Mention Mt. Desert Island to most people and they’ll gush about the rocky shoreline, beautiful harbors, tidal pools, miles and miles of hiking and biking trails, welcoming communities with shopping and dining opportunities, and the view from auto-accessible Cadillac Mountain.

On an island that’s only about 15 miles from north to south and 12 miles from east to west, there’s enough natural beauty and outdoor challenges to satisfy any explorer or vacationer for days and days.

In recent years I’ve become a great enthusiast for the paddling options on the island’s freshwater lakes, especially during the spring and fall when it’s quieter in the oldest and second-most visited national park, occupying about half the island that plays host to more than four million visitors during the summer months.

Four of the ponds and lakes with public launching sites offer a variety of scenic views and a wide range of both flora and fauna, as well as fish habitat for several species.

Long Pond, extending about 4.5 miles north to south, is the largest of the island’s lakes. Access to the southern end is reachable by going south on Routes 102 and 198 to Somesville, then bearing right on Route 102 as Route 198 goes left and proceeding about five miles to Seal Cove Road, where you’ll turn right. Another right onto Long Pond Road for another mile gets you to the launch site.

I prefer to launch there as opposed to the north end, where there’s more development. The only downside to the narrow south end is that south to north winds can get a little stiff, from my experience. But the dramatic views at that end of the lake, with tall rock cliffs towering above on both sides, offset any discomfort. Also, if you want to include a hike in your outing, several trails radiate from that end of the lake.

Seal Cove Pond, much smaller and more remote, makes a great next stop. The launch site is reached via Seal Cove Road after turning north on Western Mountain Road. It’s a shallow pond, rife with fragrant waterlilies, bulrush and pickerelweed, which provides an ideal habitat for wood duck, cormorant, loons, great blue heron and bald eagles.

The entire uninhabited eastern shore of the 1.5-mile long pond lies within the park, although the western shore along Pretty Marsh Road suffers from traffic sounds and some development.

Eagle Lake is reachable by heading east on Route 198 in Somesville for a little over a mile, then turning left on Route 233 for 3.6 miles to a launching area just off the road to the right, on the north end of the lake.

This is the body of water where I did my first Mt. Desert Island paddling, and it continues to be one of my favorite destinations, especially in the offseason. Since some carriage roads converge at the south end, the parking area for paddlers, bikers and hikers can get pretty crowded during the height of the tourist season.

The reward for paddlers on the island’s second-largest body of fresh water, which serves as the island’s water supply (power boats and swimming are prohibited) are fabulous views of 1,248-foot Pemetic Mountain to the south and 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain to the east, along with massive pink granite slabs that extend down into the lake’s crystal clear water. As you launch, you’ll enjoy a spectacular view of The Bubbles to the south, rising between Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond.

Jordan Pond is to your right on the Park Loop Road, which you can pick up at the Visitors Center or from Route 233 near the north end of Eagle Lake.

Although only about a mile long and less than a half-mile wide, it’s probably the best-known and most popular body of water in the park. The scenery will keep your eyes and camera occupied, and your stomach will appreciate the legendary Jordan Pond House.

Since the 150-foot deep pond also serves as a public water supply, there are boating restrictions, and paddling the cove-less perimeter can make for a delightful and serene outing. A couple more pluses are a picnic area near your launch site, as well as the easy half-mile Jordan Pond Nature Trail on the shore.

John Christie is a former ski racer and ski area manager and owner, a ski historian and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. He and his son, Josh, write columns on alternating weeks. He can be reached at:

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