Favorite places in Maine: Kanokolus boat launch, Unity

Kanokolus boat launch area on Unity Pond.
Dana Wilde
Kanokolus boat launch area on Unity Pond.
Posted July 27, 2011, at 3:52 p.m.
Last modified April 22, 2012, at 1:18 p.m.

The southeastern tip of Unity Pond, also known as Lake Winnecook, lies just about at the intersection of two lines drawn from Bangor to Augusta and from Belfast to Skowhegan.

At the convergence of Routes 139 and 9-202 there in Unity village, a narrow paved road ambles off toward the lake. Past a historic brick house, some woods, an alfalfa field skirted by the Bartlett Shore community walking trail, and bisecting the Pond Cemetery, Kanokolus Road then bends past two driveways and a shaded swampy stretch and comes out finally at the Kanokolus boat launch area on the lake.

Where the word “Kanokolus” comes from I’ve never discovered, but for decades locally it has meant roughly, indigenous-style, “the place where fishermen launch boats and families can picnic.” All summer, people haul boats down the road, then back their trailers into the water on the launch beside floats which kids are not supposed to jump off, but of course do anyway when no one’s looking.

There’s a stony beach on the shallow water with a usable picnic table or two by the trees. There’s a little parking area for trailer-lengthened vehicles, with portable toilets for visitors. Most summers the town appoints a friendly young monitor who collects a $2 boat launch fee which helps maintain the modest but really pleasant grounds.

Crossing the road at one point and then running alongside it to an ancient trestle bridge toward Burnham, are railroad tracks used only infrequently now by the sightseeing train that runs out of the Unity depot. The tracks provide an alleyway to the bog off the southwestern shore which is a great place to bird-watch, and even take a canoe. I spotted a bittern there one summer by zeroing in on a bizarre plunking sound among the buttonbushes and bog grasses. The plunk was the bittern singing about what, I don’t know.

To get there, follow Route 9-202 west from Bangor, or Route 139 east from Fairfield. Kanokolus Road is off 9-202 right in the village, a few yards south of the town office complex.

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