The Cobbosseecontee Stream enters the mouth of Pleasant Pond in Gardiner from the north. Christine Wolfe photo

How many times have you traveled north on Interstate 295 to Augusta and passed over Cobbosseecontee Stream just before the toll booth? Like us, each time you might have imagined yourself in a canoe passing right under this bridge on your way west into Pleasant Pond. After years of procrastinating, we finally wet our paddles in the lower reaches of the stream a few miles west of downtown Gardiner. We were not disappointed. Sure, portions of the shoreline are dotted with cottages, and at times you can hear the interstate traffic. That is more than made up for by the miles of undeveloped shoreline teeming with wildlife, and trees just starting to show the first blush of autumn.

We enjoyed a relaxing 4-hour exploration on a recent Sunday morning from the local put-in spot on the Old Lewiston Road a mile east of Exit 51. As you head east from the exit toward Gardiner, look for a swath of power lines crossing the road next to the stream. Pull into a dirt pullout on the right next to a fire hydrant. Launch your canoe down over the banking. Consult the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map #12) for help in getting to the put-in site. Just downstream is the Gardiner Sportsmen’s Club boat launch, which is open for members only.

On this 50-degree morning, soft veils of white mist floated over the water as the sun rose up over the trees, a sure sign that autumn is nearing. An eagle appeared overhead. Black ducks rose out of the marsh on our right. As we passed by a dock, something gray caught our eye near the shore. We glanced back to see the silhouette of a blue heron standing on one black leg at the far end of the dock. It was motionless. We thought it was a cardboard cutout on a stick placed there by a whimsical cottage owner. We paddled back to within a few yards of it, still motionless. A penetrating yellow eyeball stared out at us. I was still convinced it was a cutout. Suddenly a light touch of air ruffled its feathers and it turned its head to look right at us. It was as real as we were.

Up ahead we saw the flash of vehicles over the interstate bridge and quickly passed under it, eyed all the while by pigeons sitting on the sun-splashed girders. A few cottages lined the northern shoreline beyond the bridge, all shaded by an impressive grove of tall white pines.

Vast expanses of fragrant water lilies can be seen along the Cobbosseecontee Stream as it feeds into the mouth of Pleasant Pond. Christine Wolfe photo

The 2 miles down to the mouth of where Cobbosseecontee Stream enters Pleasant Pond from the north features a wild shoreline with patches of rolling pastures just beyond the thin line of waterside trees. Clusters of maples offered artistic reflections in the water. We passed by many muskrat lodges, looking much like mud- and grass-covered stumps.

Vast expanses of fragrant water lilies captured our attention. We took many pictures, both close up and distant. Paddling over to check out a newly constructed beaver lodge, we spied a rustling of large white wings a few yards away. All of a sudden a great egret flew up and passed 5 feet above us. They are a very large bird up close, 50-inch wingspan large.


We stopped on the wooded point of the far side of the mouth of Cobbosseecontee Stream to stretch our legs and enjoy the view a few more miles down Pleasant Pond. A cormorant lifted off from a nearby log. By midmorning a few fishermen started to appear in their boats, casting hopefully for largemouth bass.

On the way back we noticed a juvenile merlin, perched on the top of a skinny dead tree, looking intently for Sunday brunch. An osprey circled far above as a pair of kingfishers leapfrogged ahead of us, chattering away.

If you have extra time, you can paddle the mile east to the dam at Gardiner. This portion of the stream is lined with many homes and less wild than the stream west of the put-in.

Next time on our way up through Augusta, we will smile as we go over the Interstate 295 bridge now knowing the hidden delights on each side. Maybe we will see you passing under the bridge. If so, our smile will get even bigger, knowing what a great time you are having in a beautiful setting.

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:

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