A peaceful portion of the western shoreline of Lower Narrows Pond in Winthrop. Christine Wolfe photo

Maine waters are about as warm as they are going to get right now. That means for our August outing we are looking for a good swimming hole.

We found one: Upper Narrows and Lower Narrows ponds in Winthrop. Consult the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 12) for help in getting to the boat launch on Route 202 in Winthrop. From the parking lot it is an easy 100-yard carry down to the put-in.

First impressions can be deceiving. As you head out from shore you will look down Upper Narrows and see many cottages along the water. You will hear the sound of passing cars on the road. Don’t despair. Give it a few more minutes and venture south down the pond. The highway noise lessens and you will note that most of the camps are on the eastern shoreline. The sparsely developed western sides of the ponds offer much more of a wilderness experience.

Upper Narrows is 2 miles in length; Lower is a mile long. It is an easy carry up and over the Narrows Pond Road to get into Lower Narrows. There is a striking band of vertical cliffs adorned with colonies of smooth rock tripe lichens at the northeastern end of Lower Narrows. The cliffs seem like a distant transplant from a Lake Superior shoreline.

A ledge is speckled with smooth rock tripe lichen on the northeast end of Lower Narrows Pond. Christine Wolfe photo

We spent five hours on the ponds, first exploring down along the eastern shorelines of each pond checking out the cottages and what kinds of canoes and kayaks folks owned. Tall white pines bathed the camps in cool morning shadows.

A light southerly breeze began as we headed back up the western shoreline of Lower Narrows. We passed by the weathered cabins of  Camp Mechuwana, a rustic summer camp that has welcomed youngsters to the pond since 1948. Drifting along the shore, we enjoyed watching birds flitting from hemlock to birch to willow. We skirted by pockets of pickerelweed, their spikes of flowers now in their full blue summer glory. White fragrant water lilies and yellow pond lilies dotted the inshore shallows.


Up over the road and back into Upper Narrows, we headed up the pond. Halfway up the shore we passed by the brick building of the Winthrop Utilities District. Upper Narrows Pond is the primary source of drinking water for Winthrop. The town made a great choice; the water is strikingly clear in both ponds.

A kingfisher darted out of the shadows and headed over to the only island in the pond. We followed suit. This small, tree-shaded isle features a large flat boulder just off its eastern edge that was large enough for us to stretch out on and enjoy the warmth of sun and the passage of wispy clouds eastward, the last remnants from the previous day’s rain.

White fragrant water lilies and yellow pond lilies dot the inshore shallows of Lower Narrows. Christine Wolfe photo

A raft of seven loons frolicked in the noontime diamonds dancing on the water. A group of red-breasted merganser youngsters drifted into view minutes later. We spent two hours on the ledge; snoozing, swimming, drying, and swimming again. It was magical. The soothing sounds of wavelets splashing against the shore, songbirds calling back and forth to each other, and oak leaves rustling in the breeze kept us captivated. It became obvious that any and all afternoon chores back at home were not going to get done today. The magic of the Narrows had us in its gentle clutches.

A power boat passed, towing an inflatable raft with a couple of excited youngsters having just about the best summer day possible. Just as we readied to leave a couple kayakers approached with their eyes on some afternoon ledge time. We were happy to turn the ledge duty off to another appreciative couple.

Just east of the island sits a small, secluded, egg-shaped cove that is a delight to paddle into and circumnavigate; one more temptation before heading back to the boat launch.

The capital area features many outstanding ponds and lakes to explore by canoe. Upper and Lower Narrows can be added to the list.

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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