Waterville, Maine is a nice, quiet academic-type town that really has no special tourist attraction of it’s own but does make a pleasant day-trip stopping place on the way to or from some place else. Colby College is the main reason.
Colby College, set high above the town on Mayflower Hill, in Waterville, Maine, is one of the countries premiere colleges and is very often found in annual rankings, such as by US News and World Report, listing the top 25 liberal arts colleges in the United States. With a beautiful and scenic campus, full of winding picturesque walks, Colby also boasts some particularly interesting features perfectly suited to a day-trip.
First of interest for a day-trip at Colby College is Johnson’s Pond, which covers six acres and was built in 1939. The tons of earth removed from the Johnson Pond dig were transported up the hill and used to build the terraces in front of Miller Library, in keeping with Colby’s Audubon-like conservationism. Johnson Pond, providing the focal point of a lovely round-campus walk, is now stocked with rainbow trout, adding more pleasure to a day-trip and a leisurely rest beside Johnson Pond. Additionally, in winter, Johnson Pond is cleared and made suitable for use as an ice skating pond. Colby College has an open-door campus policy, so the pleasure of the campus walks and Johnson Pond are good-naturedly available to non-students. Figure skate at your own risk, however….
Second in interest for a day-trip is the Colby College Perkins Arboretum, 128 acres of Wildlife Management Area, a Coordinated Area that has been withdrawn from public domain under the National Wildlife Refuge System. Such coordinated areas are managed through a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state fish and wildlife agency. As such, Perkins Arboretum is a treasure trove of natural riches and perfect for a day-trip, or a series of such.
Upon entering the Arboretum, from either of its two Colby College access points, Perkins Arboretum Guide Books, written by Stephen Higgs, are readily at hand in brown receptacles. The Guidebook, conveniently available online in a PDF download, is a fine work, informative, full of excellent species drawings and habitat specifications including details of seasonal changes to wildlife, flora and fauna. Four trails, individually addressed in the Guidebook, have been built to facilitate day-trip enjoyment of the Arboretum: the Yellow Trail, the Blue Trail, the White and Red Trails.
The Yellow Trail is self-instructional. Along the Yellow Trail in the Colby College Perkins Arboretum, walkers encounter signage describing the area and its residents. The other three trails, the Blue, White and Red, all diverge from junctions with the Yellow and lead to different types of terrains and views, which adds varying pleasures to a day-trip. The first junction encountered is with the Blue Trail, which leads upward along a ridge through transitional forest, then takes a dip downward into hemlocks and the rushing sound of Perkins Stream. The next juncture on the Yellow Trail is with the White Trail.
The White Trail leads upward along the ridge behind Colby College, as does the Blue, but the White stays on high while the Blue dips down. The White Trail leads through Eastern White Pine and American Beech, ending in White Oak and a beautiful view of Perkins Stream Valley. The Red Trail opens out from White Trail and drops down to the marsh in the other direction from Perkins Stream Valley. Much variety is possible in these day-trip Trail walks.
The Yellow Trail also leads to a junction with the Red Trail. From this juncture, Red trail leads through hardwood forests of Northern Red Oak and Sugar Maple before going downward, near Blue Trail, to a view of the wetlands of the marsh. Wonderful things can be learned from Colby College Perkins Arboretum day-trip walks and Guidebook. You’ll be warned, for instance, while on the Blue and White Trails, to keep your ears open to listen for the Pileated Woodpecker. And did you know that birds migrate to Maine in the spring because there are longer daylight hours way up here? Or did you know that weasels hunt mice under the snows during the winters?
Third in particular interest for a day-trip is the Colby College Colby Museum of Art, founded in 1959. Along with ever changing exhibits and a respected contemporary artist collection which features Alex Katz, Colby Museum of Art has a permanent collection focusing on 18th, 19th and 20th century art. For instance, the 18th century collection emphasizes American Portraits by such as John Singleton Copley. While the 19th century collection focuses on landscapes by such as Winslow Homer and Fairfield Potter. The 20th century collection is more eclectic and features artists like Sol Le Witt and Agnes Martin.
Colby Museum of Art is also part of The Maine Art Museum Trail (neither Yellow, Blue, White nor Red, however). This Trail is composed of the seven Eastern Maine museums of art. It begins with Bates College and Bowdoin College Museums of Art, adds Colby Museum of Art and Farnsworth Art Museum, moves to the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, heads to the Portland Museum of Art and ends with the University of Maine Museum of Art. The Maine Art Museum Trail boasts over 53,000 works of art, “from ancient to contemporary, in world-class collections,” to tempt and enthrall you. This trail, however, requires more than a day-trip….
So, as you end your day-trip stop-over in Waterville, Maine, enjoying the Colby College campus, strolling through gardens, walks, Arboretum and art, you might give thought to your next trip and plan to follow The Maine Art Museum Trail come spring or summer.