Saturday, December 7, 2013
By Michael Perry
The Tacoma Lakes in Litchfield provide vibrant fall colors from shoreline to hilltop, plus an impressive array of birdlife. Four of the five Tacoma Lakes are interconnected and can be explored from the state boat launch facility near the northern end of Woodbury Pond. There are many cottages along each shoreline, but in October things are quiet, making for a peaceful and relaxing outing.
In the summer the boat launch near the northern end of Woodbury Pond is buzzing, but October brings a quiet solitude that makes for a wonderful day of canoeing.
Michael Perry Photos
The Tacoma Lakes in Litchfield not only provide an impressive collection of birds, but an array of colors during the fall that will cause many a jaw to drop.
We recently spent a Sunday morning paddling along the eastern shoreline of each pond six miles south into the inlet stream below Jimmy Pond, returning in the early afternoon the six miles up along the western shorelines of each pond. As you start out you will notice three towers far to the south up on Oak Hill. By the time you reach the southern end of Jimmy Pond, those towers will be right above you. Our early start paid dividends with calm waters all the way to the end, where a gentle southerly breeze kicked in and helped us back to our starting point.
Each pond has its resident loons. Pileated woodpecker calls mixed with the sounds of chickadees, nuthatches, crows and jays. A solitary cormorant stood guard at the north end of an island in Sand Pond, while three mallards rested in the grass a few feet away. Ten black ducks erupted up out of a pickerelweed-matted cove as we glided through the shallows. We spied an osprey lifting off from the other side of the cove after diving down to snatch a fish.
In another cove we looked up into a tall pine to catch the white chest of another osprey gleaming in the rich early-morning light. The brilliance of the chest was amazing, making the osprey look like it was a big penguin sitting in the tree.
Once you enter Buker Pond from Sand Pond, most of the cottages are left behind and you will have much more of a wilderness experience, especially in the mile-long channel leading from Buker down into Jimmy Pond. Golden waves of grasses lined the channel, with solitary white pines rising out of the marsh, and lines of low swamp maples turning red, and small birches turning yellow. To the west the long ridgeline of Oak Hill towered above the water. It was as if we had paddled into an Alpine amphitheater. Wispy cirrus clouds, comprised of wafer-thin layers, started to materialize out of the deep blue. The word "spectacular" didn't seem to do the channel justice.
We circled the southern end of Jimmy Pond looking for the inlet stream. A blue heron stood still in the tall grasses watching us pass. Two turkey vultures circled above us. The round red nuts of buttonbush marked the entrance into a narrow, winding waterway we were able to follow for a half-mile before having to turn at a beaver dam. The dense forest canopy provided a cocoon of shadowy exploration, quite a contrast to the warm, soothing sun out on the pond.
If you are looking for a shorter outing it is possible to launch your canoe from the road at the north end of Buker Pond, just west of the entrance into Sand Pond. There is room for two cars to park in a small designated area on the north side of the road. You can launch on either side of the road with a little bit of gymnastic maneuvering.
Woodbury Pond Park, two coves south of the Woodbury Pond boat launch, makes a nice stop. Picnic tables dot the shoreline. The mown grass makes for a great spot to snooze in the sun. Twenty geese greeted us as we glided into the shoreline. The park is operated by the town of Litchfield. There is no fee after Labor Day.
How to get to Woodbury Pond boat launch: From Route 126 in Litchfield, drive two miles north on Hallowell Road, crossing the outlet stream of Woodbury Pond. Turn left onto Hardscrabble Road, then take an immediate left onto Whippoorwill Road. The boat launch is a half-mile to the south and is marked with a blue sign. Consult the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map 12).
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.
click image to enlarge
Whether woodpeckers, loons or chickadees, there’s so much evidence that wildlife has its dominant place on the Tacoma Lakes.