As the summer kayaking season winds down, I always save a few of my favorite freshwater paddles for September and October. There, I can drink in the autumn colors and imprint in my mind for the winter months some lasting images to savor by the fire as I anticipate the next summer.
High on the list is Donnell Pond, picturesquely situated in one of Maine’s Public Reserved Lands. Those wild lands total almost a half-million acres around the state and are managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.
Located about 12 miles east of Ellsworth via Route 1 – and then either routes 182 or 183 depending on where you want to access the water – Donnell Pond is easy to find and rewards you with some of the best paddling around.
My recent visit started at a launch site about a mile east on Route 182, a short distance after passing through the village of Franklin. Keep your eye out for a right turn directly after passing a pizza shop. That will put you on the Donnell Pond Road, leading directly to a launching area with a large adjacent parking lot, an information kiosk … and even a privy.
That’s the easy place to put your kayak or canoe in the water. Another option is off Route 183 on a road that brings you to the south end of the pond, the start of the Schoodic, Black and Caribou mountain hiking trails, and Schoodic Beach with its day use and camping sites.
The downside of this second route is that you’ll have to lug your boat about half a mile to get to the water. Hence my decision to launch at the designated site on a beautiful cove along the west side where Donnell Pond Road ends.
A paddle to the east out of the cove brings you to a point where the pond heads south to Schoodic Beach – and the trail up Schoodic Mountain, should you decide you’d like to do some hiking.
You’ll pass a couple of remote campsites along the west shore before you get to the beach. The sites beckon you to consider camping there on a another visit.
Pushing off from Schoodic Beach and paddling north on the east side, you’ll reach Redmans Beach, where there are some day-use picnic areas and three beautiful campsites. This part of the land preserve is also reachable via a trail over Black Mountain from Schoodic Beach, and some campers will hike the nearly three miles to enjoy the remoteness, seclusion and beauty of these picturesque sites.
But for the kayaker, the beach represents either a great stopping-off point to enjoy a rest, lunch and a swim before continuing a circumnavigation of the pond, or a place to set up camp for the night. The three sites have picnic tables, rocked-up fireplaces and a centrally located privy – all the conveniences you’ll need for an overnight or longer stay. By the way, you are limited to 14 consecutive days in a 45-day period. Although I’ve never camped there, my recent paddle reminded me to add it to my list for an outing next summer.
The campsites are remote enough that you’re almost always assured that one of them will be available should you hike or paddle there. An added bonus is that as you settle down for the night in the shadow of Black Mountain, you’ll get to enjoy the sunset over Schoodic Mountain that looms to the west over the pond.
You really should consider exploring the entire shoreline, as large boulders in the shallow water and several small islands offer some scenic splendors that make this pond a very special paddle.
As you leave Redmans Beach, hug the east shore as you head north all the way around Martins Ridge Cove before heading back to your launch site.
On my recent visit, the only other boat on the entire pond was an early morning fisherman out to try his luck, and you’ll never be disturbed by a personal watercraft like a Jet Ski. They aren’t permitted on this special body of water.
All in all, a perfect way to wind down another summer of great paddling.
John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son, Josh, write about the places to enjoy the beauty of Maine. He can be reached at: