In celebration of the start of another paddling season, we are enjoying a leisurely four-hour exploration of the narrow southern portion of Damariscotta Lake from the Route 213 boat launch in Jefferson. While there are many homes and camps along the western lake shore, there is plenty of wilderness shoreline to enjoy on the eastern side of the lower lake.

Hundreds of ducks and Canada geese gather here in the spring in the convoluted coves and secluded bays. On our visit, we saw many bufflehead ducks along the shore and on the wing. The males are magnificent in their black and white plumage. They have large heads in contrast to their small bodies. The front of their head is black; the back half a brilliant patch of pure white.

We headed south from the boat launch, paddling a half-mile out to a pair of small islands referred to as the Spectacle Islands, due to the fact that they look like a pair of glasses. These islands have been preserved for public enjoyment by the Midcoast Conservancy. The northerly island is the easier to land on and features a classic Maine campsite ringed by white pine. To reserve the campsite for an overnight stay, consult the Midcoast Conservancy website for fee and use information. Judging by the four ropes attached to a sturdy tree leaning out over the water, this is a popular place to spend a hot summer day.

We spent an hour lazing about in the sun on the soft pine-needled ground, watching early morning diamonds twinkle on the water. A loon drifted into sight. All of a sudden, it was a pair, soon joined by a third. We looked out a few minutes later and it was just the pair. They turned their heads in all directions looking for the other loon. It was hilarious. The pair looked completely perplexed as to how they could have so suddenly lost their friend.

We did find that solo loon later, near the southernmost island on the lake. A paddleboarder was exploring the marshy area at the end of the lake. We gave her space, circled the island, and headed back north. Gazing over toward the boat launch, we had a decision to make. We sat in the canoe and talked about it. Spring afternoon sea breezes are common in April and often reach miles inland. We decided to take the chance and headed up the lake further, knowing it was probable we would be paddling back against some kind of early afternoon breeze.

We stopped to watch a pair of common mergansers along the shoreline dabbling for minnows. We trained our binoculars on the white male. It suddenly erupted into the air. The sun caught it just right, accentuating its brilliant blood-red slender beak.


Two miles farther on, we glanced up to a lakeside hill to the west. Looking down on us from a clearing on the ridgeline were two white buildings; the 1890 Bunker Hill Baptist Church and the adjacent Fellowship Hall.

We entered into the broader part of the lake just north of West Neck. A series of small islands and ledges provided a delightful circuit before heading back to the boat launch. One flat ledge was just big enough to land on and sprawl in the sun for a few minutes. My wife used up her vast repository of dares in an attempt to get me to take the plunge for my first swim of the year. I convinced her that she should save those dares for mid-May.

A few hours later, we drove up Route 213 to the Baptist Church, offering a beautiful view down to where we had been paddling. This vantage point just might be included in any listing of the Top 10 Highway Vistas in Maine. To the northeast stretched the long mass of the Camden Hills. We were looking out over forever. A stone picnic table across the road may coax you back here some sweet summer evening with a picnic basket and supper fixings.

Consult the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 13) for help in getting to the Maine State boat launch on Route 213 in Jefferson, a few hundred yards north of the Newcastle town line.

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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