Newport proudly calls itself “The Crossroads of Maine.” From here outdoors lovers can head west toward the western Maine mountains or north to Moosehead Lake country. Just a few miles east of bustling Newport sits Etna Pond, a gem of solitude and wilderness beauty even in July and August.

There are a handful of camps along the shore and a few bass fishermen scattered about on the weekends, but other than that you have it to yourself. If you paddle along the complete 6-mile shoreline you will paddle into parts of three towns: Etna, Stetson and Carmel.

The town boat launch is located off Route 143 in Etna, a mile north of Route 2. The gravel access road is located on the right just beyond the Etna Foursquare Gospel Church. A few yards north of the boat launch ramp is an impressive wheelchair accessible fishing dock free to the public. Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 22) for help in getting to the boat launch.

A broad marshy area sits to the north and we headed in that direction. Blue herons gently lifted off from the shoreline shadows. Striking red cardinal flowers, a favorite of ruby-throated hummingbirds, glowed boldly from their shoreline perches. A dazzling carpet of purplish-blue pickerelweed flowers welcomed us into the confines of the northern cove. Buttonbush hung over the water’s edge, displaying their Christmas ornament-like seed balls in various stages of development: white, green or brown. The dainty white flowers of arrowhead poked up out of the water. Spotted sandpipers flitted here and there.

We explored 100 yards north up a narrow channel before a wall of reeds and cattails turned us back. Carpets of fragrant water lilies were just starting to open up for the day. The sweet aroma was intoxicating. We often smelled the lilies before seeing them along the shoreline.

A low ridge lies to the south of the pond. We headed in that direction when two large loons popped up a few yards away, looked around, then slipped back into the water in unison.

The southern portion of the pond features two distinct arms. As we explored the southeasterly arm we came upon an eastern kingbird sitting in its nest in a maple leaning out over the water. A painted turtle dropped into the water from its perch on a floating birch tree trunk that had been toppled into the water by industrious beavers.

The larger southwesterly arm is accessed via a narrow channel. It is a few hundred yards of beauty that will have you feeling you are paddling in the wilds of Ontario. Back out in open water you will note railroad tracks running along the forested shore to the right. We stopped to chat with a kayaker who said he had seen a three-foot snapping turtle the day before. We weren’t sure he got the size quite right but we got the idea – it was a big one. Eventually the arm narrows and leads a mile to a beaver dam before the Etna Pond Road, where the outlet flow forms Souadabscook Stream.

We slowly meandered back to the boat launch, amazed we still had it all to ourselves. The forested site provides a nice view out over the pond, and is a good spot for a picnic lunch.

Before heading home we drove a mile east on Route 2 and stopped at Camp Etna, a spiritualist community founded in 1876. In its heyday, 350 cottages occupied the 27 acres, and audiences of up to 3,000 people attended lectures and workshops.

A large granite boulder left of the access road marks the gravesite of medium and camp benefactor, Mary S. Vanderbilt. Late in her life she married into the Vanderbilt family, not without controversy. Her husband-to-be, Edward W. Vanderbilt, disowned his daughter, Minerva, after she attempted to prohibit the marriage on grounds her father was insane. The trial drew national attention. In 1906 Mary was summoned to the court of Russian Czar Nicholas II to conduct seances.

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:

[email protected]


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