Kayaking on the Presumpscot is one way to enjoy the river and have outdoor fun while maintaining social distance. File photo

GORHAM — Gorham and Westbrook residents looking for a respite from stay-at-home orders have only to look to the Presumpscot for relief, river advocates say.

The river offers a chance to canoe, kayak, fish and just simply enjoy nature — and it’s safe as long as river goers follow social distancing rules.

“The whole point of being on a river is to social distance. It is an act of regeneration only found through the embrace of solitude,” said Michael Shaughnessy of Friends of the Presumpscot River.

Shaughnessy, who lives near the river in Westbrook, said he expects activity on the river will pick up as it usually does in early May.

“One warm weekend and more people will get out there,” Shaughnessy said.

Several public access points on the river, which flows 25 miles from Sebago Lake to Casco Bay, are available, including those in Gorham, Westbrook and Windham.

The Presumpcot Regional Land Trust’s Hawkes Preserve trailhead, at the end of Town Path Road in the Little Falls section of Gorham, has a boat ramp and accesses  “a calm, two mile, section of river,” said the trust’s executive director, Rachelle Curran Apse.

Another good stretch of the Presumpscot runs from an input below Mallison Falls on Canal Street in Gorham, with a parking area, to Westbrook, Shaughnessy said.

“Those five miles are very undeveloped and a few years ago had been designated the Presumpscot Historic and Natural River Corridor by Windham and Westbrook,” Shaughnessy said.

Although Shaw Park in Gorham, which provides Gorham’s “primary access” to the river, is closed because of the pandemic, residents can travel to the “Windham side of the river” to the boat launch at the soccer fields off Gambo Road, said Cindy Hazelton, director of the Gorham Recreation Department.

Linda Brooks, director Windham Recreation Department, said other access options are at Dundee Pond below the North Gorham Dam and upstream from Babb’s Bridge. At Dundee Pond, public parking is available off  Windham Center Road and at Babb’s Bridge limited parking is available along Hurricane Road.

Walking access to the Presumpscot is also available at Shaw Cherry Hill Farm off lower Main Street in Gorham, but canoes and kayaks can  be hand-carried to the river from the parking area.

A popular canoe-kayak launch in Gorham is closed this year due to bridge construction. Presumpscot Regional Land Trust’s boat launch at the St. Pierre Preserve at the mouth of the Little River where it connects to the Presumpscot is off limits because of Maine Department of Transportation bridge work on Mosher Road.

While Westbrook has closed the playground at Riverbank Park, access there to the River Walk remains open for exercise and fishing.

And fishing, especially fly fishing, is a great way to connect to nature during these times, according to Shaughnessy.

“Fly fishing is a solitary connection to nature as well though through a synergy of aesthetics and science,”
he  said. “For some fishing is about catching fish, for others it transcends catching fish. It is spiritual.”

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