Friday, March 7, 2014
By MICHAEL PERRY
With views of Kathadin from Togue Pond, the Bigelow Range from Flagstaff Lake, Tumbledown from Webb Lake and the bald summits of Acadia from Eagle Lake, Maine sure has its share of outstanding Alpine canoeing venues. Rivaling all these is the view of the Baldface's and Royce's from the Lower Bay of Kezar Lake.
With the Baldface mountains an agreeable backdrop, Kezar Lake lives up to its long-ago National Geographic billing as among the world’s most beautiful lakes – and the fact that it’s within easy driving distance of Portland makes it a must for canoers.
Michael Perry Photos
An eastern muck turtle seems to be sunning itself rather precariously on an old weathered log arching out of Kezar Lake.
National Geographic once championed Kezar Lake as one of the world's three most beautiful lakes, pretty heady stuff. After eight hours of exploring the open waters of Lower Bay and its inlet and outlet streams, we were equally dazzled. Lower Bay has many cottages along its shoreline and is popular with fishermen and recreational boaters, but don't let this deter you from paddling here in the summer. The views are fabulous and there is much wildlife to observe.
Put in at the Lovell Town Beach and Boat Launch just west of the Kezar Lake Marina located adjacent to the West Lovell Road bridge over The Narrows. Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (Map No.10) for help in getting to the launch via Route 5 out of Lovell.
Paddling out of The Narrows toward Lower Bay, we observed our first mountain panorama, a low line of ridges and summits pointing south to the conical profile of Kearsarge North in Chatham, N.H. The summit firetower offers some of the best views in the White Mountains.
We paddled up into Northwest Cove looking for the mouth of Bradley Stream. As we meandered through mats of pickerelweed and yellow pond lilies, a large doe jumped out of the marsh grasses a few yards away and with a flash of its white tail was gone. It took a few minutes for our heart rates to return to normal. After a few false starts we finally found the broad channel on the western side of the cove. As we emerged out into the stream a blue heron clumsily thrashed in the water ahead of us in an attempt to get airborne, a large fish firmly clenched in its beak.
The rugged phalanx of mountains northwest of the cove make up the western boundary of Evans Notch. Clearly dominant are the open ledges and bold eastern ridgeline of South Baldface. The 10-mile circuit of North and South Baldface is one of the most beautiful and challenging mountain hikes in the Northeast.
We explored 1.5 miles up the narrowing stream until stopped by a series of beaver dams. On the way back out to the lake we pulled up onto a rock outcropping in the middle of the channel and enjoyed the mountain scenery, soaking up the mid-morning sun and watching a blue heron wade through the vegetation. Pockets of blue flag iris poked up out of the expanse of grasses. Tiny sundews clung to floating mats of sphagnum moss.
On our way down to the undeveloped southern end of the lake, we gazed southeast to Pleasant Mountain and the ski trails of Shawnee Peak, back to the northeast to the striking bold cliffs of Sabattus Mountain and then to the south to the humped back of Mt. Tom. Mountains were everywhere.
We followed the outlet stream three miles south to its confluence with the Old Course of the Saco River, portaging around two small dams. This winding waterway has many submerged trees and leaners arching out over the water and providing beautiful reflections. We glided by painted turtles sunning themselves on logs. Pink bog laurel caught our eye as we rounded bend after bend.
Back out on the lake we paddled up along the eastern shoreline and found a spot to get out and rest under a waterside pine. Twenty miles to the west, the top of Mt. Washington peered up over a sag in the Carter-Moriah Range. With our binoculars we spied a couple of snow patches below the summit.
Back at the launch site under a canopy of tall white pines, picnickers and beach goers had gathered, and tales were being told of big bass and pickerel having been caught. There is something special for everyone in the Lower Bay of Kezar Lake.
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:
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Blue herons wade in the pickeral weed, ever alert for small fish in the shallow waters by the Kezar Lake shorefront.
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Shorefront boulders provide for convenient resting and lunch spots after a couple hours of robust paddling.