Vector Borne Disease Lab of Maine Medical Center

Alheim House