Thanks to Scott Williams for contributing this article!
Viewed from a drone or satellite image, one might expect that Hogan and Whitney Ponds, situated in the western foothills of Maine, would be as alike as “two peas in a pod”. As LSM certified lake monitor, Bruce Wilson’s, excellent photos show, the two lakes appear to be nearly identical in shape and surface area (178 and 167 acres respectively), as well as volume. The mean (average) depth of Hogan is 15 feet, and Whitney is 14 feet.
The two lakes are separated by a relatively narrow ridge of gravel and sediment, deposited several thousand years ago by meltwater from the retreating glacier. This “esker” between them is as little as ~40 feet wide. It is even possible at the narrowest point on the esker, which rises up between Hogan and Whitney approximately 25 feet, to stand in the middle and cast a stone into the water of either lake.
The outflow areas at the northerly end of the lakes join together to form a broad, shallow stream that provides extensive and diverse aquatic and riparian habitat for macrophytes, fish, amphibians, and waterfowl. The joined streams eventually flow into the Little Androscoggin River.
However, despite their proximity, similar shape, area, and depth, the two lakes are distinctly unique. That is primarily due to significant differences in their watersheds. The Whitney Pond watershed encompasses an area of ~1.1 square miles, compared to the ~3.8 square mile watershed for Hogan Pond. Hogan Pond flushes on the average 5.24 times/year, whereas Whitney only flushes 0.68 times/year.
The primary tributary to Hogan Pond (clearly visible on Google Earth) drains an extensively boggy area which extends to the outlet of Bog Pond in the town of Poland, so named because it is situated in an extensively wet, peaty watershed. Drainage from these boggy areas is very rich in humic acids and dissolved organic carbon – imparting a characteristic appearance to the water that is sometimes referred to as the “root beer effect”. Lakes that have moderate concentrations of natural color (> 25 Standard Platinum Cobalt Units) typically function differently than those with low color levels, and are referred to as “dystrophic”. Elevated concentrations of humic acids negatively influence lake water clarity/transparency, resulting in shallower Secchi disc readings. The typical dynamic relationships between the primary trophic state indicators (transparency, total phosphorus and chlorophyll) in lakes break down in dystrophic lakes.
The Whitney Pond watershed is much smaller and far less bog-like than Hogan Pond. Although the values for the primary indicators of water quality are relatively similar for the two lakes, the natural color level in Whitney is relatively low (average 13 SPU), compared to that of Hogan (29 SPU). Dystrophic lakes typically have lower planktonic algae and rooted aquatic plant growth, as a result of light attenuation in the water column due to the high concentration of color.
Several decades ago. (prior to Maine’s Shoreland Zoning ordinance came into being) the land area of the esker between Hogan and Whitney Ponds was subdivided. The unique formation between the two lakes (and resulting views) attracted numerous buyers who constructed summer cottages along the steep, and easily erodible slopes on each side. An access road was created along the center of the esker. Over time, the lack of electric service, poorly suited soils (and space) for septic systems, and the difficulty of stabilizing the steep eroding soils resulted in a number of the structures becoming abandoned and derelict. But the paucity of available lake shorefront property in recent years has sparked a renewed interest in the area.
With an area of over 75 thousand acres, Moosehead is Maine’s largest lake (but not its deepest - that record is held by Sebago). Its size and its convoluted shape is why this lake has so many water quality monitoring stations. Daphne Merrill’s book “The Lakes of Maine” includes many tidbits of information (facts, legends) about Moosehead (link is HERE - scroll down to page 34).
The heyday of tourism at Moosehead was in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many tens of steamboats catered to tourists during these years. Following the decline of the steamboat industry, many vessels were scuttled in the lake. BBC Travel has recently published an article about the steamboats of Moosehead and includes links to several videos showing the sunken vessels. These pieces make for interesting reading & watching!
People often ask: What is the difference between a lake and a pond? Back in 2010, Linda Bacon (ME DEP) wrote an informative article in VLMP’s Water Column newsletter *. Quoting Linda, “One classic distinction is that sunlight penetrates to the bottom of all areas of a pond in contrast to lakes, which have deep waters that receive no sunlight at all. Another is that ponds generally have small surface areas and lakes have large surfaces…..Some of Maine’s large and deep bodies of water are indisputably lakes. Others are ponds – small and shallow. But there is a transition between the two where the definition becomes fuzzy…..The one distinction that has any legal application is the designation of a body of water as a Great Pond. Maine state statutes define lakes and ponds greater than ten acres in size as Great Ponds…..” Read more about the differences between lakes and ponds HERE.
A waterbody’s name, however, is certainly not a clear guide as to its biological / limnological status - as illustrated by these two waterbodies, both on Mount Desert Island. Some so-called Ponds are clearly lakes. Some so-called Lakes function more like ponds.
To delve further into how waterbody names (“lake” / “pond”) relate (or don’t) to size, take a look at this interactive graphic
Aug. 12 - Breana Bennett (Maine CDC) presents Heavy Metals, PFAS, Cyanotoxins in Maine Lakes - How Maine CDC determines much is too much chemical contamination in fish tissue and how that is considered in deriving fish consumption advisories? Also: What are challenges developing advisories for harmful algae blooms?
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