Canoeing in Maine: Little Sebago, loved by many, still offers a dose of tranquility

At the beginning of autumn, we are always looking for a popular summer place to visit after the tourist season is over. We recently enjoyed a four hour outing on Little Sebago in North Windham, touring the many islands in the middle part of the lake.

As we left the public boat launch, we were initially dismayed by the row of cottages that lined each shoreline. Then we refocused on natural beauty and wildlife. Mallards and loons were everywhere, accompanied by talkative kingfishers, blue herons, sandpipers, cormorants and a couple of bald eagles. Massive white pines towered over the water, mingling with tight clusters of birch trees radiating their brilliant whites from the emerald green wall of evergreens and maples.

Before heading north to the islands of Middle Bay, we paddled a mile south to experience the Lower Narrows. This narrow passage between the big lake and Hunger Bay is striking with its mound of pure white sand on one side and its delicate sandbar on the other side.

Two red pines lean over the water, providing a momentary cooling shade and a chance to photograph the delicate weathered gray pine cones sticking out of the water up close Photo by Christine Wolfe

Twenty minutes later we were rounding Hall Point and closing in on the group of islands in front of us. As we rounded the tip we noticed a large log cabin under the pines and the shoreline dotted with a few small newly built cabins. They looked so inviting. The aroma of the pines was intoxicating. The cries of the loons echoed towards the shore. It was the timeless backdrop of Lake Maine. This little slice of heaven was the former site of the historic Aimhi Lodge, now privately redeveloped. Aimhi began in 1919 as a summer retreat for Harvard University students to get away from the academic stress of Cambridge. Did the name encourage these students to “aim high” in life?

Just to the north is Horse Island. This large island was last logged in the 1920s, so the densely forested island’s massive red and white pines are nearly 100 years old. We enjoyed paddling under two red pines leaning over the water, providing a momentary cooling shade. My wife loves close-up photography and was busy snapping photos of the delicate weathered gray pinecones sticking out of the water.

The Toothbrush Islands are one of many small islands that dot Little Sebago. Photo by Christine Wolfe

A line of tiny islets stretched north and away from Horse. A few wind-sculpted trees hung on for dear life on each islet. A local cabin owner’s daughter kayaked and asked us how we enjoy the Toothbrush Islands. We asked him how they got that name. She told us that the straight line of the islands, combined with the bristle-like appearance of each islet, makes the group look like the bristles of a toothbrush. It was the perfect name.

We had a great time checking out each islet and some of the larger adjacent islands. We paddled around them once, reversed direction and circled the opposite way, then wrapped around them. Tiny Big Island cottages were classic; hovering at or slightly above the water, now boarded for the winter. How many loon calls had come through these windows over the years? How many Red Sox games had been listened to on an old radio? We felt like we were paddling through a distant time warp on a northern Maine lake. Despite the many camps and houses, Little Sebago does indeed have a wild and beautiful side.

A boat launch is located on the southwest side of Little Sebago Photo by Christine Wolfe

Check the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (Map #5) for help getting to the boat launch on the southwest side of the lake. Follow Anglers Road 1.5 miles northeast to Route 302 in North Windham. The road starts off paved and then turns to gravel in a few hundred meters.

All land and islands in the lake are private property, to respect the rights of the landowners we stayed in our canoe except stopping to rest on a few exposed ledges along the shore. There are portable toilets at the boat launch.

Even after Labor Day you will encounter a few weekend boaters, but stay along the eastern shore and you will stay away from other boats. The Little Sebago Lake Association does a Herculean job of educating boaters and mitigating the growth of invasive watermilfoil in the lake. For more information on their many important projects, check out their website.

Michael Perry is the former principal of LL Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor tobogganing programs for civic groups, businesses and schools. Contact: [email protected]


Use the form below to reset your password. After you submit your account email, we’ll send you an email with a reset code.

” Previous