Swan Island

Contact Information
Contact: 
Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Phone: 
737-4307 or 547-5322
Hours: 
NA

Swan Island (Steve Powell Wildlife Management Area)

The island management area, about 1,755 acres in size, is located in the Kennebec River between the towns of Richmond and Dresden. It includes Swan Island, Little Swan Island, and several hundred acres of tidal flats.

Swan Island, known for its abundant and often quite visible wildlife (especially nesting bald eagles, white-tailed deer and wild turkey), is actually an abandoned 18th and 19th century town called Perkins Township, and has long been recognized for its varied and interesting history. It was used by Native American tribes, early explorers, and settlers, and was reportedly visited by American historical figures such as Aaron Burr and Benedict Arnold.

Photo of bald eagle by Bill Silliker, Jr.

The Maine Historic Preservation Commission, with cooperation from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife successfully had Swan Island added to the National Register of Historic Places. The process, which began in 1994 with initial site visits by state archaeologists, culminated in 1995 with submission of formal nomination papers complete with supporting historical documentation and evidence. This listing of Swan Island to the National Register of Historic Places has, at last, bestowed on the island the cultural recognition it so richly deserves.

Each year, more than 4000 people visit Swan Island. The Island's public visitation season runs from May 1st through Labor Day (with limited access through the fall). All access, both for day use and camping, is by reservation and written permit only. Interpretive tours and environmental programs are offered to schoolchildren and the public by Department employees.

Friends of Swan Island, Inc. was founded in 2001 to preserve Swan Island and it's six historic homesteads and to ensure their future maintenance, use and function as an integral part of Swan Island.

Photo of field house by Bill Silliker, Jr.

Rules

Operating Season Dates:

Open daily from the first day of May through Labor Day by reservation. From Labor Day through the end of October, Swan Island is open for a limited number of days and times by reservation as time and work schedules permit.

Reservations and Fees:

All people wishing to visit Steve Powell Wildlife Management Area must make reservations on forms provided by the Commissioner. A non refundable reservation fee must accompany the application (the full amount of the reservation fee to be applied to the total fee). Reservation application will not be processed earlier than March 15 annually. User fees shall be established by policy decision of the Commissioner and may be modified as conditions warrant. These fees are charged by the Department solely for the use of Steve Powell WMA including goods and services thereon. Overnight camping fees are subject to a State lodging tax of 7% that is included in advertised fees. No charge is made by the Department for ferry services provided from Richmond to Steve Powell WMA, and the Department assumes no risk or liability for the use of the ferry service by members of the public.

Transportation:

The Department provides transportation to and from Swan Island for parties visiting the area. Visitors will be met at the Department's landing in the town of Richmond at the time of arrival specified on the reservation unless special arrangements have been made. Travel to the island by means of personally owned watercraft is encouraged, but still requires a reservation.

Ferry Schedule:

Leaves Richmond Parking Area at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m.

Leaves Swan Island at 9:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1:15 a.m., and 3:15 p.m.

Directions:

Map It

To get to Swan Island, take Route I-295 to Exit 43 (Richmond/Litchfield). From the exit, follow Route 197 East for approximately 3 miles to Richmond Village. Turn left at the intersection of Routes 197 and 24. The Swan Island parking lot, marked with a brown State of Maine sign, is immediately on your right, next to the brick Richmond Utilities District building.

Map to get to Swan Island

Hours:

The area will be available for daily use between the hours of sunrise and sunset. Campers will be limited to a stay of 2 nights unless extended by the facility manager.

Use:

There is a maximum of 60 visitors allowed on the island at one time. Reservations will be issued on a first-come, first-serve basis for a particular date. The time of arrival recorded on the reservation will be determined by Wildlife Division personnel after consideration has been given to the prospective visitor's desire and existing reservations already issued for a particular date. The arrival of incoming parties will be scheduled at the Department's convenience.

Facilities and Services:

Ten Adirondack type shelters are available for overnight use; picnic facilities for day use; modern bathroom facilities at campground; drinking water; and island tours. No more than six persons will be assigned to a shelter. Limited space is available for primitive camping sites.

Restrictions Concerning the Use of the Area:

  1. Little Swan Island, portions of Swan Island and some historic buildings are restricted areas. Entrance into these areas are by permission only and all visitors to these areas must be accompanied by Department personnel.
     
  2. No access to restricted buildings and maintenance areas.
     
  3. Supervision: All groups composed of minors under 18 years of age, must be accompanied by adult supervisors. A ratio of 1 supervisor for every 8 minors is required.
     
  4. Fires: Fires shall be built and used only in places provided or designated for such purposes and shall not be left unattended. Camp stoves are permissible if used in areas designated for fire building.
  5. Refuse: All visitors and campers must "carry out" all refuse and trash.
     
  6. Pets: No dogs or other pets will be allowed on the island. (Exception: seeing-eye dogs)
     
  7. Firearms, Fireworks: The use or possession of firearms, fireworks, air arms, or similar weapons within the boundaries of the area, above the high water mark, is prohibited; and the hunting, trapping, removal, molesting, injury or damage to any animal or bird, or anything natural within the boundaries of the area, above the high water mark, is prohibited.

    Not withstanding the above restriction, Department personnel who are carrying out wildlife management activities that are a part of the Wildlife Management Area Plan and/or individuals who are participating in these activities and are supervised by Department staff may possess and use firearms and may hunt, trap or remove any animal or bird.

    The use or possession of fireworks and explosives is prohibited. The Department may grant a permit to municipalities for the purpose of a public fireworks display, when the appropriate permits and insurance are presented and a request is made in writing to the Regional Biologist prior to the event.
     

  8. Liquor: No intoxicating beverages or drugs may be brought into, sold, or consumed upon Swan Island.
     
  9. Campers must utilize in a proper manner the shelter provided in the area. Tent camping is allowed only in the immediate vicinity of the assigned shelter.
  10. Mountain bikes are allowed on the island in designated areas only.

Commonly Asked Questions:

What is Swan Island?

Swan Island is a state-owned wildlife management area that also provides a sanctuary for migrating waterfowl and the resident white-tailed deer. It is also the only management area where camping is allowed and programs are provided for visitors. Swan Island was once known as Swan Island Game Management Area. One of the early biologists working there was Stephen E. Powell. After Powell's death in 1971, the name of the area was changed to The Steve Powell Wildlife Management Area.

Where is Steve Powell WMA?

Steve Powell Wildlife Management Area is located within the Kennebec River at the head of Merrymeeting Bay in Sagadahoc County. It is legally known as Perkins Township and is situated between the towns of Richmond and Dresden. This area is often confused with Swan's Island which is located in the Atlantic Ocean five miles southwest of Mount Desert Island (Acadia National Park) and is accessible by auto ferry at Bass Harbor.

What facilities are available on the area?

Adirondack shelters are available to campers. They are 3-sided lean-to's with shingled roofs and a substantial overhang on the open side of the shelter. There is a gravel apron in front of each shelter; a picnic table and fireplace is part of the campsite. The ten campsites are located some distance apart and are arranged along the edge of a grassy field overlooking the river. Water is provided and modern bathroom facilities are available. There is no food or supplies on the island.

How much does it cost to visit the area?

Day Use

  • 3 years and under - free
  • 4 years and older - $ 8.00

Overnight Camping

  • 3 years and under - free
  • 4 years and older - $14.00*

*Non-profit group camping rates of $12.00 per person per night are available for groups of 15 or more. Group rates are not available from the third week of June through Labor day.

Overnight visits are subject to 7% State Lodging Tax that are included in the fees.

Is it necessary to make a reservation for just a short visit?

Reservations are necessary for all trips to the island. Instructions for obtaining a reservation are included in the brochure available by writing the Department or call (207) 737-4307 or (207) 547-5322. Please leave name, phone number, and best time to reach you and your call will be returned as soon as possible.

How do I find the area?

You should go to Richmond village. The landing is located on the Kennebec River near the intersection of Routes 24 and 197. There are two landings on the River at this location, one is for the Town of Richmond, the other belongs to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Both are marked. You will be met at the dock by a Department employee who will transport you to the Area.

Can we take our vehicle or camper onto Swan Island?

No. The Department provides transportation for people only, taking approximately 20 at a time. A parking area is provided on the Richmond side of the Kennebec River where you may leave your vehicle. The trip across is less than three lengths of a football field. Bicycles are allowed on the main center road only.

How far is it from the dock on Swan Island to the campground? Is transportation available?

Nearly 1 1/2 miles. A truck equipped with an open slat-sided body and benches will take you from the dock to the camping/picnicking area. The same vehicle is used for a tour with our personnel. These rides may be uncomfortable for some persons with physical problems, or senior citizens.

Can a small private boat or canoe be used during our stay at Swan Island?

Yes. You must submit a reservation application and state your intentions. By prior arrangement, groups may land at the campground where they will be met by an attendant, processed and assigned to appropriate facilities. Due to tidal fluctuations of almost 10 feet, small boats are not recommended.

Is the island large enough so we may do some walking on our own and see some wildlife?

Yes. Swan Island is 4 miles long with a gravel road and nature trails. There is wildlife over all the area and only limited sections are restricted.

Is swimming allowed?

The only swimming opportunity is in the Kennebec River. Much progress has been made in cleaning this river and water quality is rated suitable for swimming. However, certain storm events may cause sewage overflows into the river, making the water unsuitable for swimming for a period of time following the storm. Further improvement in water quality is expected as new sewage treatment facilities become fully operational.

The Steve Powell Wildlife Management Area is owned and maintained by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Its operation and maintenance are supported by your fees as well as revenue from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, and federal monies under the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program. Since the Department receives federal funds, all of its programs and activities must be operated free from any discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age or handicap. Any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against should write to Director, Office of Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 20240.