Perhaps the most amazing thing, to me anyway, about kayaking the inland and coastal waters of Maine is the virtually endless variety of land (and sea) scapes, environments, vistas and experiences that await the paddler.
After hundreds of hours exploring the nooks and crannies of the variegated coastline and the inland ponds, rivers and streams, I thought until one day last week that I’d probably treated myself to about every kind of paddling pleasure available. Until I launched the trusty Carolina into the Big Musquash Stream way down east in Grand Lake Stream Plantation, that is.
It’s a fair poke, as they say, from most anywhere in Maine, unless you happen to live next door in Baileyville, but true to the title of this column, it’s well “Worth the Trip.”
For a variety of reasons.
First, you’ll be treated to a usually placid paddle, which makes a visit there especially appealing when the wind picks up on the nearby exposed lakes where it can get a little rough. I say usually because on my recent visit, a brisk breeze out of the north (directly in your face as you paddle up the slow-moving stream) gave my upper body its first real workout of the summer. Skiing just doesn’t exercise that part of my body enough for six months of the year, so it’s always a little humbling to feel my arms aching on the ride home.
But in retrospect, the stiff wind provoked me to explore a beautiful tributary, Flipper Creek, which I might otherwise have missed if I’d just paddled up the 6-mile length of Musquash. This little 3-mile round trip diversion allowed the wind to die down quite a bit by the time I returned to the main stream. And if I hadn’t gone up Flipper Creek I’d have missed the mother beaver hauling freshly gnawed alders to the top of her house in preparation for supper, and the squadron of dragonflies that felt it was important to accompany me on my entire side trip.
Back on the main stream I got my exercise paddling up into a still-respectable north wind, but the time passed quickly as I marveled at a black duck flopping in the water beside my kayak pretending to be injured to keep me away from her nestling family in the reeds, then a playful otter romping on the stream side, seemingly unaffected by my uninvited presence. I even spotted a neat little pile of mussel shells left over from some recent otter and weasel meals.
Bobolinks sang cheerily as a flock of geese circled overhead, all adding to the cacophony of marsh sounds surrounding me. I rarely spot a ground-nesting oriole in my travels, but one with a distinctive light back and dark belly appeared out of the rushes as well.
A special feature of this meandering marshy stream is the endless border of bright yellow primula veris, known to us amateur botanists as cowslips, that adorn the edges of the stream. Along with dark green pickerel weed leaves, it almost looks as if the hand of God had prepared a flower-bordered parade route, making the paddle even more enchanting.
After completing the trip upstream, I did a 180 and began the effortless trip downstream (and downwind) back to the bridge. As I neared the end, I saw a few swallows swooping from under the concrete stream crossing, so I drifted under the bridge to see if they were nesting there, only to be assaulted by at least three dozen members of a dive-bombing squadron that thought swooping at my head would provoke me to leave them and their little ones alone. They were right.
I didn’t stop at any point to fish, but smallmouth bass and chain pickerel were evident, so perhaps on my next visit I’ll take the time to drop a line.
Getting to the Big Musquash, remote as it is for most of us, is a delightful trip. I chose to head down Route 9 to its junction with Route 1, turned left up to Princeton and a couple of miles farther along picked up the well-marked road departing on the left to Grand Lake Stream. From there it’s exactly 4.1 miles to the bridge and launch site.
On the trip back to midcoast, I picked up Route 191 in Baring in the National Wildlife Refuge and took the scenic ride to East Machias. Then it was home via Route 1, stopping to pick up one of my favorite clam rolls at Joshy’s Place in Milbridge and taking it with me about four miles down Wyman Road to the town-owned McLellan Park, a delightful little picnicking and camping area right on the rocks looking out at Bois Bubert Island in Pigeon Hill Bay.
John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son Josh write in Outdoors about places to enjoy the beauty that only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at: