There are many easily accessible Maine waters to explore throughout the summer, where wilderness solitude remains the norm despite the increase in boating traffic elsewhere. Mainstream Pond in Harmony, situated in Somerset County, offers tranquility and a variety of wildlife to enjoy around every bend. We enjoyed a 12-mile roundtrip paddle from the southern tip of the pencil-thin pond up to the Route 152 bridge in Ripley before turning around and seeing it from an early afternoon perspective on the way back.

One of the magical melodies of early summer is the chortling of red-winged blackbirds. At Mainstream it is as if they are piping the music in, especially in the vast grassy savannah located between the pond and forest-lined stream flowing to the north. Once we left the red-winged blackbirds behind it was time for a different song, the rattling calls of kingfishers leapfrogging ahead of us on dead branches leaning out over the stream.

We nearly hit a grand slam with the eagle sightings, instead settling for a triple play of wonder. The first sighting was the classic pose; a motionless taut mass of feathers and white head high in a white pine staring intently over the water. The second gift was another eagle high in the cloudless morning sky circling above the pond. Our third sighting was at eye level. In a rush of feathers an eagle lifted out of the grasses and headed by us, with a feisty kingbird chasing it skyward. David definitely had Goliath on the run. We would see more kingbirds later on, darting inches above the water snatching insects out of the air.

What next? That would be beaver lodges, some of the largest we have seen in Maine, at least six feet high. In front of one lodge two beaver suddenly emerged and swam a few feet away from us. Every time we got the camera pointed in the right direction, with a thunderous slap of their tails they would disappear for a minute before reappearing far from where we expected them to. Freshwater clam shells shimmered in the sun, scattered about the tops of the lodges. Deep, beaver-excavated channels radiated out from each lodge into the brilliant green of grasses and cattails. Near another lodge we saw our first pair of loons. A couple of hours later, on our return, we saw them in the same exact spot.

The impressive beaver lodges on Mainstream Pond are at least six feet high. Christine Wolfe photo

The wide stream leading north from the pond winds a circuitous journey up to Route 152. You will eventually come to a large breadbox-shaped boulder sitting in the middle of the stream. Here you will begin to notice a slight current. Upstream of this boulder two washed out beaver dams create a temporary increase in current. We had to put the paddles into overdrive to get by them. As we approached our turnaround point at the Route 152 bridge three women in kayaks were starting their annual one-way journey down to Mainstream Pond.

Our return allowed us to enjoy views south toward the hulking mass of St. Albans Mountain east of the pond. Rising sharply up above the green canopy surrounding us it looked much higher than its 1,090-foot elevation.

The morning coolness morphed into an 80-degree afternoon. When we had paddled up the pond earlier we had noted a striking stand of skinny poplar trees on what looked to be an island, but in fact was connected to the western shoreline by a grassy peninsula. This would be our beat-the-heat swimming spot. A rejuvenating swim it was. We sat on a boulder drying out, admiring the slow buildup of afternoon fair weather cumulous clouds. Thirty minutes later we were back at the boat launch where our exploration had started five hours earlier.

Consult the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 31) for help in getting to the boat launch on Route 154 in Harmony, a few yards beyond Remember Me Bridge. The short lane leading steeply down to the water is rough. It is best to carry your canoe down to the water from the road and then park up along the road 50 yards beyond the bridge. There are a few scattered camps along the pond and stream, and you may see a small boat or two fishing, but for the most part it will be you and The Greatest Show on Earth: Mother Nature.

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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