Favorite Places in Maine: Nahmakanta Public Reserve

Posted Oct. 27, 2010, at 7:05 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 13, 2011, at 4:57 p.m.
Lower Polliwog Falls, Maine Public Reserve land, Rainbow Township, T2, R12 WELS. (Meg Haskell photo)
Lower Polliwog Falls, Maine Public Reserve land, Rainbow Township, T2, R12 WELS. (Meg Haskell photo)

Tucked into the lake-y and mountainous terrain between Millinocket and Greenville lies the 43,000-acre Nahmakanta Public Reserve. This land is your land, purchased in 1990 with state and federal tax dollars provided through the Land for Maine’s Future program.

The area is rich with recreational possibilities, including numerous secluded campsites, two dozen pristine wilderness lakes and ponds, and 12 scenic miles of the Appalachian Trail.

The 8.5-mile Turtle Ridge loop trail leads day-hikers through a medley of forested landscapes, alongside a chain of remote ponds and across the tops of some of the most spectacular cliffs and ledges in Maine. Despite its backcountry feel and dramatic scenery, this is a relatively gentle hike, suited for experienced — but not necessarily fanatical — family adventurers.

Polliwog Gorge, approached on foot or by road, features a storied logging history and a pair of rambunctious waterfalls, even at the end of a dry summer. The shores of Nahmakanta Lake offer drive-in, hike-in and paddle-in tenting sites as well as the privately owned Nahmakanta Lake Camps, which date back to the 1870s. The lake, more than 100 feet deep in spots, features prime fishing as well as irresistible opportunities to swim and explore.

Hunting in season is allowed in many areas of the Nahmakanta Public Reserve, along with the use of ATVs and snowmobiles.

More information, including a brochure and maps, is available from the Maine Department of Conservation.

Getting there: Take Route 11 south out of Millinocket or north out of Brownville Junction to the Jo-Mary Road. Pass the Jo-Mary checkpoint and drive northwest about 14 miles to Henderson checkpoint, which is just outside the reserve’s boundary. See DeLorme’s “The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer” Map 42.

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