April 11, 2010

Canoeing: Dresden Bog offers ideal early paddling


This April promises to be one of the best paddling Aprils in many a year. Early ice out coupled with extremely high water levels have expanded the acreage of many lakes and ponds, providing access into shallow coves and marshes usually off-limits for easy exploration.

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A view of Dresden Bog looking north from the south end. The bog is a hidden gem for paddlers looking for beautiful scenery and serenity.

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The put-in site may look unimpressive, but don’t be dismayed: You’ll be on open water soon. It’s also easy to find the channel on the way back.

Dresden Bog is a case in point.  Usually two beaver dams block the 300-yard-long stream leading into the northern end of the bog and serve to deter most paddlers from portaging up and over the obstacles and continuing into the bog. We recently paddled right over them with marginal scraping. Even at lower water levels do not let these small dams stop you. Get out and pull your canoe over them if you have to. This hidden gem is one of the midcoast’s best-kept secrets, and too beautiful not to make the effort.

Dresden Bog is wood duck haven. Most birders agree that the iridescent male wood duck is one of the most beautiful ducks in North America. More than 30 nest boxes are scattered along the shoreline and out in the open waters of the bog. The wood duck prefers nesting over the water for one simple reason: good parenting. The day after they are born the youngsters struggle up to the tree cavity or nest box opening and, in an act of utter faith, just jump. The water provides a far softer landing than terra firma. We enjoyed watching countless pairs as they flew away from us, providing a unique cacophony of high-pitched, rapid squealing. Wood duck pairs are one of the earliest dabbling ducks to pair up in the fall, and they stay together the longest in the spring. Love and devotion are alive and well at Dresden Bog.

We also enjoyed following the flight displays of flocks of ring-necked ducks circling out over the water. The males have deep black and white markings that are striking when 30 strong are arcing up into the sky and wheeling out over the bog on a sunny day.

The bog is 2 miles in length and on average a half-mile wide. We spent three hours meandering down the western shoreline and back via the eastern edge. There are a few rustic camps on the bog, but it is unusual seeing anyone on the water. It is possible with high water to paddle almost down to Route 27 (the Gardiner Road) on the Wiscasset-Dresden town line before a twisted wall of low brush will turn you around.

Be sure to stop at the earthen concrete dam a mile down the western shoreline. The grassy slope is a fabulous spot to soak up the morning sun. Yellowish water was roaring over the dam, dropping 6 feet down into frothing Bog Brook for its 2-mile tumble down to the Muddy River at Dresden Mills. The dam was built in 1850 and modernized with metal entry well more recently.

The shoreline topography is gentle, making it possible to take out and relax in the sun along the shoreline any time you desire. The forest is predominantly hardwood, with a nice mix of white pine and hemlock. The red buds of the maples are getting bigger by the day and are spectacular against a blue sky. A number of large pyramid-shaped boulders dot the shallow expanse of water. Three islands march down the western shoreline, providing interesting exploring on water and on foot.

We heard the honking of Canada geese and the cry of an osprey but did not see them. New bird arrivals are occurring each day. On your visit maybe you will see your first blue heron and kingfisher of the season, or enjoy a loon sighting. Of course, the song of spring is the chorus of peepers usually heard in the evening, but at Dresden Bog you can hear them throughout the day for a few weeks.

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