Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The pink and purple hues of sunset over Whiting Bay have faded into the gray tones of evening, and the brownish-green rockweed beds clinging to the shoreline are now one shade darker than the sky, lit up here and there by dancing fireflies.
Cobscook Bay State Park in Edmunds Township offers a magnificent parcel of coves and mudflats, and as much peace and quiet as anyone could want.
Carey Kish photo
The great tide has shifted, as evidenced by the clots of seaweed floating on the surface of the water now flowing inbound from the open ocean. I sit perched on the rocks a few feet below my campsite, taking it all in.
Nighttime has arrived at Cobscook Bay State Park in Edmunds Township, a magnificent 888-acre parcel of coves and mudflats, powerful 25-foot tides, dense forests of spruce and fir, bountiful wildlife, and a whole lot of peace and quiet.
Established in 1964, the state park was carved out of the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, and remains a part of the federal refuge by virtue of a long-term, no-cost lease arrangement.
Somehow in my years of adventuring I had missed this particular scenic spot in Downeast Maine, but an early July camping trip finally rectified that. Perhaps you'll want to do the same this summer; Cobscook is definitely worth the trek.
The park boasts 125 campsites -- most of them on attractive waterfront real estate -- lining Burnt Cove, encircling Broad Cove, on Cobscook Point and Harbor Point, and directly on Whiting Bay. The sites range in size, accommodating everything from small campers and tents, to trailers 35 feet and greater. Then there are the tenting-only sites, which I immediately gravitated to, and I bet you will as well. Some of these you can drive right up to, others have a short connecting trail between car and site, while a few require a bit of a walk. Privacy is hardly an issue at Cobscook.
Most campsites are reservable and the rest are first-come, first-served. Several sites are designated as accessible. All sites have a picnic table and fire ring, and some include a picnic shelter or an Adirondack log shelter for added weather protection. Pit toilets and water faucets are conveniently located throughout the campground. A central bathhouse has hot showers and sinks for cleaning.
Hikers can explore the park via its network of gravel roads, which is a great way to scope out all the campsites for your next visit (hint, hint). The Nature Trail leaves from the park entrance station and winds southward through the west side of the park, with a spur to an outlook atop Cunningham Mountain. Northward from the entrance station, a second trail climbs to the summit of Little's Mountain and an old 60-foot firetower. Finally, the Shore Trail loops along Whiting Bay at the park's northern end.
Kayakers can put in at the boat launch at the end of a side road off South Edmunds Road. While there are lots of coves, inlets and islands to explore, paddlers need to be extra mindful of the swirling waters of the fast-moving tides.
Cobscook visitors can dig a peck of clams a day in season, so if mucking around in the mudflats in search of the tasty bivalve sounds appealing, be sure to bring along your clam rake, bucket and knee boots.
Home to the highest concentration of bald eagles in Maine, Cobscook counts more than 200 birds as residents or visitors and is a big stop on the Maine Birding Trail, so pack your binoculars.
There's also plenty to see and do outside of the park boundaries, especially for hikers, who can take to the nearby trails at Moosehorn, Quoddy Head and Shackford Head state parks and a wealth of paths in the Cobscook Trails system.
Cobscook Bay State Park is open for camping from May 15 through Oct. 15, and for day use throughout the year. The park road is gated, however, outside of the camping season. For more information and reservations, visit www.parksandlands.com or call 726-4412.
Carey Kish of Bowdoin is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Send comments and hike suggestions to: