Bog FAQs

What are Wetlands, Peatlands, and Bogs?

The 616 acre Orono Bog is a wetland. Wetlands have soils that are water saturated, and plants that can tolerate wet soil. Orono Bog is a special kind of wetland called a peatland because of its deep layer of peat. A bog is a peatland with acidic and infertile soil, and with abundant peat moss and other acid-tolerant plants. The central half of Orono Bog has been raised by peat accumulation to a higher level than at the edge, so it is called a raised bog. The raised surface, combined with the great thickness of the peat and the remoteness of the central area from the mineral soil of the upland, results in extreme infertility and dwarfed plant growth.

What is Peat?

Peat consists of the undecomposed remains of plants, including mosses, leaves, seeds, branches, and even the trunks of trees. Oxygen from the air can’t pass through water-saturated soil as fast as it is used up by early stages of the decay process. Further decay is greatly slowed by lack of oxygen. If plant remains are added to the soil faster than they can decay, peat accumulates.

What is the History of the Orono Bog Basin?

About 15,900 years ago, the glacier melted away, and the area was invaded by the sea. A layer of silt and clay was deposited on the bottom of the sea. After a few hundred years, the land rose out of the sea. Small lakes formed in some low parts of the basin. Other parts of the basin supported non-wetland vegetation for about 4000 years. Around 11,200 years ago, the climate became wetter, and the poorly drained silt-clay soils of the basin became waterlogged. This condition allowed wetland plants to spread over the entire basin. Since then, the basin has remained wet, and thousands of generations of wetland plants have added their remains to a deepening layer of peat-–now as deep as 25 feet in some parts of the bog.

What is the Fay Hyland Tract?

The University-owned part of the Orono Bog is named in honor of Fay Hyland, a beloved botany professor who frequented the bog with his students.

What was the process for Building the Boardwalk?

The boardwalk consists of 509 8-ft-long by 4-ft-wide boardwalk sections made out of rough-sawn hemlock lumber. The lumber was all cut to size and assembled at a boardwalk-assembly area where the inner or bus parking lot is now located (near boardwalk: see map on this website). The cut lumber was dipped in a waterproofing bath, and then assembled into sections using jigs to assure uniformity of boardwalk sections.

The boardwalk trail, already surveyed and marked the prior winter, was cleared and leveled to receive the boardwalk sections. Leveling and clearing were kept to a minimum to preserve the natural character of the bog. This boardwalk “floats” atop the water-saturated peat. Footings, consisting either of plastic-wood composite material or dock floats were placed on the trail to receive the boardwalk sections. These footings hold the boardwalk above spring high water to extend the life of the boardwalk by keeping the wood dry.

Each boardwalk section was rolled out on a special cart to the boardwalk trail and placed atop its footings. The boardwalk was extended like constructing a railroad. Each time a new section was put in place, the boardwalk got longer. The new section was rolled to the end of the already emplaced boardwalk where it was put in place. Sections were placed in this way at the right and left sides of the 3400-foot-long boardwalk loop, until the two sides joined in the middle of the bog, and a “golden spike” celebration took place. The 509 8-foot-long sections do not quite total to the 4200-foot-long boardwalk because additional length is added by wedge-shaped structures wherever the boardwalk takes a turn.

The boardwalk took 8 months to build — June-November 2002 and May-June 2003 — by an average of 4 builders per day. The work was done by the Maine Conservation Corps, Charleston Correction Facility personnel, and more than 100 individual volunteers.