Route 3 is one for every season. In October that reason is foliage viewing and photography. One of the great venues for a dazzling splash of color is the northern half of Sheepscot Pond in Palermo and the Sheepscot River north of the pond. Although there are many cottages along the western shoreline, much of the eastern side of the pond is undeveloped. A marsh-lined circular cove halfway down the eastern shoreline might just be one of the most scenic coves in all of central Maine.

As we started off from the boat launch my wife spotted a bald eagle slowly circling the ridge above the western shoreline, its white tail-feathers catching the thin veil of sun poking through the canopy of morning clouds. A kingfisher headed down the narrows of a small cove on our left. Red pines above a boulder-strewn shoreline ushered us out into the open waters of the pond. A freshening southerly breeze hastened our paddle strokes as we headed over to the broad northeastern cove looking for the opening into the Sheepscot River which would provide a twisting cocoon of warmth and protection from the breeze.

Three rounded summits sat low to the south like beads of a necklace. They reminded us of the remote hills of the northern Allagash region. A carpet of dancing diamonds spread before us on the water. We bobbed with the wavelets, taking in the colors, surveying the expanse of clear water.

Ten yards ahead of us two loons emerged out of the depths, mom and junior. The young loon scurried over to the adult and playfully tapped her, beak to beak. Mom immediately opened her mouth and deposited a minnow into the mouth of her youngster. My wife remarked that it was akin to nudging a candy machine and having a Snickers bar drop out.

We found the mouth of the river and headed north. Maples mixed with birch, beech and evergreens created a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors, reflected in the calm waters. At the Route 3 bridge a mile up, a number of photographers had tripods set up for river foliage shots. A mile north of the bridge the channel narrows significantly and the river begins to twist and turn. A couple of wood ducks lifted off the water, taking their distinctive high-pitched calls around the next bend. We turned around at a freshly constructed beaver dam and headed back to the pond.

We followed the shoreline south for a mile before entering a magical cove on the left. We stopped for a rest at a small sand beach. A narrow peninsula above the beach provided far-reaching views around the perimeter of the cove and across the bleached blonde expanse of marsh grasses. The reflection of sky, evergreens and shoreside hardwoods created a brilliant horizontal rainbow of blue, green, yellow and red all meeting at the water’s edge. We sat in the canoe in silence – imprinting this perfect afternoon and magnificent setting in our vault of special memories.

If you are nimble it is possible to launch a canoe adjacent to the Route 3 bridge over the Sheepscot River two miles east of the Sheepscot Pond Boat Launch. Turn left just before the bridge onto the gravel Level Hill Road. Turn right in 100 yards and follow the road to the river. A steep bank leads down to the river on the left side of an old concrete bridge abutment. A put-in here instead of at the Sheepscot Pond boat launch avoids the open water portion of the pond. It’s also shorter and a more protected option on a breezy, cool day.

Consult the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 13) for help in getting to the Sheepscot Pond boat launch on Route 3, about five miles east of Tobey’s General Store.

We always enjoy checking out a historic home or notable monument on the way to or from our paddle outings. On the way home we stopped at Cony Cemetery opposite the former Augusta Mental Health Institute on Route 9, just north of Viles Arboretum. Here, in September 2015, a thought-provoking granite memorial was dedicated to the 11,600 patients who died at the hospital since its creation in 1840.

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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