Loon calls echoed across the waters. A brisk northerly breeze ran its cool fingers through the tops of lakeside evergreens. The honking of Canada geese resonated from distant coves. Painted turtles plopped noisily off floating logs in secluded inlets. Wavelets ceaselessly lapped against the seam of rocks and small boulders lining the steep shoreline. A canoeing experience on the clear, cold waters of Lake St. George is as much an experience of sound as it is of sight.

We put in at the boat launch site adjacent to Lake St. George State Park on Route 3, approximately 25 miles east of Augusta. Route 3 is very scenic and is one of my favorite drives in all of Maine. Rolling hills, emerald green pastures, and sparse development make it one of Maine’s classic skyline drive vistas.

At 1,017 acres. Lake St. George paddles much bigger than you might expect. Many large, uninhabited islands and tiny islets dot the lake, and there are numerous coves and narrow inlets to poke into. Wind conditions will dictate your options. Surrounded by many hills and ridges, the lake is subject to wind funneling up and down the lake. We paddled in windy conditions, hugged the shoreline and had a great four hours of exploring one recent Sunday morning.

This spring-fed lake is popular with fishermen. It is widely known for the quality of its cold water fishery, with many good-sized salmon and brook trout landed annually. The boat launch site was busy with pickups and boat trailers, but once on the lake we felt we had it to ourselves. In May, the cottage owners have yet to arrive, so this is the optimal time to visit before the crowds descend during summer. There are portions of the lake lined with rustic cottages and other portions of unbroken forest. Hemlocks and white pine lean out over much of the shoreline providing a green canopy to slide under along with a pleasing fragrance.

Flocks of tree swallows, displaying brilliant white breasts and glossy blue backs, were just arriving for the summer.

Battling against the northerly breeze, the swallows came in waves up the lake. They seemed all too glad to touch down on the branch ends of the spindly trees growing up out of the rocky islets in the middle of the lake. We enjoyed watching them land and hang on tightly as the tree branches bounced up and down in the wind.

On the northeastern side of the lake there is a shallow passageway leading into a small rectangular lagoon of water known as Little Pond. The northern end contains a beautiful marsh. We kept our distance from a nesting Canada goose, using binoculars to get a close-up view. Her faithful mate kept an eye on us yards away.

Emaciated-looking tamarack trees stood above the brown marsh grasses and cattails.

Their beautiful green needles were just starting to poke out. All too soon we will be admiring their brilliant yellow foliage colors. The chortling of red-winged blackbirds filled the air, and we knew where to look for them — on the tops of dried out cattail stalks. They were everywhere.

A sprawling yellow farmhouse sat high on the hillside beyond the southern end of the lake. The ledge-scarred hill had recently been burned to help promote a bountiful August crop of blueberries. A line of green pincushion-looking islands marched down the lake.

With the current high water levels, there are not many easy options to land along the shoreline. The peninsula across from the boat launch and the north end of the island at its tip offer the easiest landing points. This island has some striking box-like boulders and broken cliffs on its northern end, adorned with many varieties of lichens and mosses.

There is a steep hillside pasture overlooking the lake across from the state park. After we loaded the canoe back up on our vehicle we scrambled up to the top of the field for outstanding views of the Camden Hills to the southeast. We sat down on the grass and gazed out over the vast landscape. The yellow-green glow of just-emerging leaves stretched into the distance. The waters of Lake St. George and other nearby ponds stood out like brilliant azure jigsaw puzzle pieces. We were mesmerized.

A mile west of the boat launch on Route 3 are a couple of enticing stops. One is John’s Ice Cream Factory, featuring creamy homemade ice cream in a variety of cleverly named flavors. Next door is Lori’s Caf?erving breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day (opens at 7 a.m. on Sunday). Breakfast with Lori might make for the perfect start to your outing on Lake St. George. They feature three varieties of homemade bread, freshly made donuts, and a raspberry crumb pie that leaves a day-long smile on patrons.

If you want to make a weekend of it, the state park campground is open for the season. Check out their website for camping fee rates. Their lakeside picnic tables offer the perfect spot for a weekend picnic, and their expansive grounds and hiking trails offer plenty of room to roam. To get to the boat launch site consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (Map No. 13).

Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses, and schools. He may be contacted at:

[email protected]