Foot and Paddle: Aziscohos Lake

13 mins read
Morning at Aziscohos Lake
Doug Dunlap

Aziscohos Lake, northwest of Rangeley, in Northern Oxford County, is one of the expansive lakes in Western Maine serving as watershed for the Androscoggin River. In turn, the lake is fed by rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, flowing out of a far western corner of Maine bordered by New Hampshire and Quebec – a wild and beautiful area with no paved roads. I have come here many times, and return this spring to paddle Aziscohos Lake and neighboring waters; poke along the shoreline and bordering woods watching for wildlife; and wet a fly line.

On one of many days in the region, I rise early to walk in lakeside woods before sunrise, for what I might discover at that revealing time of day. The air is cool. I wear a wool cap, fleece, and light gloves. The day will warm once the sun stands high. For now, I am quite comfortable, and – cool as it is, there are no black flies! My first discovery is of loons calling out on the lake., well out of sight. Oh, that distinctive feature of our Maine woods, the loon call! From another direction a Barred Owl gives a hoot. Closer on, a Red-eyed Vireo sings – a high, bright, sound, over and over. Above me, a raven calls its raspy caw! This great bird of a beautiful deep black, wings away, perhaps irritated at my incursion on its territory. Early in the day is bird time!

Following a grassed-over, discontinued road, well back from the water, I surprise a white-tailed deer – a doe – who stands in mid-pathway, staring my way, as I hold still. Likely she is as surprised as I. The stand-off resolves. I take a step. She flies her name-sake white flag, leaps into the woods, and is soon out of sight. I come to a brook, follow it downstream to the lake, forge my way through the brush, stand there, water lapping at the toes of my hiking shoes, look out, sweep the lake. And bordering hills. What is going on here at this hour?

Loons for starters. Only 50 feet away, a pair floats quietly on water that is in utter calm. Perhaps because I stand in deep shade amidst thick cover, or because I make no sound, or both, they go about their business without apparent notice of me. One bobs, splashes water onto one wing and then the other, preening. The companion loon simply looks on. It is a rare and precious experience to watch creatures of the wild as they go about their affairs, as though I am not there, and their world is theirs and theirs alone. Quite the sight.

I turn my look towards the mountains and hills to the west and north – double-peaked Bosebuck Mountain, and well beyond that on the northern horizon, Rump Mountain. Light now touches the high ground on these. Elsewhere, long ridges forested with dark fir and spruce, and occasional pine, mix with the lighter greens of rock maple, white and yellow birch, popple, extend elsewhere. One of these ridges, to the northeast, blocks the sun from my view, but the new light renders the smattering of clouds in the sky above the ridge in the hues of salmon pink and soft gold.

Then there is the sky itself – the broader, open sky. Clouds lingering from overnight rain have separated into a scattered array of puffs – or more like a series of rafts floating on the sky. This is quite a sight too!

I linger here for quite some time, turn away at last, head back to camp for breakfast. Paddling is the order of the day for my companions and me – to explore the northern reaches of Aziscohos. We will paddle the outflow of the Little Magalloway River, on nearby Sunday Pond, and the stretch of big lake we will cross to reach these waters.

The boat launch is at the northeast corner of Aziscohos Lake, near the end of the Green Top Road (I provide directions at the end of this article.). This site, which is marked on the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, is north of the walk-in campsites at Twin Brook (managed by Black brook Campground at the southern end of Aziscohos Lake), and south of so-called Ten-Mile Bridge over the Magalloway River. This is a graveled, undeveloped, launch area. We see no other vehicles on this mid-week morning, as we launch two canoes and paddle in a westward.

In moments we pass a picnic area to the right, located on a point which may be reached from the Green Top and Parmachenee Roads by continuing north of the boat launch. Soon Bosebuck Mountain Camps comes into view on the west shore. We paddle north, keeping the camps to our left, and soon enter the Little Magalloway. There is not much of a transition from Aziscohos Lake to Little Magalloway, as the water is high. The level of Aziscohos Lake is managed by Aziscohos Dam, some 20 miles downstream, and the lake is full from spring run-off. The Magalloway River and Little Magalloway River bring water into the lake from Parmachenee Lake and other north-lying waters. Plenty of water here – water, water, everywhere: bright blue-black in the light of the now-high sun, completely clear near shoreline.

Surprise! In the narrower confines of Little Magalloway, we round a bend near the opening to Sunday Pond – when a bald eagle takes flight overhead, lifting off from a high pine. I have a good view of its white underside as it flaps its wings, moves off in flight. Because we are paddling, and make little sound, I hear the sound of those mighty wings beating the air as it takes off. My goodness!

On goes the day, as we explore the shoreline, wet our fly lines, catch our share of brightly speckled brook trout. First at Little Magalloway, then on Sunday Pond, poking around, scanning sky and forest, watching for trout rises, landing on the shore to stretch our legs, and for a look around. We have heard of a couple who lived for a time in the 1950’s in a cabin on Sunday Pond, doing research about fish and wildlife. That cabin is long gone and there is no remnant of the site. Much to imagine, though, about living here. I treasure my discoveries on this particular day. The couple were here year-round, day after day. Oh, what they saw and heard!

The day moves on, and we with it, eventually turning our canoes in the direction of the boat launch, and a return to camp. Such a day. I have worked up an appetite. Fish for supper. Rhubarb cobbler for dessert!

I hope to see you on the water this summer!

Paddle Trip Notes

Aziscohos Lake boat launch off the Green Top and Parmachenee Roads:

I take Maine Highway 16 north and west of Rangeley, into Adamstown Township. One-half mile past the Cupsuptic Campground, I turn right (north) on the graveled Morton Cut-Off Road (Lower Cupsuptic Township) which ends at an intersection with the Lincoln Pond Road (left) and Tim Pond Road (right).

Turn left for the Lincoln Pond Road, then right on the Green Top Road 1.5 miles after crossing the Cupsuptic River. In an estimated 8 miles, the Green Top Road ends a junction with the Parmachenee Road, across from the footpath to Twin Brook campsites. The boat launch is 0.3 miles north of the Parmachenee Road.

A detailed map is a must. Cell/Internet service is limited – or not available – in much of this region. The roads are gravel, and may be rough in spots, especially following rain. Road signs may not be present. When on such remote roads I carry a saw (chain saw or one-person crosscut) and an axe, in the event that a passing storm has blown trees down onto the road. These are privately maintained roads. No highway crew is readily available to clear the way.

Carry ample drinking water and food for your party for the entire day, including the ride home. Gas up, too!

Safe Paddling

As a new season for paddling is upon us, I remember to include safety gear in my paddling kit. The list includes: PFD (Type I, II, or III); a quality whistle attached to the PFD; a small boat horn which I stash in a zippered pocket on my PFD; a throwable seat cushion (Type IV PFD – not to be worn); and a throw bag – a coil of rope contained inside a bag which may be thrown to a person in the water, while the person throwing the bag holds a loop at the end of the rope. One more item is a headlamp (with fresh batteries), as under Maine Law, all watercraft including kayaks and canoes must have a white light available to display when needed between sunset and sunrise.

Sound like a bit much? Over the years I have used every item on this list (and the saws and axe listed in the road information above!) I just don’t know when I will need them, but when I do, I really need them!

Wear your PFD. Most definitely wear a PFD when children are present.

Be safe on the water – and treasure the peace and quiet of the paddling life!

Text and photos copyright
Douglas Allan Dunlap 2022

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