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Town of Wells
State: ME
County: York


Water District Drinking Water Source

Little River Watershed

Branch Brook flows into Wells from Sanford in a relatively undeveloped forested area north of Wire Road. The brook forms Well’s northern border with Kennebunk. It crosses a dirt road and passes close to a gravel pit as it flows along Branch Brook Run. The shoreline is mostly undeveloped up until Chick Crossing Road. As the Branch Brook approaches this road it begins to flow past a few homes and farms. The brook through three consecutive culverts under Route 9, the Maine Turnpike, and Harriseckett Road and then forms a small pond behind a dam at the KKW water district treatment plant. Here water is extracted from the brook for the residents of several towns in York County. After passing the dam the brook flows under a small bridge on Route 1 and into the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. A little over a mile and a quarter downstream Branch Brook converges with the Merriland River to form the Little River.

The Merriland River flows into Wells from Sanford, west of a gravel pit on Bald Hill Road. The river crosses this road near a small farm and flows east for one and a half miles through forest and crosses the power line right of way. It then flows through a culvert on Bragdon Road and widens into a small marsh. The river then crosses under Sanford Road and runs into Hobbs Pond, which forms behind a dam at Hobbs Farm Road. The shores of this pond are mostly forested except where a farm field comes right up to the water near the ponds outlet. Passing the dam, the Merriland River flows north for a half mile until it is joined by Hobbs Brook close to Branch Road. This mile and a quarter long brook flows through an undeveloped forest area between Meetinghouse Road and Branch Road. It runs past a small farm just before it joins the Merriland River. From here, the Merriland River flows another three and a half miles to meet Branch Brook. On its way it crosses six roads including the Maine Turnpike, flows under the Boston and Maine Railroad tracks, and runs past numerous homes and businesses including an RV campground built right along its banks. The river flows under the final bridge at the site of the old Skinner Mill dam and then runs a half mile to meet Branch Brook, forming the the Little River.

The Little River runs past the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and the Wells Reserve. It is a tidally influenced estuary with brackish water and is home to numerous species of wildlife. The river makes several twists and turns through a large salt marsh and then flows into the Gulf of Maine at Laudholm Beach.

Webhannet River Watershed

Blacksmith Brook originates near the Maine Turnpike north of Burnt Mill Road. It flows east through a mile and a half stretch of forest and passes under the Boston and Maine Railroad tracks. The brook passes under Route 1 through a small culvert near the Wells Post Office and flows past a few homes before joining the Webhannet River at Wells Harbor.

Pope Brook originates in a forested area south of the Wells High School and Junior High School. It flows through a small pond surrounded by a townhouse complex and several businesses and passes through a culvert on Route 1. The brook then passes several more housing complexes and a dirt lot with a number of junk cars before flowing into the Webhannet Estuary.

The Webhannet River originates in a forested area north of Littlefield Road. It emerges from the forest at the site of an old mill at Webhannet Falls. The river passes through a small town park and under a bridge on Route 1 where it comes under the influence of incoming tides. The river cuts a meandering channel through a large marsh, gathering water from many small tributaries and then flows past Wells harbor and out to the Gulf of Maine.

Ogunquit River Watershed

Green Brook originates in a forested area between Green Road and Newhall Road. It flows southeast, crosses Green Road, and runs through a mile long stretch of forest until it reaches a few farms and homes on Tatnic Road. Having crossed this road the brook runs through another three quarter mile stretch of forest and then flows into the Ogunquit River.

Bragdon Brook begins near a large mobile home park west of Route 1. It flows through fairly dense development as it crosses the road and flows east to join Stevens Brook. Stevens Brook begins west of Route 1 across from Elmere Road. It runs past numerous businesses and homes as it crosses Route 1 and flows along Furbish Road. The brook flows out into the wide marsh behind Moody Beach and then runs past hundreds of homes along Ocean Avenue as it makes its way to join the Ogunquit River.

The Ogunquit River flows into Wells from York and forms the town’s southern boundary with Ogunquit. The first mile of the river’s shoreline is relatively undeveloped, but as it moves east it begins to encounter several farms and an increasing number of homes where it passes under North Village Road and Captain Thomas Road. The river passes under the Maine Turnpike in a small forested area and runs through a residential area along Tatnic Road. The Ogunquit River meets dense development as it passes under Route 1 in Moody and forms a long estuary behind Ogunquit Beach and Moody Beach.

Great Works River Watershed

The Heath is a large forested wetland between North Berwick Road and Bragdon Road. Several large gravel pits border the wetland to the south while the rest of the surrounding area is mostly undeveloped forestland. The heath drains southwest through several small channels which flow into another forested wetland known as Johns Swamp. The swamp is bordered by the Boston and Maine Railroad tracks to the south and a gravel pit to the east. West Brook flows out of the swamp and passes through a culvert on Bragdon Road near several small farms. The brook winds its way through a mile and a half stretch of forest north of the railroad tracks, passing no development except for the power line right of way. It then passes into North Berwick on its way to join the Great Works River.

Ell Pond sit on the Wells border with Sanford with only a small portion of it’s shoreline in Wells. Around twenty homes are built along Ell Pond Road which borders the ponds southern shore. Perkins Brook drains Ell Pond in Sanford and enters Wells just south of the pond. It flows south past a few homes and farms on Quarry Road. The brook then runs through a mile of forest until it crosses the border into North Berwick.

To see the locations of these resources in Google Earth follow this link.

If you do not have Google Earth software you may download it by following this link.

Water District: Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells Water District
District Website: kkw.org
Water Source: Branch Brook
# Accts Serv: 11613
Other Towns: Arundel; Kennebunk; Kennebunkport; Ogunquit
Sewer District: Wells Sanitary District
District Website: http://www.wellssanitarydistrict.com/
Receiving Waters: Atlantic Ocean-Moody Point
# Accts Serv: 3100
Other Towns: none
(Click the Title of the article to learn more.)
Great Works Regional Land Trust
Community Assistance Providers

Serving the communities of Berwick, Eliot, Ogunquit, and Wells.

Ogunquit River Watershed Management Plan
Outreach Publications
A guide for the protection and restoration of the Ogunquit River.

Wells Comprehensive Plan
Publications, Websites, and Tools
Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
Community Assistance Providers
The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve is dedicated to protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems of the Gulf of Maine through integrated research, education, stewardship, environmental learning, and community partnerships.

Seal:town seal, click to enlarge
Population:10038 (U.S. Census Est. 2006)
Area:61.9 square miles


The Town rises gently and gradually from east to west. Elevations rise from sea level to approximately 140 feet. The Tatnic Hills near the South Berwick border are the highest elevation at approximately 360 feet.

Wells is a coastal community experiencing growth similar to neighboring towns in York County. During the 1990s the rate of growth increased to 21%. Population is projected to grow by 26% from 9,400 in 2000 to 11,613 in 2015.

Wells is a tourist destination in the summer attracting numerous visitors to its beaches. While the service industry provides numerous jobs in town many residents must look elsewhere for work. According to the US Census, in 1990 37.4% of the employed Wells residents worked in the Town of Wells while in 2000 that amount decreased to 26.0%.

The major use of the coastal area has been for recreation since the late 1800s. Public access to most of the beaches is available through town and state right of ways. There is strong demand for recreational boating in Wells. There are currently 150 moorings in Wells Harbor and all are in use. This number is up substantially from a few years ago, due in large part to dredging of the harbor and to a newly-rebuilt boat ramp. Of the 150 moorings, 17 are used by commercial vessels and 133 by pleasure boats. In 1990 there were over 35 commercial boats and about 100 pleasure boats, and a third of the commercial boats were used by tuna fishermen. Today, all of the commercial boats are used for lobstering, thus showing how marine industries in Wells are challenged.

Shellfish beds were re-opened to harvesting in 1996 thanks to local efforts, in the Webhannet Estuary from Drakes Island Road to the Mile Road. All other areas remain closed to harvesting.

The majority of the conservation land in Wells is concentrated along the coast within the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The KKW Water District maintains several large parcels around Branch Brook. The town owns several large parcels of forest northeast of El Pond. Much of the undeveloped area of Wells is in forest. A significant amount of land is being actively managed as forest land or is enrolled in the Tree Growth Tax Law. A total of almost 4,000 acres on 131 different parcels are covered by the tree growth program. The use of land for agricultural purposes in the Town has diminished over the years. There is still a small amount of land in active agricultural production, including the Spiller and Rigby farms in Wells Branch, the Merriland Ridge farm on Route 9, Hilton's farm on the Tatnic Road, and a number of horse farms in the Tatnic area. As of 2004, there are 17 parcels encompassing 1,028 acres in the Farm and Open Space Tax Act program. These parcels only account for about three percent of the Town’s total land area.

to learn more see The Wells Comprehensive Plan


The Abenaki people called the area of Wells “Webhannet”, meaning "at the clear stream," a reference to the Webhannet River. Early visitors to Wells built seasonal camps along the beaches from where they could fish and conduct trade as far back as the 1500’s.

European Settlers arrived in Wells around the year 1640, attracted by plentiful timber and access to water power on the Ogunquit, Webhannet, and Merriland Rivers. By 1641 the first sawmill had been erected on the Webhannet River. The town was incorporated in 1653, and settlement went steadily until conflicts arose between the Native Americans and settlers in 1675. For close to 50 years the aggressions impeded further development of the town. The hostilities ended in the early 1700’s and the communities that had been destroyed began to rebuild.

The salt marshes were particularly prized for the hay they produced and were extensively ditched to expand there production. The beach dunes were recognized early on as valuable protection for the marsh hay, which was crucial for feeding livestock before substantial land clearing had occurred. Provincial laws were passed imposing stiff penalties for livestock damage to the dunes. During the 1800’s the town was primarily a farming community, still producing hay and also vegetables.

Other industries included shipbuilding and fisheries. After the Revolutionary War there was a great increase of shipbuilding.

During the mid 1800’s, the introduction of the railroad opened the coastline of Wells to tourism from the cities. Hotels and summer cottages began popping up along the beaches. Drakes Island was sub-divided in the early 1900’s. Tourism has been the most significant draw to Wells throughout the 1900’s and has been a driving force behind landscape development, particularly along the coast. Between 1950 and 2000, the population grew by an average of 35% per decade, from 2,321 to 9,400

The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm, Wells, Maine Copyright 2006 All rights reserved. Collaboration with NOAA CSC, Charleston SC