Two of our favorite months to paddle are April and November.

April offers emerging plant life and the northerly migration of birds. November provides the last brilliant colors of autumn and migrant birds working their way south. Both months offer solitude and quiet.

Last Sunday, we enjoyed a four-hour paddle exploring up and down the Mousam River from the Route 9 boat launch in Kennebunk. First, we paddled three miles upriver to within a half-mile of Route 1 before we were turned back by boulder-strewn whitewater at Rogers Pond Park. There are a few homes scattered along the river, but for the most part it is a serene and scenic stretch. We ended our outing by paddling from the boat launch a half-mile down to Parsons Beach at the mouth of the river.

The Mousam is tidal and the current is significant at mid tide. Try to explore within the time frame of three hours before high tide to three hours after high tide. We ended up paddling pretty much against the tide but were able to make headway without too much effort by hugging the shoreline. Next time we will try to do a better job with our timing.

The late fall colors are still dazzling, with the oaks taking center stage. In the low mid-November sunlight, the yellows, greens and browns pulsate a rich, vibrant hue. Gnarled pitch pines mix with tall white pines. Brilliant red thickets of winterberries greeted us around many bends. Cormorants led us upriver, flying around to the next bend as we approached. A blue heron circled around us and landed awkwardly in a waterside shrub. A solitary kingfisher flew across the river, landing on a leafless maple branch hanging over the river. On our return it flew across the river again and landed in the same spot.

Within a mile of Rogers Pond Park, we paddled through a unique railroad trestle. A granite barrier with two large, round tunnels spanned the river. The interior curved granite block roof was a piece of artwork itself. We were very impressed with the size and scope of the endeavor. As we emerged from the tunnel, 30 geese flew over the river heading toward the sea, their autumnal migratory song filling the air.

The Mousam is one of the few rivers in southwestern Maine open for fishing year round. We met a fly fisherman up at the park casting out into the riffles. The river is stocked with brown trout, and he told us that he once caught a 14 pounder. That is a very big fish!

The paddle down to Parsons Beach offered a completely different experience. We paddled up onto the back side of the beach a hundred yards from the river mouth and walked around the corner to the mile-long expanse of sand, offering sweeping views south toward Cape Neddick, with the lonely profile of Mount Agamenticus looming to the southwest. The mostly cloudy afternoon sky offered us a patchwork of colors and shades rising out of the sea. A few puffs of mid-level clouds were illuminated a brilliant white, all against a deep purple background. The firm, wet sand at water’s edge reflected the palette of sky in a silvery gossamer sheen.

Paddling under the wooden Brown Street bridge, we followed a tidal creek a half-mile up into a secluded marsh. On our return, with the tide on the ebb, we enjoyed watching six black-bellied plovers scouring an exposed sandbar for morsels. Back out on the river, we spied 12 lesser yellowlegs scurrying about on another exposed sandbar.

If your time is limited, you can drive down from Route 9 on the western side of the river on Brown Street and launch your canoe at the end of the road near the wooden bridge. From here, a short sandy path leads out to Parsons Beach. By starting here, you can also avoid having to deal with a contrary tide if your timing is not quite right. You can then come back and paddle up to Rogers Pond Park in the spring.

Consult the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 3) for help in getting to the boat launch on Route 9. There is no parking at the concrete boat ramp. Park along Route 9 adjacent to the recreational trail that follows the shore, 50 yards east of the river.

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.

Contact: [email protected]