Want extensive mountain views? Want to glide along in the cool shadows of tall white pines? Kezar Lake is the crown jewel of the Saco River highlands.

Kezar is made up of three large bays. Each one offers a different paddling experience. For a rich diversity of marsh life Lower Bay is the choice. For a combination of mountain views and marsh exploration Upper Bay shines. For the most extensive Alpine views, and a sense of the Gilded Age morphing into the Roaring Twenties, paddle Middle Bay. Let’s focus on a recent leisurely 5-hour paddle around the circumference of Middle Bay at the beginning of September.

This 8-mile long lake is prone to wind, so check the weather forecast, and be prepared for all conditions. We started out the first two hours with dead calm, battled a brisk southerly wind the middle two hours, and enjoyed near calm on our return. A good option if you are enjoying the day with friends is to spot a car at the boat launch on the north end of the lake and paddle the 6 miles up through Middle Bay and Upper Bay from the Narrows.

Once the word got out that Kezar Lake was one of the most beautiful lakes in the northeast people came. They built simple cottages and elaborate waterside getaways. On the eastern edge of Middle Bay sits two impressive, historic facilities still catering to summer visitors.

Alpine vistas surround Kezar Lake’s Middle Bay. Christine Wolfe photo

A half-mile up from the boat launch sits Quisisana with its large wooden lodge surrounded by a line of small white cottages at water’s edge. For years this unique venue has offered memorable evening musical performances put on by the same talented staff that care for Quisisana guests by day. Quisisana is Italian for “Here one heals oneself.” Music and breathtaking scenery make the perfect elixir.

Another mile up the lake, tucked into a towering grove of pines, is Severance Lodge. This private club features 35 brown cottages and a large main lodge looking west toward the magnificent Baldface Mountain massif. This property was originally Brown’s Camp, a classic sporting camp built in 1896 catering to America’s elite who came to fish and hunt.

Kezar might have the tamest loons in the state. Perhaps the birds have just gotten used to the flurry of boating activity in the summer and the mix of cottages along the shore. One loon popped up a few yards from our canoe, and continued feeding while we took picture after picture. On one of the tiny islands along the western shoreline we spied a loon nesting platform. Had it hosted a loon family this summer?

Although there are numerous cottages along the shoreline, the western shore offers many undeveloped stretches. We enjoyed paddling through patches of pickerelweed and fragrant water lilies. Along the shore a long line of buttonbush shrubs displayed their round seedpods in various stages of maturity. We especially enjoyed the white ones.  They looked like spiked golf balls.

Kezar Lake has some of the tamest loons in Maine. Christine Wolfe photo

Beyond Severance Lodge you will see a long wall of mountains north of the lake. To the far right sits an unusually shaped one, looking like a broad missile cone ready to soar to the east. Cumulus cloud shadows drifted over the green ridgelines ending with the round dome of Speckled Mountain to our west. It was mesmerizing. Unseen to the west lies Mount Washington and the Presidential Range, a veritable cloud factory. It creates them, and then sends them east to Kezar. At the end of our paddle a vast wedge of black clouds hung over the lake with lighter white sun-kissed clouds around its edges. As menacing as it looked, its raw beauty had us transfixed.

Put in at the Lovell Town Beach and Boat Launch just west of the Kezar Lake Marina located adjacent to the West Lovell Road bridge over The Narrows. Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 10) for help in getting to the boat launch via Route 5 out of Lovell.

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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