We paddled mere inches above billiard-table-sized boulders, and paused many times to take pictures of the reflections of pyramidal-shaped rocks along the shoreline.
Above us rose the conical profile of Mt Tire’m. Kingfishers and sandpipers flitted along the shoreline. Mallards erupted into the air from shadowy pockets tucked along the shore. A loon family paddled to within yards of us. Glacially scoured Keoka Lake in historic Waterford provides many early autumn delights.
Put in at the town beach and boat ramp a quarter-mile south of the village.
During peak season, the facility is only open to Waterford residents, but this time of year paddlers from all locales are welcome. Park on the shoulder on the other side of the road from the Waterford Historical Society building.
From here we enjoyed a two-hour, 5-mile circuit of the lake.
The lake shore has many cottages along it, but things are pretty quiet in October. There are many flat boulders to get out and relax on.
Another town beach north of the village, on the western side of the pond, provides a fine spot to get out and soak up the power of the rising sun. The sandy bottom makes getting out easy. Many times we would be 30 yards out from shore, and yet be only in eight inches of water.
Low hills surround the lake. From the northwestern end of the lake, you will see the long ridge line of Pleasant Mountain and the top of the Shawnee Peak ski trails 10 miles to the southwest.
Is there any mountain in Maine with as cute a name as Mount Tire’m? We thought about all those out-of-shape city kids sent to a nearby summer camp over the years, and the counselor-led treks they made up the mountain on hot, humid days. Mount Tire’m, with its 600-foot elevation gain, wins again!
Just beyond the small concrete outlet dam and spillway on the southern end of the lake sit two giant boulders side by side. They are about the same size and shape as the iconic glacial erratic perched on the edge of the South Bubble near Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park. Curled brown flakes of rock tripe lichens clung to the granite faces. Rock tripe was used as a food source of last resort by native peoples and early explorers.
Further on, we paddled up to a large boulder shaped like a loaf of bread and split in half. Keoka was originally called Thomas Pond in tribute to an early settler by the name of Thomas Chamberlain who escaped the Indians one day by hiding behind one of the boulders we were paddling by.
The lakeside village of Waterford is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Spend time on the benches of the town green after your outing, admiring the splash of foliage colors on towering maples.
Enjoy a 20-minute hike up to the spectacular open ledges of Mount Tire’m for outstanding views south over Bear Pond and Long Lake. The trailhead is on the left 100 yards beyond the First Congregational Church on Plummer Hill Road.
Waterford was the birthplace of one of America’s early humorists, Artemus Ward. He was a great influence on Mark Twain, and was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln. Often during the Civil War, Lincoln would relax by reading one of Ward’s latest satirical essays.
Lawyer and one-term Congressman Elbridge Gerry was also born in town. His grandfather was vice president under James Madison, and his political maneuverings in Massachusetts gave rise to the term “gerrymandering.”
The 17-mile drive up Route 35 to get to Waterford from Naples is beautiful. Be sure to stop in Harrison at the head of Long Lake and walk around. The cobblestone Caswell Building, circa 1909, is truly a work of art.
Michael Perry, former director of the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, is the founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs. He may be contacted at: