White Mountain National Forest
The Patte Brook Auto Tour is a four-mile self-guided tour with 11 stops that highlight the history, natural resources, and multiple uses of the land. Each stop is identified by a numbered marker and has a small turnout for your car. Keep a sharp eye out to see some of the wildlife residents of the Patte Brook area.
Small farms once dotted the lower slopes and rocky soils in this area. Local folks survived by logging and milling. A man named Moses Patte owned and operated a mill on the banks of Patte Brook from the early 1800s to his death in 1830. The foundations are still visible beside Patte Brook about a mile downstream from Patte Brook Darn. Most of this area became part of the White Mountain National Forest in the 1930s.
To See and Do
There's something to do year-round in the Patte Brook area. Summer brings campers to Crocker Pond Campground, hikers to local trails (short day hikes on the Albany Notch, Albany Brook, and Albany Mountain trails), and canoeists and anglers to Broken Bridge, Crocker, and Round Ponds. The area is popular in fall for enjoying the colorful fall foliage, day hiking, and hunting. Groomed snowmobile trails are busy on winter weekends. Any season of the year is great for watching wildlife, taking photos, or just enjoying the great outdoors. The Patte Marsh Overlook gives a bird's eye view of the marsh, a known favorite place for moose.
Stop #1 - Patte Brook: Patte Brook flows into the Crooked River and Sebago Lake, which provides water for the Portland area. Much of northern Now England's water supply laws from National Forest Lands.
Stop #2 - Openings in the Forest: If you look carefully you may see the remaining foundations of area's original settlers. Small parts of fields once devoted to crops are now kept open for the benefit of upland bird spades such as grouse (partridge) and woodcock. Here young grouse chicks and other birds find the cover and insects essential to their growth and survival. Areas like this also provide important food species such as hobblebush, popple, balsam poplar, witch hazel, and alder. In the spring, grassy areas near alder stands are used as a courting "arena" in which the male woodcock performs his sky dance. Look carefully and you may see a raptor, or bird of prey, such as a goshawk, kestrel, or great horned owl hunting for one of the many small mammals that inhabit the area.
Stop #3 - An Apple Crop For Wildlife: Like many homeowners today, the early settlers enjoyed apples from their own trees, trees that they planted on their homesteads in the 1800s. The descendants of these trees remain today, totaling over 300 on the auto tour alone. Wildlife managers prune and weed around these trees to encourage healthy crops for the resident wildlife.
Stop #4 - The Changing Land: This area was once an abandoned field; now small white pine trees have taken over the site. By pruning the lower branches of selected trees, the quality of wood is improved for use by future generations. (No parking is available at this stop.)
Stop #5 - Sprout Clearing: This roadside opening provides sprout growth for deer, hares, and other critter's during the winter. Openings like this are maintained throughout the forest to help wildlife survive the long, cold winter months.
Stop #6 - Patte Brook Dam: This dam, repaired by the U.S. Forest Service and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, once provided power to a sawmill downstream; now it supports a 22-acre marsh. Wetlands like this provide very valuable habitat for waterfowl and many types of wildlife. Moose, turtles, snakes, frogs, and many other creatures find food, shelter, and nesting places in the marsh.
Stop #7 - Glacial Bog: This bog was formed thousands of years ago when a glacier moved through the area. Few animals live here, and only a few plant species can survive in the acidic soil. The ground is spongy and marshy most of the year.
Stop #8 - Pingree Homesite: This large opening was once the home of the Pingree family. Abandoned in 1930, the land became part of the National Forest in 1937. Stone walls, foundations, and apple trees are reminders this was once a busy homestead.
Stop #9 - A Short Walk Will Take You to The Overlook: Rustic benches offer a place to rest and view the upper end of Patte Brook Marsh (Waterfowl Marsh), a managed breeding and brooding area. Wooden nest boxes are hung throughout the marsh for use by cavity-nesting birds such as wood ducks and hooded mergansers.
Stop #10 - Broken Bridge Pond: Broken Bridge Pond drains directly into Patte Brook Marsh. Canoe around the pond for peaceful fishing or enjoying the scenery.
Stop #11 - Crocker Pond: Crocker Pond is a popular spot for viewing moose and fishing for trout. Crocker POW Campground is located on the north side of the pond with seven sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. A fee is charged mid-May to mid-October.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication