Nickerson Lake is a crescent shaped lake with its bowl facing south. It is located in the towns of Linneus and New Limerick, in Aroostook county. At 98.3 hectares (243 acres) it is the second largest lake in the Meduxnekeag River watershed. The lake is moderately deep with a maximum depth of 32.6 meters (107 feet) and an average depth of 10.4 meters (34 feet). This enhances the lake’s ability to support a coldwater fishery, along with the cold temperatures in Aroostook, and its ability to retain sufficient dissolved oxygen in the warm summer months. On April 22, 2018, Al Cowperthwaite (Nickerson Lake resident), measured the ice in front of his home to be 26" thick, other places in the lake were a little more than a slushy scum! Nickerson Lake has an average Secchi transparency depth of 8.8 meters. The lake is also interesting in that it is on the upper range of Maine lakes for conductivity, pH, and total alkalinity, 126 uS, 7.9, and 63.9 mg/L, respectively.
Nickerson Lake Wilderness Preservation, Inc.
Nickerson Lake boasts a truly valuable resource, its own wilderness preserve. In 1983, a parcel of 26.4 hectares (90 acres) of forested land and 1.6 km (1 mile) of lakeshore was donated by James Pierce, on condition that it should be kept “forever wild”. This parcel under the management of Nickerson Lake Wilderness Preservation, Inc., has grown to approximately 94.3 hectares (233 acres), of which 2.8 km (1.75 miles) is lakeshore. The preserve is situated to the south of the lake, and encompassing the greater portion of the southern shoreline.
Nickerson Lake Wilderness Preservation, Inc., is a very active conservation group. Its by-laws were expanded to also protect the water quality in Nickerson Lake, and the forested land of the preserve is undoubtedly a significant component to its good water quality. The Nickerson Lake community has a website and a Facebook page. The Nickerson Lake Conservation Fund -- a subsidiary organization -- has recently put together a photo submission contest for their 2020 photo poster as a means of fundraising.
The geomorphology of Nickerson Lake
You may notice that Nickerson Lake has an unusual shape. Shaped much like a single parenthesis opening to the south, the lake is an irregularity compared to the outline of many other lakes in Maine. Smaller lakes sometimes have this sort of appearance. These are usually formed by fluvial geomorphic processes in which sections of the river become closed-off to create the standing waterbody; these are commonly known as oxbow lakes. But that is not the case with Nickerson. Instead, the cause of Nickerson’s shape is glaciation.
The glaciers that once covered all of Maine scraped off the sediments and wore down the bedrock. Nickerson is situated at the nexus of the Carys Mills formation and a Devonian intrusion. The Cary Mills formation is stratified rock (meaning laid down in successive layers) of interbedded pelite and limestone and/or dolostone from between 490 and 443 million years ago. The Devonian intrusion is granite that broke through the Cary Mills formation between 419 and 359 million years ago. Granite is a much harder stone than pelite, limestones, and dolostones. As the softer bedrock was carved away by the glaciers, more of the granite intrusion remained and a letter cee with its mouth open to the south was formed as the glaciers retreated; this is what gives Nickerson its shape. As a last interesting tidbit, this granite is part of the same volcanic activity that formed Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park.
You can see Maine’s Bedrock Geologic map HERE and find additional resources for understanding geologic maps on the State of Maine Geologic Survey website and the University of Madison Wisconsin geology website.
In the late summer of 2020, the invasive plant, variable water-milfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) was found in Androscoggin Lake by volunteer Invasive Plant Patroller, Katherine Mahoney. In response, a coalition of local, regional and statewide partners leapt into action.
The coalition included 30 Mile River Watershed Association, Androscoggin Lake Improvement Corporation, Lake Stewards of Maine, and Department of Environmental Protection and a dedicated team of volunteer Invasive Plant Patrollers.
This video captures the majesty of the imperiled lake and the actions of those who are working to save it.
More information about Androscoggin Lake invasion can be found in the November 2020 lake of the month HERE.
The year is 1937. Across the Atlantic, the Spanish civil war is raging. Somewhere over the Pacific, Amelia Earhart is last heard from. In the US, FDR opens the Golden Gate Bridge; the Hindenburg airship is destroyed at Lakehurst NJ; Spam is first sold in food stores. And, in Maine, Gerald Cooper, a faculty member at UMaine, begins the first systematic survey of the water quality and biology of Maine lakes (and some streams). During this first year, Cooper focuses on streams and a few lakes in York and Cumberland counties. Over the next 7 years (with a break during the war year of 1943), Cooper and colleagues survey over 200 lakes, ending up with Moosehead and Haymock Lakes in 1944.
A key reason for the Cooper surveys was to evaluate lakes for fish-stocking. They collected data on: lake depth, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, phosphorus, benthic invertebrates, and plankton & fish communities. Cooper did not measure water transparency. Therefore (and unfortunately, given the ever-expanding base of Secchi data collected by LSM volunteers and others) it is not possible to explore how transparency in these lakes has changed over the 8 decades since these historical surveys were carried out.
Cooper et al. used gill and seine nets to collect fish. Supplemented by information from fish & game wardens, they thus documented the structure of the fish community in each surveyed lake (species composition, diets, age/growth). By comparing these data with more contemporary data from IF&W, it is possible to examine changes in lake fish communities over the past ~ 60 years. Especially interesting is the ‘spread’ of such species as largemouth and smallmouth bass as a result of both intentional and illegal stocking (and ‘natural’ range expansion).
Explore these changes in Maine’s lake fish communities HERE.
The Maine DEP Lakes Assessment Section works in a strong partnership with Lake Stewards of Maine/Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (LSM) in the collection and management of water quality data collected from Lakes throughout Maine. LSM coordinates the initial gathering and quality assurance process for more than 1,300 individuals and many lake associations that monitor individual lakes across the state.
Also included in this undertaking are a number of regional entities, including Lakes Environmental Association, Cobbossee Watershed District, Mid-Coast Conservancy, 30-Mile River Watershed, 7 Lakes Alliance, Belgrade Lakes Association, Acton Wakefield Watershed Alliance, Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Portland Water District, Auburn Water District, Acadia National Park, and Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust. Included are the sovereign nations of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township, and the Penobscot Indian Houlton Band of Maliseets.
Data have also been acquired from private consultants, such as FBE and Lake & Watershed RMA, as well as others collecting lake data as part of regulatory requirements. Additional data are acquired through the DIF&W and through cooperative projects with the University of Maine System, Bates, Colby and Unity Colleges, and County Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Field data are also collected by the Maine DEP Lakes Assessment Section under probability-based studies conducted within EPA Region I, and as part of the National Lakes Assessment Study being conducted by EPA Headquarters.
We apologize if your lake data-gathering organization has been accidentally omitted. Please let us know if that is the case. Additional types of data are also submitted to the Lakes of Maine website, including Annual Loon Count data gathered by volunteers through Maine Audubon Society, and a variety of lake and watershed information provided by The Nature Conservancy.
Click here to view current water quality conditions on a representative sample of Maine lakes during summer, or view which lakes have experienced ice-cover in the fall and ice-out in the spring.
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