Exploring Maine’s Songo River with Outdoors, by Cracky!’s Justin Chase

Guest blogger Justin Chase writes one of our favorite outdoor blogs, Outdoors, by Cracky!, about his adventures exploring New England with his family. Back in May, Justin wrote about a visit to Maine Audubon’s Hamilton Sanctuary here on L.L.Bean Trailmix. We loved his post and photos so much, we invited him to share another adventure with our readers.

Maine’s Songo River is a meandering three-mile waterway that drains Long Lake and Brandy Pond into the renowned Sebago Lake. It’s a beautiful river, surrounded by conservation land, wildlife and recreation – all of which are perfectly Maine. With the busy motorboat season safely behind us, I reconnected with a childhood friend for a relaxing, late-summer afternoon of paddling and fishing. It proved to be an awesome overall sixish-mile trip and something a bit different as we head into fall.

Kayaking the Songo

We launched at the Northern end of Brandy Pond and enjoyed a two-mile trip across open water and down to the river. Floatplanes and turkey vultures circled overhead as the incredibly bright sun sparkled on thousands of tiny waves ahead of us. With a gentle headwind and bright sun in our faces, we made our way to the Songo on the south shore.

The first mile of the river is lined with classic camps and summer homes. Docks with elegant old wood boats, jet-skis and pontoons reached out to a well-marked, narrow channel along which we paddled. The smell of midday campfires and boat fuel drifted downriver, reminding me of great boyhood times, summering with my family on nearby Trickey Pond.

Ducking under bridge at the Songo Lock

Approaching the Sebago Lake State Park, and nearing the end of the developed shores, we were greeted by the low-lying turn bridge and the charming, historic Songo River Lock. This 1830s wood-and-concrete “boat elevator” is the only remaining lock from the old Cumberland and Oxford Canal. The experience of entering the manually controlled lock, dropping five or six feet and chatting with the Maine State workers was one I’ll long remember.

Lock employee opens the lock

Waiting in the lock

As we exited through the barn-door-like gates of the lock and entered the state park, we paddled past a couple motorboats waiting to enter. Wispy stands of birches lined the shores and showed signs of the season with their thinning, yellowing leaves. Hardwoods stood taller behind them, making perfect perches for the kingfishers that flew crazily up and down the river. The stark contrast of this natural space from the vacation homes upriver was surprising. Such well-protected, natural land is a real treasure among the busy Lakes Region.

Fishing from the kayak

Before making it to Sebago Lake, we ducked into one of the many cutouts to explore some of the shallower waters. We drifted lazily with the current, chatting with passing boaters as my friend, Luke, fished some of his favorite spots. Then, we pulled along the shoreline for a break.



In just a few minutes of relaxing and chatting about times old and new, we saw slow-moving, late-summer painted turtles, deer, colorful water snakes, geese, herons and much more. According to Luke, moose also frequent the area at dawn and dusk.


Songo Lake scenery

Paddling out of the shallows, I took a moment to appreciate the sound of water lilies rubbing under my boat, for soon they’ll be gone and won’t return until next June. This season is fleeting, for sure, but mid-September is only the beginning of some of the year’s best paddling. Now through mid-November offers some of the most beautiful time spent on New England’s inland waterways. If you’re looking to get out this fall and extend your paddling season, you won’t go wrong on the Songo.  Special thanks to our friend Justin of Outdoors, by Cracky!

Feeling inspired? L.L.Bean is here to help you gear up for your next paddling adventure with a wide selection of boats, paddles and PFDs, plus paddling apparel, footwear and accessories for everyone in the family.

  1. Jeremy | September 23, 2013 | 7:16 pm

    Great story, great photographs. Very nice idea to invite guest bloggers onto trailmix. Keep these kind of stories coming and I’ll keep reading.


  2. Justin | December 3, 2013 | 7:43 pm

    Jeremy, I missed your comment from back in September. Thank you so much for reading, and for following.


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