Thursday, December 5, 2013
By MICHAEL PERRY
For one of the truly outstanding paddling and mountain gazing experiences in the Northeast, consider a visit to Eagle Lake on Mount Desert Island this June. At 425 acres, Eagle Lake is the largest freshwater pond in Acadia National Park. June is a great time to visit; kids are still in school, and the notorious Acadia hordes of tourists have yet to fully engulf the park. Plus, Mother Nature is in full summer mode.
This is the view from the boat launch at Eagle Lake, located about three miles west of Bar Harbor off Route 233. On a canoe ride, the view gets nothing but better.
Michael Perry photo
We enjoyed paddling alongside a red-breasted merganser leading a solitary chick. When mom went under to feed, so did the chick in perfect unison. We always enjoy the Phyllis Diller-like hair displays sported by the red-breasted mergansers -- wild!
Bullfrog calls echoed out from marsh grasses along the shoreline. A kingfisher dropped out of a tree ahead of us and flew away in its characteristic undulating motion, while rattling away at the vagaries of life. Pink globes of bog laurel flower clusters punctuated the shoreline. Yellow pond lilies were just beginning to emerge in the protected shallow areas.
Eagle Lake provides drinking water for many island communities. The waters of the lake are clear. No swimming is allowed, and motors are limited to 10 horsepower. Carriage roads encircle the lake, sometimes you will hear the voices of hikers and bicyclists drifting out from the canopy of trees along the shoreline. Plan on about three hours to complete the six-mile circuit. You will be spending a lot of time looking up.
As you drive into the boat launch site, jaws will drop just as ours did. The scene before you makes the long drive worthwhile. Left to right, a string of rounded summits rises into the soft blue sky of early morning. Cadillac is on the left, Pemetic in the middle, Sargent on the right.
Smooth ledges provided a restful stop a half-mile south of the launch site. The pink granite was delightfully cool as the morning sun began to work its heating magic. We found the perfect contours for our bodies at water's edge, but it was hard to close our eyes and keep from gazing at the mountains all around us. Doze we did for a few minutes. Then it was back into the canoe hugging the western shoreline down to the southern end of the lake. The gentle breeze felt great on our sun-splashed faces. Granite boulders poked up out of the shallows along the shoreline.
As we paddled under the steep cliffs of Connors Nubble, giant rectangular slabs of granite filled the lake bottom. Given the clarity of the water it was hard to tell how far down they were. After a few minutes of gliding over them, we figured that they were far enough down that we would not be recreating the fate of the Titanic.
As we neared the northeastern end of the lake, we noticed the ruins of an elegant old stone building on a forested bluff. We got out to poke about, wondering how such a beautiful creation in such a dazzling spot could have been abandoned. As the park was being created by visionary George Dorr and his influential friends in the early 1900s, a number of construction projects were halted and bought out to preserve the pristine nature of the land and waters being acquired for the park. This was one such successful negotiation.
Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map 16) for help in getting to Eagle Lake. Try to get to the launch site before 9 a.m.; the parking lot fills up fast as the day progresses. The launch site is on Route 233, 3 miles west of Bar Harbor.
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: