Messalonskee Stream, Waterville             

            You can see the Messalonskee from I-95 as you travel south of Waterville. It appears as a slow-moving and rather muddy stream and this section is not all that appealing for swimming. The day I set out in July began at 52 degrees and was thick with fog. The pond lilies were closed up in the fog but opened as the day warmed, creating a nice white border along the stream. The soil conditions along the stream allow for constant erosion of the banks and hence the muddy water. Trees often drop into the stream. I noticed enough fresh hardwood in the water to heat the average Maine home for several winters. Unfortunately this wood will be wasted, as itís doubtful that anyone will salvage it.

Soon after embarking from the launch site I was joined by a large beaver hauling a hemlock branch along. I thought beavers only used hardwoods so I learned something on the trip. It swam along beside the boat looking sideways at me now and then, staying with me until it reached its lodge. The beaver lodges on this stream are unusual, being built along the banks and not conical like pond lodges. They seem to ramble in odd shapes with additions high up the banks.

You'll soon pass under the Interstate with all the traffic noise it presents. During the trip to Oakland you'll rarely be out of hearing range of the highway, but the sounds of nature will override it.

At the very least you'll see muskrats, kingbirds, catbirds, hooded mergansers, great blue herons and ospreys along the way. One osprey nest, built in the power lines, appears to be over four feet tall, having been in use for years and constantly repaired. Farmland along the shore, once used to raise food, is rapidly growing up to brush as more and more family farms shut down production.

Since this was a July trip the water level was down somewhat and I was unable to reach the dam at the Cascade Woolen Mill in Oakland. An early trip in the spring would allow that. Just before running out of water I ran into a section of water where there was aquatic vegetation that would surely stop any motorized boat. It appeared as soft, inch and a half thick pipe cleaners so thick that even in the canoe I had a hard time getting through. Anyone know what it is? After maneuvering through that, the water suddenly cleared and a gravel bottom appeared in four or five inches of water. I must admit that the water was so clean here that I took the time for a refreshing dip to cool off, as by then the sun and the temperature had risen nicely.

Traveling along these small waterways has convinced me that the next land boom in Maine will be along our streams and rivers; the lakes and ponds having been mostly sold off to development.

The launch site is directly across from Thayer Hospitalís Emergency Room on North St. in Waterville.  The site is maintained by the Kennebec Water District and the City of Waterville and has 5 parking spots. Should you happen to have someone along that would rather bike than paddle, this parking lot also accesses a great paved walking/biking path along the stream.

As always, remember to clean any vegetation off your boats before you leave the area so as not to transport invasive plants to the next body of water you visit.     Enjoy your paddling Ė see you on the water

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