The Cathance River Trails are a surprising green space, with a wild river ravine, in Topsham tucked next to the Highland Green development, within the sound of I-295. These are part of the Cathance River Nature Preserve, a 235 acre preserve composed of private land held in a conservation easement by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Closed due to COVID-19 restrictions for much of 2020, they are now partially re-opened, as of April 2021. Up-to-date information regarding the best places to park and map with trail closures can be found on the Cathance River Education Alliance webpage. The trails described in this post are mostly open. Dogs are not permitted in Cathance River Nature Preserve.
For a great loop hike using the available trails, just use the Rapids Trail to cut off the route described. On a mid-January day, I started with the Vernal Pool Trail, connecting past its namesake, a flat pond with a dock and nature signage, to the Highland Trail (blue blazes). This pleasant woodlands walk led over rocky hills with moss and patches of snow to a rolling, pleasant descent to the Cathance River. Here, it connected to the white-blazed Cathance River Trail (West), passing the intersection with the Barnes Leap Trail.
The trail meanders along the banks of the river, which was sluggish at first, but high due to recent rains, and narrowed quickly to whitewater. This torrent was channeled into a race by narrow rock walls and curves, and at the intersection with the Beaver Trail, I even saw some intrepid winter kayakers. The Cathance River trail then went uphill on an old woods road, and I turned right onto the Highland Trail towards the Ecology Center, curving behind the neighborhood, passing the Beaver Trail and CREA Ecology Center on the way back to the parking area. This loop, about two and a half miles, took under an hour.
According to the CREA website, the Ecology Center will soon re-open for its open house hours on Sundays from 12 pm to 2 pm. For now, they are using outdoor displays, and allowing one family inside at a time. Their events website has details on wildlife and conservation events and opportunities.