The Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area is comprised of about 600 acres in Phippsburg extending from the Sprague River to the Morse River (including the Sprague and Morse River Saltmarshes) and to the upland edge of Seawall Beach. Habitats include the sandy Seawall Beach, one of the few remaining unaltered barrier dune systems in Maine, two extensive tidal marshes, and unique forested habitat (maritime spruce-fir forest and pitch pine woodlands).

Ornithological Summary

The mix of habitats and the undisturbed nature of the area provide a unique setting for breeding and migrating birds. The area offshore has concentrations of several hundred wintering American Black Ducks and Common Eiders. The mile-long beach is an annual nesting area for Piping Plovers, and also has been the site of a Least Tern colony in the past. During migration, it becomes a staging and feeding area for flocks of Sanderlings, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, and other shorebirds.

Conservation Issues

The beach is relatively undeveloped, with only two seasonal homes located above the sand dunes at the far northern end. A walk of slightly over one mile from the parking lot to the beach significantly reduces the number of people using the beach for recreation. Visitors number about 12,000 during the year.


The preserve is private property owned by the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area Corporation, a non-profit corporation with members from the St. John Family, (which originally conserved the area), Bates College, and the general public. Much of Seawall Beach is owned by the Small Point Association. The Nature Conservancy holds conservation easements on the property and owns a small portion of both the Sprague River and Morse River saltmarshes. The Maine Department of Conservation (Bureau of Parks and Lands) owns a portion of the Morse River saltmarsh as part of Popham Beach State Park. Bates College manages the area for research and educational purposes. Public access is off of Route 216 and parking is limited to about 40 cars, with access suspended if the lot is full. Dogs are not allowed at any time of year.

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