It has been a pleasure penning the monthly Canoeing in Maine article for the Maine Sunday Telegram for the past 20 years. My wife and I have discovered countless watery gems from the Maine-New Hampshire border to the Allagash region, from the western Maine mountains to the Bold Coast of Washington County.

We are often asked to rank them, which is not an easy task. Staying at home this past month has given us time to reflect on these outings and come up with a list of the half-dozen best. We whittled things down to a dozen, then after much debate came to an agreement on the top six. So here goes in no particular order:

ALLAGASH LAKE

A moose wades through Allagash Lake. Christine Wolfe photo

We were once told by a paddler at the Maine Canoe Symposium that the most beautiful lake in Maine is Allagash Lake in Piscataquis County. Pretty high praise, and we found, well deserved. The fact that it is a little work getting to the lake makes the reward even greater. Put in at Johnson Pond, or portage your canoe a mile in from the logging road. The quick hike up to the fire tower on Allagash Mountain provides a view out over where you will encounter moose, gravel beaches, magnificent Canada lilies in mid-summer, and wilderness solitude. The swimming is as good as it gets. There are eight primitive campsites to choose from.

TUNK LAKE

The 2,000-acre Tunk Lake, a few miles west of Cherryfield in Downeast Maine, is often touted as having the cleanest and clearest water in the state. At the boat launch on Route 182 there are always local families frolicking in the clear water of the shallows. This place just has a nice vibe to it from the moment you arrive. Once you leave the launch site there are an array of beaches and mountain scenes to enjoy. We spent an overnight tenting out at one of the camping sites at the south end of the lake, enjoying an evening of star gazing, stars seemingly so close it felt like we could pluck them out of the heavens. Tunk is the third deepest lake in Maine next to Sebago and Moosehead, and renowned for its lake trout fishery.

PARKER POND

You do not have to go far to find a beautiful place to canoe. Parker Pond in Mount Vernon (in the lakes region of Kennebec County) fits the bill. With an artistic mosaic of giant underwater ledges and boulders just feet under your canoe it is as if the glacier left just a few years ago. The clear water accentuates their size. One of the joys of paddling here is the pre and post paddle visit to local bake shops; Lakeside Orchards in Manchester, and Kents Hill Orchard opposite Kents Hill School.

NORTH POND

The view from Bucks Ledge at North Pond in Woodstock. Christine Wolfe photo

October is one of the best months of the year to paddle in Maine. One of the outstanding places to enjoy the brilliant array of foliage colors is North Pond in Woodstock. Combined with a mile-long hike up nearby Bucks Ledge you will experience a kaleidoscope of  colors from every vantage point. The pond features many flat polished ledges and glacial erratic boulders to stop and relax on. Most of us have driven by this pond many times on our way up to the Bethel area. Once you get out on it, you will be bedazzled by its beauty.

SHIRLEY BOG

For a Canadian Shield paddling experience right here in Maine, try Shirley Bog near Greenville. This three-mile long, narrow ribbon of water features many classic bog plants like Pitcher Plants and Sundews, and offers far reaching views north to Big Moose Mountain. It is a wilderness setting easy to reach through the sleepy village of Shirley.

KEZAR LAKE

Kezar Lake, both Lower Bay and Upper Bay, offers a glimpse into leisurely summers of long ago enjoyed by the rich and famous, coupled with outstanding views of rugged  mountains to the west. It was once rumored  that National Geographic rated Kezar, located in Oxford County, as one of the 10 most beautiful lakes in the world. Whether they did or not is moot, it should be right there in consideration with any lake anywhere.

We also have an ongoing list of new places that we are excited to check out someday. Some at the top of our list are:

• Daicey Pond in Baxter State Park, with its breathtaking view up the Hunt Spur to the Tableland.

• Onawa Lake near Monson in Piscataquis County. We have had our eye on this one for years from our hikes in the Hundred-Mile Wilderness, offering  spectacular views down over Onawa from Barren Ledges.

• Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge near Old Town, for the June warbler migration and peatbog flora.

• Mattawamkeag Lake in Aroostook County, for the pilgrimage paddle down to Bible Point where Teddy Roosevelt read his bible.

• Meddybemps Lake near Calais, just for the name.

Who knows when any of us will get back to our old routines? But there is nothing wrong now with getting out our Delorme maps and thinking back to memorable canoe outings shared with family and friends, and looking ahead to new places and adventures to uncover in the future.

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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