Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on how far you choose to paddle or if you decide to simply snorkel right from the beach at the boat launch.
How to get there: The public landing is located off Black Woods Road (also known as Blackwoods Road and Route 182) in T10SD, a township just west of Cherryfield. If driving from the west, turn onto Black Woods Road in Franklin and drive 11.2 miles to the boat landing, which will be on your left. If driving from the east, turn onto Black Woods Road in Cherryfield and drive 6 miles to the boat landing, which will be on your right. The landing is at the end of a short dirt drive. GPS coordinates: 44.606328, -68.040913
Information: Featuring sandy beaches and clear water, Spring River Lake in Hancock County is a great place to swim, snorkel and paddle. It covers about 700 acres just west of Cherryfield and can be easily accessed from a public boat launch with plenty of parking.
The majority of the shoreline is undeveloped because it’s a part of the state-owned Donnell Pond Public Lands, 14,000 acres of conserved forestland. However, there are a few houses located along the south shore in the northwest portion of the lake. Be sure to respect the landowners’ privacy in that area.
Steep hills and mountains rise up around much of the lake, making for a beautiful backdrop. To the north, from east to west, it’s Spring River Mountain, McCabe Mountain and Tunk Mountain. And south of the lake stands Catherine Mountain.
Spring River Lake also features two remote campsites that are free for the public to use on a first come, first serve basis. One site is only accessible by water, while the other site is accessible by a short hiking trail.
To paddle on this lake, park at the public boat launch off Black Woods Road. The launch features a parking area and an outhouse. It also features a beach that’s accessible by a short trail.
The lake, which has a maximum depth of 28 feet and a mean depth of 14 feet, is historically popular with bait fishermen, according to a state survey that was last revised in 1995. It contains several species of small fish, including common shiners and golden shiners, which are both considered to be great as live bait.
In addition, the survey states that the lake provides marginal habitat for brown trout. However, during periods of hot weather, bottom temperatures become stressful and probably limit the growth of these fish. Wild brook trout have also been documented in this lake.
Salmon used to be stocked periodically in this body of water, but that program was terminated in the 1990s when biologists determined that it was not providing a consistent fishery. However, it’s believed that salmon from Tunk Lake and Tunk Stream make their way into Spring River Lake.
Other fishes documented in this body of water include white suckers, banded killifishes, threespine sticklebacks, redbreast sunfishes, eels and alewives. Other wildlife that call the lake home include common loons and freshwater mussels.
For more information and a map that shows the lake’s boat launch, campsites and area trails, visit maine.gov/donnellpond or call (207) 941-4412.
Personal note: I imagine that most people who know me think of me as an active, adventurous sort. But sometimes, I just want to float around on my stomach and look at fish. Such was the case last weekend, when my husband, Derek, and I went for an adventure on Spring River Lake.
Initially, I selected the lake because I wanted to check out the remote campsites. We didn’t have time to camp that night. It was Sunday and we both had to work in the morning. I figured we’d do a little recon and decide whether or not we’d like to return for an overnight trip.
On Google Maps, we could see that the lake featured several beaches, but nothing could prepare me for the sandy paradise we found. Paddling north from the boat launch, we followed the shoreline to the north end of the lake. Along the way, we maneuvered our canoe so I could photograph a lone waterlily. We also paused so I could photograph a loon swimming off shore, though we were careful not to disturb it from its fishing.
Landing on a long beach at the north end of the lake, we laid a towel in the sand and enjoyed a picnic of PB&Js. As we ate, we waited patiently for the sun, which was hidden by a thick cluster of clouds. When it at last emerged, bathing us in warmth, we pulled on our goggles and flippers and headed into the water.
I’d only been snorkeling a few seconds before I spotted a fish weaving through clumps of grass at the bottom of the lake. Then there was another, and another. That day, Derek and I saw many small fish, and while I don’t have any practice in fish identification, it was clear to me that we were seeing several different species by their many differences.
We also saw freshwater mussels half-buried in mud, their shells slightly parted as they filtered tiny bits of food out of the water. At first, they looked like rocks, but the uniformity of their shape and size gave them away. They were scattered all over the bottom of the lake.
The whole experience certainly convinced us both to return to the lake for a camping trip. I’d also like to paddle the nearby Tunk Lake, which I hear is one of the clearest bodies of water in Maine. Sounds like another snorkeling spot.
For more of Aislinn Sarnacki’s adventures, visit her blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com. Follow Aislinn Sarnacki on Twitter: @1minhikegirl; and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.