The Pemaquid peninsula and vicinity offer so many kayaking options it’s tough to decide just where to put the boat in the water, and what direction to point it for a day of pleasant paddling.
For me, weather is a principal determinant, as I’ve found that on some days the surf around the lighthouse out on Pemaquid Point can be a little daunting, so I usually opt for calmer seas before heading out around the peninsula.
That said, there are lots of options, from the sheltered launch site right on the harbor at Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site in Bristol to another in Round Pond for a paddle in Muscongus Bay. A tour of Fort William Henry offers an interesting trip back to Maine’s earliest days, and is an educational diversion well worth the time while you’re down that way.
From the sandy beach on Pemaquid Harbor, it’s not a long shot across John’s Bay to South Bristol on the next peninsula to the west, and you can spend a whole day exploring under the drawbridge there, and out to Christmas Cove.
Recently, however, Marty and I spent a few hours on the placid and peaceful waters of the Pemaquid River, watching young families of Canada geese who had left their nests, along with mud turtles basking in the warm June sun on logs and rocks in the river. It was the first trip for both of us on that particular stretch of water, and we were reminded again that no matter how many places in Maine we’ve explored, there’s always something new that’s been waiting for us.
For years we’ve passed by the well-marked launch site on Route 129 in Bristol Mills, remarking every time that some day we ought to give that stretch of river a try — but never getting around to it.
So, a couple of Saturdays ago, after I had spent Friday out on the ocean cavorting in the waves with a buddy, the friendly and placid confines of the river were especially appealing to my wife and me.
The first thing that caught our eye as we loosened up by heading the short distance south to the dam that marks the southern extremity of available paddling water on the upper part of the river was the striking 200-year-old stone bridge spanning the river in Bristol Mills.
Turning north, we paddled against the easy half-knot current, past many duck houses on poles in the river, and watched kingfishers dive for meals.
The occasional splash of a muskrat broke the silence, and the whirring of dragonflies added to the background music provided by happy songbirds in the trees along the shore.
The narrow river, shaded by maples and spruce trees on the banks, widened as we headed north and narrowed again as we passed under a bridge on the Benner Road about 21/2 miles into our trip before emerging into Biscay Pond.
On our next trip, when we have an entire day, we plan to put the kayaks in at the Nobleboro launch near the head of Pemaquid Pond to drift downriver for 10 miles on the Pemaquid Paddle Trail all the way to Bristol Mills. This will require two cars, but it’s well worth the necessity.
You’ll find the Nobleboro boat launch 4.2 miles north of Damariscotta on Route 1. A short distance after passing Back Meadow Road and Tidewater Telephone Company on your right, take a right turn at the Nobleboro Boat Launch sign.
Not only does the Pemaquid River offer some great paddling, thanks to the Pemaquid Watershed Association, which has its origins in the Biscay Pond Association, formed 37 years ago by residents concerned about unsound development on the Pemaquid Peninsula, there are also eight miles of hiking trails area maintained by the association, and a Nature Center.
The Nature Center, a collaboration with the town of Bristol, is located in the pavilion at Pemaquid Beach Park. Open daily in July and August, it offers exhibits and activities related to the natural history and ecology of the beach.
A visit to www.pemaquidwatershed.org, or to the association’s office at 15 Courtyard St., right above the Chamber of Commerce in Damariscotta, will provide you with lots of info about both the organization and the recreational options within its jurisdiction.
John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son, Josh, write in Outdoors about places to enjoy beauty only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at: