Friday, May 24, 2013
By JOHN CHRISTIE
If you're looking for a coastal paddle that will combine just about everything you'd want out of a day on the water, put Muscongus Sound in the midcoast on your must-do list for this summer.
Starting from the inlet at Round Pond off the Pemaquid Peninsula, paddlers can head out to Muscongus Sound for a trip that includes close-up views of numerous islands.
John Christie photos
Gulls congregate not far from Round Pond village. A day trip around Muscongus Sound can begin at an easily accessible ramp right next to the local fishermen’s co-op, where you may see lobstermen unloading their catch.
A few hours of exploring the shoreline and harbors will include anything you might ask for: spectacular scenery, sea birds, harbor seals, working lobster boats, sleek sailboats, attractive cottages with lawns and gardens running down to the water's edge, and even a little history. Not to mention the chance to paddle around an island that's home to an internationally recognized Audubon Camp dedicated to the study of birds and the Maine coast environment for the past 76 years.
Your adventure will start as you turn south on Route 32 in Waldoboro and head down the Pemaquid Peninsula. Fourteen miles later, after passing through Bremen, you'll crest a hill and descend into tiny Round Pond village. As I did on a recent sunny day, you'll launch on a well-marked and easily accessible ramp right next to the local fishermen's co-op, where you'll see lobstermen unloading their catch.
You'll doubtless make a mental note that there's even a little takeout stand where you can grab lunch and sit on a deck overlooking the harbor when you return from your paddle.
You'll probably be tempted to paddle the entire perimeter of the protected harbor just to admire the well-kept grounds of the cottages that dot the shoreline before you head out into the sound, as did I.
Then I'd suggest you head up the shore toward tiny Muscongus Harbor less than two miles to the north. After exploring the harbor, paddle up into Greenland Cove for another couple miles past Ram Island before swinging around Hockomock Point. Circumnavigate Hog Island and the Todd Wildlife Sanctuary, home of the Audubon Nature Study Camp that was launched in 1936 to educate teachers and adult students.
The storied faculty there has included such notable wildlife educators and conservation leaders as Roger Tory Peterson and Rachel Carson, as well as Dr. Stephen W. Kress, an ornithology instructor there in the 1970s who founded Project Puffin, the internationally acclaimed seabird conservation program.
Today the camp is a leader in environmental education, attracting students from across the country to experience both the profound beauty and ecological significance of this unique Maine treasure. To date, more than 20,000 teachers from kindergarten through Grade 12 have studied in this natural classroom and experienced, in the words of many of them, "the magic of Hog Island."
If you have enough time, and if the weather's right, you might consider exploring a couple miles farther north up the shore to Medomak, where, incidentally, there's a hand-carry launch site. You may be tempted to do some paddling around Bremen Long Island, which protects Medomak a short distance to the east.
Heading south from Hog Island, you'll next arrive at Louds Island after about half a mile, with its stunning little Marsh Harbor in the shadow of Marsh Island. Then it's out around Bar Island off the south end of Louds.
I believe the sand bar off Louds -- it's barely covered with water at high tide -- is the place where local legend has it that Wampanoag Chief Samoset was buried, ostensibly to allow his bones to be polished by the incoming and receding ties.
Historians tell us that Samoset, a sagamore (subordinate chief), was the first Native American to make contact with the Pilgrims on March 16, 1621, in Plymouth, Mass. He surprised them by strolling straight through the middle of their encampment and speaking English, learned from the foreigners he'd befriended who were fishing off Monhegan Island.
Your Muscongus Sound adventure could include, if you're especially energetic, continuing south from Louds Island for about five miles past Long Cove Point, with a stop at the Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve before entering New Harbor. It's a rewarding destination that's the archetypical working harbor, full of lobster boats and draggers, not to mention a great waterfront seafood restaurant.
Continuing along another three miles to Pemaquid Point will probably be a little more than could be included in your one-day itinerary, but you'll want to plan a future visit, I'm sure.
John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son Josh write in Outdoors about places to enjoy the beauty that only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at: