Previous Featured Lakes

October 2021: Phillips Lake (Hancock County)

Image credit: Daniel Vanwart

About Phillips (Lucerne) Lake

If you stop at the Lucerne Inn (midway between Brewer and Ellsworth) you will get a very fine view of 859-acre Phillips Lake (especially during the leaf-off months). Originally called Fitts Pond, the lake’s current name comes from the family who founded and ran the original incarnation of the inn, Nathan Phillips and his brother or son John L. Phillips.

With a maximum depth of 98 feet, Phillips Lake ranks 84th by depth among Maine lakes; it is one-third as deep as Maine’s deepest lake, Sebago. The overall average Secchi depth is 8.2 meters, well towards the oligotrophic end of the transparency spectrum for lakes in our state.

The lake has two major outlets: Mill Stream in the northern end of the lake which connects to Alamoosook Lake, and a second outlet at the southwestern end of the lake, Mann Brook, which flows into Green Lake. In 2014, Phillips Lake was listed on Maine DEP’s Nonpoint Source Priority Watersheds List due to heavy development pressure in the watershed.

Steve Underwood has produced a great drone video of this lake.

(For drone videos of other Maine lakes, go HERE.)

Fishery: On Aug. 18, 1942, Gerald Cooper and John Fuller sampled Phillips Lake as part of their survey of Maine lakes. They noted that it was an “excellent trout or salmon water”. At that time, smallmouth bass had already been introduced - and this lake still supports a “pretty good smallmouth bass fishery”. According to IF&W, “anadromous alewives swim up the fishway in the outlet dam each spring. Although the magnitude of this run fluctuates considerably, it seems that diminished runs have been the rule recently, probably the result of numerous beaver dams on the lengthy outlet. An increase in smelt abundance has occurred coincident with the general decline in the number of alewives accessing the lake. This scenario has been observed over the years at a number of Downeast coastal lakes”.

Find out more about Phillips Lake HERE.

September 2021: Pleasant River Lake (Washington County)

Image credit: Pleasant River Lake Association

About Big Pleasant River Lake

Thanks to Matt Scott and David Burton (Pleasant River Lake Association) for contributing this article!

Head down the “airline” road (Rt. 9) east from Bangor and, after about 40 miles, just after Beddinton, you will pass Pleasant River Lake (PRL). This 908-acre lake is unique in the fact that it is the largest headwater lake in the Pleasant River watershed. The Pleasant River is one of the five downeast Atlantic salmon rivers that have been listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The senior author (MS) was introduced to PRL in the fall of 1958. At that time, there were no year-round or permanent residences at the lake - only about 18 camps. Since that time, the population of the State of Maine has doubled and development around many Maine lakes, including PRL, has increased substantially. As shoreline development at PRL continues, ongoing collection of Secchi disk and other water quality measurements are vital for documenting any changes to ecosystem ‘health’. Data from the period 1974-2018 show average transparency to be ca. 18 feet, while total phosphorus averages < 10 ppb and chlorophyll is around 2.0 ppb.

Fishery: The PRL fishery has changed over the past several decades. Historically the fishery was dominated by 2 cold-water species; landlocked salmon and eastern brook trout. The forage base was and still is American smelt. A major change occurred in the lake fishery around 1976 when smallmouth bass was introduced. This species quickly became established with a reproducing population in the lake and, with time, in the lower river. (Smallmouth bass now has established populations in the lower watershed south to Columbia Falls and it has compromised the recovery efforts via predation on the freshwater stages of young Atlantic salmon.) So, for sports fishermen and fisheries managers alike, the fishery has changed in a significant way. The lake is now dominated by smallmouth bass. The brook trout fishery in the lake has disappeared due to smallmouth predation. The historical white perch fishery has nearly disappeared as well. Today, stocking continues with salmon and a hybrid salmonid called Splake (brook trout x lake trout cross)

More info: Learn about the work of the Pleasant River Lake Association and land conservation efforts by the Downeast Salmon Federation. For more information on PRL, go HERE.

Read 2 articles (2002, unpublished) by Matt Scott on Pleasant River Lake: Aquatic plants, Loons Since Matt’s 2002 study, there has been an aquatic plant survey done in 2014. The list of plants identified for this lake is HERE.

August 2021: Wilson Lake (Franklin County)

Image credit: Susan Atwood

Thanks to Robert Lively and Wynn Muller of Friends of Wilson Lake for this article!

Wilson Lake (in some sources, also known as Wilson Pond) is totally confined within the town of Wilton, nestled snugly in the southern corner of Franklin County at the intersection of Routes US2 & ME4. Its area is about 500 acres, with the deepest point of 84 feet, and a perimeter of over 7 miles. The lake is within a 25 square mile watershed that drains into Wilson Stream, the Sandy River and the Kennebec River. It is said to be named after a trapper along the west bank in the early 1700s. A unique feature of the lake is that Ice Out data has been collected yearly since 1889.

The Friends of Wilson Lake (FOWL) was created in 1989 to preserve and protect the aesthetic qualities, the recreational value, and the purity of the water of Wilson Lake and its watershed. In 2018 it was named the Maine Lake Association of the Year by Maine Lakes. It currently has 300 members. FOWL sponsors several programs and activities.

Wayne Smith “Lakes and Loons” Program

Since 2006, FOWL has sponsored a yearly loon education program for all 3rd graders at the Academy Hill School in Wilton, where they learn about loons, loon habits and habitats, and loon safety. The family of Wayne Smith provides a generous yearly donation to help fund the program. Loon experts from Biodiversity Research Institute in Portland come and talk about loons, present a loon slide show, and discuss a stuffed loon that accompanies them. Students and teachers love the program!



David Prince Memorial Fund

The David Prince Memorial Scholarship, begun in 2004, is a yearly award given to a graduating MT Blue HS senior who is pursuing higher education. It is based on scholarship, community service, extracurricular activities, and work history. Preference is given to students who are Wilton residents, have attended Wilton schools, or have a connection to Wilson Lake. Special consideration is given to those with a special interest in environmental science, biology, or education. The awardee is given a personal plaque, and their name is added to the large scholarship plaque at the high school, which lists all the winners.

Annual Audubon Loon Count

Each year on the 3rd Saturday of July, over 1,000 volunteers take part in the Maine Audubon loon count where they venture onto lakes and ponds around the state and count the number of adult and chick loons on their lakes. They go out at 7:00 am, and finish at 7:30 am. Our loon counter on Wilson Lake is Judy Landry, who together with her husband Dennis, have been doing this for 15 years. Eight adults and three chicks were spotted in 2021.

Courtesy Boat Inspection (CBI) Program

The CBI program was started on Wilson Lake in 2003, where each summer weekend boats entering and leaving the lake are inspected for invasive plants. To date Wilson Lake remains free of invasives. A record 1065 boats were inspected in 2020. Community business partners sponsor inspection weekends and a poster advertising their services is displayed in the FOWL kiosk at the boat ramp. Over 13,000 boats have been inspected since the program’s inception.

Blueberry Festival Boat Rides

FOWL offers free boat rides around the lake to Blueberry Festival attendees. 240 riders were served in 2019.

Water Testing on Wilson Lake

We employ various means of testing the water quality and water clarity of Wilson Lake, including Secchi disk readings, and readings for dissolved oxygen, temperature, and phosphorous levels. A unique program is a joint research project between FOWL and the University of Maine Farmington. The lead professors are JuIia Daly and Rachel Hovel, who coordinate the project with their students. A large red buoy sits at the “deep hole” with an 80 foot line suspended from it that includes temperature and dissolved oxygen sensors at various levels. They periodically pull up the line to download the data. Another unique feature is that it records data year-round. Periodic detailed reports can be found in our Newsletters on our website.

Report of Strategic Planning – Shaping the Future of FOWL

Under the capable facilitation of Jen Jespersen of Ecological Instincts, FOWL underwent a strategic planning process late 2020, early 2021, that resulted in the document, “Shaping the Future of FOWL: A Planning Strategy for 2021-2025.” Three broad categories were identified: Board and Membership Development; Public Relations-Outreach; and Lake Science, along with Administration. It can be seen on our website.

AVCOG Environmental Achievement Award

In May 2021, the Town of Wilton and FOWL were honored with an “Environmental Achievement Award” from the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments. With the Town, FOWL did a Watershed Survey in 2016, completed a Watershed Based Protection Plan in 2017, and received a 2018-2019 federal grant ($69,696) under the Clean Water Act 319 Nonpoint Source Management Program to target runoff, support public and school children education programs, and provide LakeSmart evaluations and certifications. We very much appreciate the award and feel it is a testament to the cooperation and good work that can come from local associations working with their local government.

Annual Meeting and Newsletter

FOWL provides its members with a newsletter three times a year, and the Annual Meeting is held in July.

Mary Ryan -- Volunteer Extraordinaire

The well-being of our lakes depends to a great extent on the work of dedicated volunteers and Wilson Lake is very fortunate to have Mary Ryan serving in that role. At the 2021 Lake Stewards of Maine annual meeting Mary was recognized for 35 years as a lake monitor. According to Roberta Hill, this many years of service puts her “in a very elite group of uber-dedicated volunteers”; it places her in the top 1% of the hundreds of volunteers who have ever served.

May 2021: Coffee Pond (Cumberland County)

Image credit: Kim Bennett

About Coffee Pond

The Basics...

Coffee Pond is located in the town of Casco, and is approximately 43 hectares (106 acres) in surface area. The lake has an average depth of 9.8 m (32’), a maximum depth of 21.3 m (70’), and it supports both warm and coldwater fisheries. Transparency measurements for the pond have been consistently deep with an 8.5 m (28’) historical average. Although its name implies darkly colored waters, the average color measurement for it is 9 SPU (Standard Platinum Cobalt Units), which is relatively low compared to other Maine lakes. The most recent invasive aquatic species survey -- a comprehensive level 3 that took place in 2014 -- found no invasive aquatic plants in the waterbody. The most recent Loon Survey (2020) recorded two adults and two chicks.


Gavia immer

The Common Loon (Gavia immer) is a medium-large aquatic bird, between 66-91 cm (26.0-35.8 in) and weighing between 2.5-6.1 kg (5.5-13.4 lbs) according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithography. They are known for their distinctive calls and, in the summer, the adults have striking red eyes and black bodies with white dappling and pinstripes. They are a diving species with an elongated, pointed bill (beak) that is diamond-like in cross section. Their elongated bodies are hydrodynamic and their webbed feet stick out beyond their tail allowing them to propel themselves efficiently through the water. These elongated bodies and their powerful wings also make them exceptional fliers; they have been recorded at traveling at speeds of over 120 km/h (75 mph).

Loons on Coffee Pond, photo by Kim Bennett aka MaineKayakGirl of the Kayaking In Maine blog

This flight speed serves them well as they have been known to migrate over 2,500 km (1,553 miles), northward in spring to locations that include Maine lakes, where they nest and typically raise 1-2 chicks. Toward the end of summer and early fall, they begin their southerly journey to winter habitat. Loon parents raise their chicks together for approximately 12 weeks, before leaving their offspring and flying separately to different warmer coastal areas. They usually reunite as a pair the following spring. Juveniles also migrate southward that first year, but will remain along the coast for several years until they are ready to return to a lake environment for breeding.

Maine Audubon has run an Annual Loon Count community science program since 1984. An article about the program in 2020 can be found HERE. The Lakes of Maine website has a data visualization of the loon count data HERE.

Please note: Gavia immer is not the only loon species we have in Maine. The Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) is a coastal species, but can be seen on Maine lakes during migration. It breeds in Northern Canada, Iceland, Greenland, and Russia.

Learn more about Coffee Pond HERE, or check out conservation areas near it HERE. You can also find an excellent guide for non-motorized watercraft recreation HERE or if you prefer a paper version, check out her guidebook: Paddling Southern Maine.

April 2021: Big Lake (Washington County)

Image credit: Madeline Moore

About Big Lake

The Basics...

Big Lake is located in Washington County, and at approximately 4,227 hectares (10,444 acres) in size, is one of the largest lakes in Maine. It supports both warm and coldwater fisheries. The waterbody feeds into the west branch of the Saint Croix River (formerly and also known as the Passamaquoddy River) after passing through Long Lake, Lewy Lake, and the Grand Falls Flowage. The Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township owns land that is located along the shores of Big Lake and is a substantial landholder in that area. In the autumn of 2019, the lake was confirmed to be infested with variable water-milfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum). Big Lake is largely littoral with an average depth of 3.66 meters (12 feet), making the surveying of all potential habitat for the invasive plant a significant undertaking. Lake Stewards of Maine is working with the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Downeast Lakes Landtrust, Big Lake Milfoil Coalition, Maine DEP, local guides, businesses and residents, and a large and growing team of LSM Invasive Plant Patrollers to complete a comprehensive (Level 3) survey of the lake this summer (2021) to determine the full extent of the Big Lake infestation.

Myriophyllum heterophyllum

Myriophyllum heterophyllum

Photo credit: Dennis Roberge

Variable water-milfoil (M. heterophyllum) is the most abundant invasive aquatic plant in Maine. It is native to parts of the US but is not native to New England. Due to its prolific growth, ability to spread quickly, outcompete native aquatic plant species, and interfere with recreation, this plant is a serious threat to Maine lakes.

The first evidence of M. heterophyllum in Big Lake was found by Brad Richard -- a local warden and camp-owner -- in late September, 2019. To read further about the findings, please see our articles here and here. If you are interested in getting involved with this effort, please contact LSM Invasive Aquatic Species Director, Roberta Hill: [email protected].

The Passamaquoddy

Passamaquoddy logos

The Passamaquoddy are a group of American Indian or First Nations people located primarily in Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, and who trace their ancestry back 12,000+ years. The Passamaquoddy Tribe is represented by the Joint Tribal Council which consists of individual Tribal Councils, one from Indian Township, in Princeton, and one from the Pleasant Point Reservation (Sipayik) in Perry. The tribe is one of the native groups that constitute the Wabanaki Confederacy. The current Chief (or Sakom) of the Passamaquoddy is William J. Nicholas, Sr. The Passamaquoddy who live to the north and east of the St. Croix (Passamaquoddy) River have their own chief and council and are known as the St. Croix/Schoodic Band of Passamaquoddies.

The tribe’s name, according to Vincent Erickson in his book American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America, is said to have developed from their word Peskotomuhkat. This translates to "pollock-spearer" or "those of the place where pollock are plentiful". This connection to a fish reflects the importance of water in their culture. Listed upon their website as one of the six mission tenants is “custodianship of our environment”. In 1993, the nation initiated its Water Resources Planning and Inventory Program. Joe Musante -- a biologist with the Passamaquoddy Environmental Department, LSM Regional Coordinator for the Passamaquoddy tribal lands, and member of LSM’s Board of Directors -- has been working with LSM and its partners in the logistics, surveying, identification, and removal of the invading M. heterophyllum.

Learn more about Big Lake HERE or check out conservation areas near it HERE

March 2021: Mill Pond

Image credit: Peter Taber

About Mill Pond

The Basics...

Mill Pond is a small waterbody located in Searsport. It is approximately 2 hectares (5 acres) in size and supports some warmwater fish species. It was historically a larger waterbody, but sediment deposition — in part, due to beaver dams slowing down the water — has transformed its northern end into marshland (as seen in photo by Peter Taber). It is a freshwater system although it is located only 9 m (29.5’) above sea level and in close proximity to the ocean. A significant reason for this is the small impoundment, which State of Maine records indicate was constructed in 1900 and is owned by the Town of Searsport. The impoundment is ~4.9 m (16’) high and has a ~4.3 m (14’) hydraulic height. This substantially separates the pond from the tidal cycles that could result in a saltwater intrusion, which, in turn, could dramatically change the water quality and habitat of the waterbody. While the processes of gradual sediment deposition and beavers damming at the northern end can be considered natural eutrophication, human manipulation of the environment is also at play here, even in the possibility of Mill Pond as an existent pond and not a saltwater marsh. The issues associated with impoundments, and of their removal are often complex and require significant understanding of the changes that could occur to an ecosystem, both what is gained and what is lost.

Eutrophication: Cultural vs Natural

Often eutrophication is viewed as a harmful and unnatural process. This process needs an adjective in front of it though to describe what type of eutrophication is or has taken place: cultural or natural. A fundamental difference between these two is the element of time.

  • Natural eutrophication is a process that occurs over historical or geologic time, due to normal rates of erosion and sediment deposition, the gradual accumulation of organic matter in the system, and associated enrichment with nutrients from these. Changes in hydrology, caused by major storm events, impounded areas created by beavers (Castor canadensis), and other natural factors can also shape this process, leading to the creation of wetlands. Freshwater ponds and their associated wetlands here in Maine provide excellent habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna including beaver, muskrat, waterfowl, raptors, turtles, and amphibians. Naturally eutrophic ponds usually achieve a state of ecological balance over time. While planktonic algae and rooted aquatic plants are typically plentiful and essential to the food web, problematic algal blooms are less likely to occur.
  • Cultural eutrophication is the acceleration of the nutrient and sediment enrichment process, as a result of human activities in an aquatic system. The cumulative effect of enriched stormwater runoff from disturbances in a watershed can result in an imbalance, leading to excess algae growth, dissolved oxygen loss, and an overall loss of species diversity - all indicators of an unhealthy aquatic system.

Learn more about Mill Pond HERE or check out conservation areas near it HERE

February 2021: Nickerson Lake

Image credit: Ruba Haddard

About Nickerson Lake

The Basics...

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.

Learn more about Nickerson Lake HERE or check out conservation areas near it HERE

January 2021: Sebago Lake

Image credit: Camilla Fecteau Bridge, taken at St. Joseph's College, Standish

About Sebago Lake

  • Sebago Lake is located in the towns of Casco, Naples, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham. It is the deepest and second-largest lake in Maine at 96.3 meters (316 feet) and 12,137 hectares (29,992 acres), respectively. The perimeter of Sebago -- 158 kilometers (98.2 miles) -- is substantially developed and about 90% of the watershed is privately owned. Despite this, significant eutrophication (caused primarily by phosphorus runoff) has been limited. This is vitally important as it is the primary water supply for the Portland Water District (PWD) which serves nearly 15% of Maine’s population. The reason for the limited eutrophication is due to the large and heavily-forested nature of the watershed and the fantastic work of PWD, Sebago Clean Waters, and many lake stewards. Two other factors that may play a role are that areas of its watershed -- notably the Long Lake region -- are naturally high in aluminum and are at greater elevation. Generally, higher elevations have less marine-derived clay soils which are typically high in phosphorus. A last note, the oldest recorded ice-out, taken in 1807 CE, comes from Sebago.

  • The state of ice coverage on Maine lakes has become an increasingly prominent concern. It appears, based on ice-out data, that over the past 100 years there has been a substantial shift towards earlier ice-outs. This means it is likely that ice is covering lakes for less of the year. Extended periods of ice cover is one of the reasons why Maine has such high quality lakes compared to many other parts of the United States. Blooms of cyanobacteria and algae, and certain invasive species are all tempered or prevented from establishing due to the long, cold winters.
    To discuss ice further we need to understand the terminology and complications of monitoring it. Both ice-in and ice-out are localized events defined by the observers. At Lake Stewards of Maine (LSM), we have provided some guidelines that individuals or lake associations can use. However, if there are historical observations, the observers should maintain that same criteria for determining these events. The consistency is vitally important to pick up on changes over time.
    The monitoring by our citizen scientist network remains a critical component for understanding our lakes. In the mid-2000s, using data, including that collected by LSM volunteers, USGS Hydrologist Glenn Hodgkins was able to determine that the duration of ice cover for a number of New England lakes has been diminishing over the past century. This same conclusion has been arrived at by Lloyd Irland, PhD. This past summer LSM hosted Dr. Irland as a part of our summer webinar series. A recording of the session, Lake Ice Regimes: Some Baffling Trends and Challenges for Citizen Science, can be found HERE.

    Charts by Lloyd C. Irland, from research now being prepared for publication.

    Both ice-in and ice-out are really proxies for climate change and variations between seasons. The charts of average ice-out dates (above) show the movement towards an earlier ice-out, indicated by the negative slope of these two trend lines. One of the important take-aways is that there is significant variation between the years and even decades. It is only with long-term data sets that trends can be identified. Ice-out has a more robust historical record in many communities -- this may be due to the celebratory nature of warming weather and the autumn harvests and preparing for the colder months ahead. Although ice-in data is patchy and does not have as long a history as ice-out data, what is available indicates ice-in dates are becoming later. This double-sided attack -- later icing over in the fall and earlier retreat of ice in the spring -- is another troubling indicator of climate change and a warming Maine, more prone to algae blooms and invasive organisms.
    If you’re interested in getting involved in ice data collection please check out the information available on our website and contact us HERE.

Learn more about Sebago Lake HERE or check out conservation areas near it HERE

December 2020: Bartlett Pond Lake (Androscoggin County)

Image credit: Jonnie Maloney

About Bartlett Pond:

  • Bartlett Pond is located in Livermore. It is a relatively small pond with an area of about 11.3 hectares. It is also relatively shallow with a mean depth of only 3.7 meters. Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has classified it as supporting cold water fisheries and as far as we know there are no invasive species present. Sadly though, there is little data available beyond this about Bartlett Pond. This is one of many lakes in Maine that do not or have not had a water quality monitor and/or invasive plant patroller. If you want to get involved in monitoring lakes, you can contact Lake Stewards of Maine (LSM) HERE.

  • In the early 1800’s a new form of industry was established: ice harvesting. Fredric Tudor of Boston began shipping ice from cold regions to warmer regions like the southern United States and Caribbean. Although the ice trade was not new (wealthy families often had icehouses), Tudor revolutionized it by creating specially-designed cargo holds on ships that kept the ice cold long enough to get to their destination.

    Prior to Tudor’s innovation, ice harvesting was dependent on local resources. According to Eric Cline, PhD., some of the earliest evidence for ice harvesting and storage comes from the Bronze Age (circa 1750 B.C.E.) in Mesopotamia. Special buildings were needed to keep ice harvested in winter (or from glaciers at high elevations) cool in the summer months. As metropolitan areas expanded, ice also became desirable in these urban heat islands (e.g. New York and Philadelphia) during summer months. It was this latent desire, a murderous heat wave in 1896, and varied forms of shipping that Tudor, Charles Morse of Maine, and others leveraged to grow their businesses beyond simply sales in the South.

    In Maine, the harvest and sale of ice became a major source of revenue. Morse’s work was a significant portion of this. He was well-positioned, having inherited his father’s towing business along the Kennebec River. According to historical maps from one Boston ice broker, in 1882 1.5 million tons of ice were harvested from the fresh waters of Maine. Between 1870-1890, over 25,000 people were employed each winter to cut and store ice. Due to Maine’s high water quality and cold winters, the ice of Maine became the national standard for quality and was noted upon for its crystal-blue color. In addition, sawdust from Maine’s lumber industry was collected and used both as insulation for Maine’s ice and as a commodity for other ice shipping. The wealth produced from these ice harvests was greater than California’s annual gold production.

    Early on Tudor, who controlled the majority of ice shipping, would sell ice at a loss in order to drive out competition in a particular region. This behavior suddenly made ice available to the average person, increasing market demand and leading to changes in food preservation, notably the development of the household ice chest. Morse, coming some 70 years later, sold stock in his ice company and expanded his business. In a ploy to create a monopoly and manipulate the price of ice, driving it higher, Morse failed. The corruption was revealed by the New York Journal and Advertiser, however Morse was able to leave the ice trade with an estimated $12 million in profits. Morse’s timing turned out to be good, by the early 1900s the invention of mechanical cooling and fears over typhoid and pollution caused a significant downturn in the purchasing of natural ice. Today, ice harvesting is no longer a commercial venture but has remained as a component of historical reenactments and occasionally for use in ice sculptures.

    Image credit: Washburn-Norlands Living History Center

    Organizations like, The Washburn-Norlands Living History Center, a museum located in Livermore, Maine, hold ice-centric activities to relieve the stress of winter and to highlight the significance of ice harvests in Maine’s history. Washburn-Norlands Center’s Cabin Fever Reliever event is located on Bartlett Pond, however due to CoViD-19 they are likely to forego the 2021 event. More information about their past event can be found HERE; more information about Maine’s history can be found at the Maine Historical Society website.

Learn more about Bartlett Pond HERE or check out conservation areas near it HERE

November 2020: Androscoggin Lake (Androscoggin County)

Image credit: Martha Hoddinott [edited]

About Androscoggin Lake:

  • Androscoggin Lake is located in western Maine and split between the towns of Leeds and Wayne. It is part of the 30 Mile River watershed and connected to a number of other water bodies including Bonny Pond, Pocasset Lake, Lovejoy Pond, Echo Lake (Crotched Pond), and the Androscoggin River. The lake supports both cold and warmwater fisheries, has a maximum depth of 11.6 meters, and an average transparency of 4.3 meters.
  • Another connected waterbody is the Dead River (Androscoggin county). This boggy river is known to reverse its flow during times of high runoff and may inject humic acid, potential contaminants, and sediments into the lake. This may lead the lake to experience greater variability in color and additional complications such influxes could produce.
  • According to the Maine Natural Areas Program, Androscoggin Lake is one of the only known locations in Maine where the rare plant, cattail sedge, Carex typhina, can be found. Maine is the northern limit for this species’ range; the range covers part of Maine and southwest Quebec, runs westward to Wisconsin, south to Louisiana, and east to Georgia, then back up the eastern seaboard. It is possible with warming, due to climate change, that the range will extend further north. More about the C. typhina and both native and invasive plants in Maine can be found HERE.
  • In the late summer of this year, 2020, variable water-milifoil, Myriophyllum heterophyllum, was found in Androscoggin Lake by Katherine Mahoney, a member of Androscoggin Lake’s Invasive Plant Patrol team. The suspicious plant was found in Inner Cove, at the northern end of the lake, about 400 yards northwest of the state boat launch. The plant that was found lacked the features needed to confirm an identification with 100% certainty, so the specimen was sent on to Dr. Lucas Bernacki of Saint Joseph’s College for DNA analysis. Upon learning the DNA results, which unfortunately confirmed the invasive species, a coalition of local, regional and statewide partners including 30 Mile River Watershed Association (30 MRWA), Androscoggin Lake Improvement Corporation, Lake Stewards of Maine (LSM), and Department of Environmental Protection (ME DEP), leapt into action.

On the 3rd of October, 2020, Roberta Hill of LSM and Lidie Robbins of 30 MRWA led a team of 15 volunteer invasive plant patrollers (IPPers) in screening surveys of the lake with the focus upon Inner Cove, where that first specimen was found. Several patches of variable milfoil were found; one patch, more than 10 feet in diameter, suggested that the milfoil has been present in the cove for at least a year. On October 15th, another screening was conducted, this time assisted by several of LSM’s Uber-IPPers and two divers, one from the ME DEP and one from Little Sebago’s milfoil removal team. Four additional plant clusters were identified. Invasive plants were removed from all identified locations.

M. heterophyllum spreads through two mechanisms: auto-fragmentation and vegetative propagation. The parent plant becomes more brittle toward the end of the growing season, and breaks apart (auto-fragmentation), creating numerous viable fragments. Each fragment is a clone of the parent plant and mobile. When caught in a current, or by the wind, or even something like a boat’s line they are carried off to a new location. If they come to rest in a good spot, through the action known as vegetative propagation, the fragments will sprout roots, and may establish a new colony.

The fact that (so far) the M. heterophyllum seems to be confined to the wetland at the northwestern corner of Inner Cove, provides some hope that the infestation may have been caught early on. In order to be sure, LSM, our volunteers, and partner organizations need to conduct a comprehensive (Level-3) survey of the entire littoral zone of the lake. Thanks to the efforts and dedication of the various partners and IPPers, plans are already underway to ensure such a survey will be completed next summer. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Roberta at [email protected].

Learn more about Androscoggin Lake HERE or check out conservation areas near it HERE.

October 2020: Big Reed Pond (Piscataquis County)

Image credit: Bill Silliker, The Nature Conservancy

About Big Reed Pond:

  • The Nature Conservancy’s Tim Paul writes about Big Reed...

    Big Reed Pond lies north of Baxter State Park in T8R10 within The Nature Conservancy’s 4,583-acre Big Reed Forest Reserve, the largest and most outstanding old‑growth forest in New England. The property is managed as an ecological reserve, where the forest and waters are shaped by natural processes such as wind, ice, and other weather events. Beyond providing valuable natural habitat, ecological reserves are important to scientists studying the forest ecosystem and how it responds, in the absence of timber harvesting, roads and other human intrusion, to challenges such as climate change, forest pests, diseases, and airborne pollution.
  • There are three ponds within the preserve and at 90 acres, Big Reed Pond is the largest. Big Reed Pond contains one of the few remaining populations of landlocked Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus oquassa) in the eastern United States. Arctic charr once inhabited lakes across the northeastern United States and Canada. However, because it is very susceptible to environmental change, the introduction of non-native fish species and pollution has led to the extirpation of native U.S. populations of charr in all but Maine and Alaska. Eleven lakes in Maine have native Arctic charr populations. (The other 2 ponds in the preserve are Little Reed and Buckley.)
  • While surveys of the Arctic charr in the 1980s indicated that the population was stable, fishing success rates dropped precipitously in the 2000s, signaling poor reproductive and survival success in Big Reed charr. The introduction of rainbow smelt, likely by the illegal dumping of bait, altered the dynamics of the pond as smelt aggressively feed on charr eggs and fry. In 2008, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife began removing charr and brook trout from the pond to a hatchery in order to chemically destroy the invasive smelt. After reclamation of the pond in 2010, progeny of the original charr were restocked in the pond and by 2017 biologists confirmed that natural reproduction of the fish was once again taking place in Big Reed and the population was rebounding. The pond also sustains a diverse population of native brook trout and minnows.
  • Big Reed Pond is only accessible by float plane or hiking in through the remarkable old growth forest, therefore it receives little visitation or fishing pressure. As a consequence it provides a unique wilderness lake experience. Overnight camping or fires in the reserve are not allowed.
  • Explore the various conservation areas in the Big Reed area HERE.

September 2020: Eastern painted turtles, Lake Auburn area

Credit: R. Crosby

About Lake Auburn:

  • The Eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) is one of 7 turtle species in Maine. In the early 2000s, The Nature Conservancy led a major synthesis study of Maine's freshwater biodiversity. The study's final report contains a wealth of information about aquatic biodiversity in Maine. Chapter 6.3 focuses on amphibians & reptiles - and includes species distribution maps.
  • Lake Auburn (which used to be called Wilson Lake) is the municipal water supply for the cities of Auburn and Lewiston. Lakes Stewards of Maine's Scott Williams takes up the story of this lake...
  • Historically, this lake has experienced very good water quality, as evidenced in part by the fact that it supports a healthy coldwater fishery (primarily Lake Trout). At one time, Lake Auburn was a popular destination for visitors from around the globe, who would board the "Steamship Lewiston" Ferry on the easterly side of the lake at "Lake Grove Resort" en route to the westerly shore, where a world-famous grand hotel and mineral spring spa was highly valued by those who drank and bathed in its reportedly restorative waters. The hotel famously burned in the late 1800's.

  • For more than a century, the municipal water district and the Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission have worked diligently to protect the health of this lake through educating landowners about lake conservation practices, purchasing conservation easements throughout the watershed and virtually eliminating all shoreline development. But in 2012, Lake Auburn experienced an unanticipated severe algal (cyanobacteria) bloom, resulting in a significant die-off of the Lake Trout population, less than 2 meters water clarity, and high concentrations of phosphorus. The Auburn Water District convened a group of lake researchers who, over a period of a few years, unraveled the complex factors that led to this phenomenon. Climate warming, extreme weather events, lake sediment geochemistry and other factors combined to create the "perfect storm" that caused the bloom. In 2019, a successful "alum" treatment was conducted on the lake. Water clarity (Secchi transparency) readings in 2020 have been as high as 12 meters!

Discover more about Lake Auburn HERE.

August 2020: Flanders Pond (Hancock County)

Credit: Roberta Hill

About Flanders Pond:

  • One of nine lakes & ponds in the town of Sullivan, 535-acre Flanders Pond lies just off of the Downeast Sunrise trail which runs from Ellsworth to Ayers Junction along a portion of the route of the former Brewer-Calais railroad. This section of the trail provides access to hiking trails up Schoodic Mountain.
  • Flanders Stream, on the southwest corner of the lake, is well known locally for its large alewife run. There is an alewife viewing area on Thorne Road (just off of Route 183) and the fish can often be seen spawning around the edges of the lake's several islands.
  • Maine Audubon's annual loon surveys on Flanders Pond have been taking place since 1987.
  • The banner photo (above) is of an LSM "Plant Paddle" held on Flanders Pond in 2017. The event brought together volunteers from across the region to learn how to work as a team to conduct an invasive aquatic plant (IAP) screening survey. It is likely that most of the records in our list of 13+ aquatic plants recorded from this lake come from this plant paddle.
  • There are currently over 80 Invasive Plant Patrol (IPPer) teams conducting screening surveys across the state of Maine. Most teams conduct Level-3 surveys annually. In a Level-3 survey, the entire littoral zone (the shallower portions of the lake that support rooted aquatic plant life) is screened for the presence of aquatic invaders. In many cases, IPPers also document the native aquatic plants observed during the course of the survey. In this way, LSM citizen lake scientists are not only helping to detect aquatic invaders early, before they become well-established, they are also helping us to better understand Maine's native plant communities.
  • Plant paddles are short (2-3 hour) events that take place on shore and on the water. They are a fun and informal way to introduce community members to the threats of invasive aquatic plants and ways to minimize their impacts through early detection. You too can become an IPPer! The work is not only interesting and important, it is great fun! To learn how you can get involved, please click HERE
  • You can find a wealth of information on invasive aquatic plants by clicking HERE and by clicking HERE.
  • Discover more about Flanders Pond HERE.

July 2020: Coleman Pond (Waldo County)

Credit: Deborah Fink

About Coleman Pond:

  • 255-acre Coleman Pond in Lincolnville has a maximum depth of 13.4m (44ft) and average Secchi depth of 4.7m (15.4ft).
  • The invasive Northern pike (Esox lucius) is one of at least 16 fish species in this lake.
  • WATCH:
  • Along with other lakes and pond communities in the town of Lincolnville, Coleman Pond is working to address what has become an insidious threat to lake ecosystems across the state. The Lincolnville Lakes & Ponds Committee (LLPC) and the Lincolnville Board of Selectmen have recently adopted a program to help lakeshore property owners transition away from the use of unencapsulated polystyrene floats (the commonly-blue Styrofoam panels used to keep docks and rafts afloat). Over time, the polystyrene has a tendency to break down, distributing a seemingly infinite number of tiny light-blue bead-like pellets into the water column where they may be mistaken as food by a wide host of lake dwellers, causing disruption to the natural food web.
  • The LLPC program is strictly optional and involves volunteers from each of the lakes and ponds in the town (including Coleman Pond) conducting annual dock/float surveys. Surveyors simply record the number of unencapsulated floats currently in use on the lake. LLPC publicizes the results of the annual surveys while encouraging lakefront owners to make the conversion to more environmentally friendly forms of floatation. A group of LLPC community members have created a fund to help lower income families to make the conversion; other community members have offered their time and skills, providing assistance to those who cannot make the conversions themselves. The number of unencapsulated floats on Lincolnville lakes has gone down steadily since the program was adopted.
  • More info on upgrading dock floats is HERE.

June 2020: Cross Lake (Aroostook County)

Credit: Friends of Cross Lake

About Cross Lake:

  • One of Maine's most northerly lakes, 2,537-acre Cross Lake lies approximately 15 miles south of the Canadian border. It is the third lake in the east branch of the Fish River Chain of Lakes. It is typically iced-in from the first week in December to the first week in May.
  • Cross Lake and its watershed provide excellent year-round recreational opportunities. Besides the approximately 260 shorefront properties, a large public boat landing and picnic area allow visitors to enjoy the lake and it also provides access to Square Lake, with its excellent coldwater fishery, both for open water fishing and ice fishing.
  • Cross Lake also supports a sport fishery of statewide significance for native brook trout and landlocked salmon and has been identified as a Wild Brook Trout Water, meaning it has self-sustaining populations of native brook trout.
  • In 2018, the Friends of Cross Lake (FOCL) was started by locals to spearhead efforts to improve and protect Cross Lake's water quality, which is classified as impaired due to excess phosphorus and low water clarity readings. FOCL has over 130 supporting members.
  • In 2019, FOCL completed a watershed survey with 35 volunteers, the help of many partners, and a grant from LSM. In order to improve understanding of the dynamics of Cross Lake's water quality and to gather high-density data, 13 "Secchi Blitz" volunteers were also trained and certified by LSM and DEP to conduct biweekly monitoring of 12 stations around the lake. Two of those stations were also sampled biweekly for phosphorus and chlorophyll. Other 2019 activities that FOCL either led or assisted with included: a bathymetric survey by EPA, stream and wetland sampling by DEP, a gravel road workshop with the State Soil Scientist, and a LakeSmart program for shorefront property owners.
  • In 2019, FOCL also received a DEP/EPA grant to develop a Watershed-Based Management Plan (WBMP) and the Cross Lake Watershed was chosen as an USDA NRCS National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) project, providing additional funding and technical assistance to farmers in the watershed for conservation practices that protect water quality.
  • FOCL is continuing its water quality improvement efforts with another year of gathering "Secchi Blitz" data, expanding LakeSmart, participating in Maine Audubon's Loon Count for the first time, and WBMP development, which will describe the actions needed to restore Cross Lake to meet water quality standards over the next 10 years
  • Discover more about Cross Lake HERE

May 2020: Enchanted Pond (Somerset County)

Credit: D. Savage

About Enchanted Pond:

  • Located in the mountains of western Maine, 334-acre Enchanted Pond is one of our state's most pristine lakes.
  • With a maximum depth of 185 feet, it is also the 6th deepest lake in Maine - notably deep when Enchanted's relatively small surface area is considered.
  • A factsheet How Deep are Maine Lakes? is HERE.
  • Enchanted Pond is one of only 14 lakes in Maine to have a population of Arctic Charr (in this case, introduced from Floods Pond in Otis).
  • The lake also has a "heritage" population of Brook Trout (there has been no stocking of this species since the early 1990s).
  • Bulldog Camps is one of the oldest traditional sporting camps in Maine and is located on the northern end of the lake. Established in the 1880s as a set of logging camps, this property has been operating as a sporting camp since the turn of the last century.
  • Discover more about Enchanted Pond HERE

April 2020: Clary Lake (Lincoln County)

Credit: D. Hodsdon

About Clary Lake:

  • Located in the towns of Jefferson & Whitefield, 674-acre Clary Lake (also known as Pleasant Lake) is part of the Sheepscot River watershed. The lake is quite shallow, with a maximum depth of 30 feet (9.1 meters).
  • Ice-out this year was on March 27, according to David Hodsdon of the Clary Lake Association.
  • The water level of Clary Lake is maintained by a dam at its outlet on Route 218 in Whitefield. In 2014 a water-level order was issued by Maine DEP but the then-dam owner refused to comply with or maintain the dam and caused the lake level to be drawn down to a level lower than most people can remember, according to George Fergusson of CLA.
  • After a 7-year negotiation, the Clary Lake Association was finally able to purchase the dam in October 2018. The Association promptly repaired the dam and has restored Clary Lake to its historical water level. A full recovery is expected.
  • The Clary Lake Association has been engaged in water quality monitoring on Clary Lake since 1975. Today, 4 LSM certified water quality monitors measure transparency and dissolved oxygen twice a month throughout the boating season. The Association also runs a Courtesy Boat Inspection program at the State boat launch throughout the summer months.
  • Discover more about Clary Lake HERE

February-March 2020: Ellis Pond (Oxford County)

Credit: Ross Swain

About Ellis Pond:

  • Located in the towns of Byron and Roxbury, 919-acre Ellis Pond (also known as Roxbury Pond & Silver Lake) has a maximum depth of 43 feet
  • Water clarity has been measured here every year since 1990 (with additional data from 1982).
  • Lake stewardship is alive and well in the Ellis Pond community! The Silver Lake Camp Owners Association conducted two extensive citizen lake watershed surveys during the past two decades, each followed by mitigation projects, in which sources of runoff and erosion documented in the surveys were resolved. The Ellis Pond Sidekicks are also very active in lake stewardship. LSM Certified Lake Monitor, Ross Swain has been checking the health of the pond for 25 years. Recently, he documented the development of a brief, late season (October) algal bloom, which sometimes occurs when a lake "turns over" (de-stratifies or mixes). Such events may be an early warning sign that lake water quality is vulnerable to a change.
  • Discover more about Ellis Pond HERE

January 2020: Branch Lake (Hancock County)

Credit: N. Norris

About Branch Lake:

  • 2942-acre Branch Lake lies in the Union River watershed in Hancock County.
  • This 124-ft-deep (38-m) lake is the public water source for the city of Ellsworth.
  • Water clarity has been measured here since the early 1970s.
  • Branch Lake is one of over 330 Maine lakes with records of ice-in / ice-out dates.
  • Currently, LSM intern, Sarah Hammond is conducting a project in which she is surveying Maine's citizen lake scientists to learn more about changes in ice-in dates. To learn more about this project (and participate, if you wish), go HERE.

  • Discover more about Branch Lake HERE

December 2019: Long Pond (Kennebec County)

Credit: P. Kallin

About Long Pond:

  • There are 27 “Long Ponds” in Maine (and 6 “Long Lakes”). One of these is located in the Belgrade chain of lakes (it is fourth in the chain sequence)
  • Long Pond (Belgrade, Mt. Vernon, Rome) is a 2,557-acre lake, divided into 2 distinct basins. The “deep hole” (106 ft / 32 m) is in the southern basin
  • This lake has 20 fish species, including the invasive northern pike (Esox lucius), as well as both black basses
  • The Kennebec Highlands (ME Bureau of Parks & Lands) lie to the west of the upper basin, while the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance manages lands along the southern basin (MAP)
  • Water clarity has been measured in this lake since 1970; the overall average Secchi depth during this period is 6.3 m (21 ft) - a value which is in the mid-range of surveyed Maine lakes
  • Discover more about Long Pond HERE

November 2019: West Pond (York County)

Credit: J. Howes

About West Pond:

  • 167-acre West Pond is located in Parsonsfield. It is relatively shallow, with an average depth of 10 feet.
  • Invasive curly-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus) was confirmed to be growing in this lake in the spring of 2004. The key to getting ahead of this invader is to harvest it early in the season, before new winter buds, or turions, develop. (Once formed, each turion—which may remain dormant in the sediment for several years—is capable of sprouting a new plant.) With fifteen years of experience under their belts, much hard work and determination, and some help from the DEP and others, West Pond Association has succeeded in significantly decreasing the infestation, and remains fully committed to the effort. According to WPA President (and major force behind the control effort), Dennis Spinney, “we lost a bit of ground in 2019—likely due to an emergence of dormant turions—but we just doubled down on our control efforts and we are hopeful that this will pay off.”
  • This is a warm-water fishery—including both largemouth and smallmouth bass, and black crappie.
  • Discover more about West Pond here.

October 2019: Jordan Pond (Hancock County)

About Jordan Pond:

  • 186-acre Jordan Pond is a lake of superlatives. Located in the heart of Acadia National Park, it surely is one of the most-visited lakes in Maine. Visually, it is also one of the most stunning of lakes
  • On only 3 dates have measured water transparency (Secchi) values in any Maine lake exceeded 65 feet (20 meters) - all 3 dates are from Jordan P. (1991 and twice in 1999)
  • The steep sides of this lake plunge down to a maximum depth of 150 feet
  • The cold-water fishery focuses on Brook trout, Lake trout and Landlocked salmon - there are 10 other fish species and over 14 species of aquatic plants
  • Discover more about Jordan Pond HERE

Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program