Difficulty: Easy to strenuous, depending on how much of the lake you explore and weather conditions, especially wind speed. Traveling along the entire perimeter of the lake would be a 4- to 5-mile paddle. Due to its size, this lake can feature big waves on windy days.
Information: Surrounded on all sides by the forested hills and mountains of Acadia National Park, Eagle Lake is one of the largest bodies of freshwater on Mount Desert Island. For decades it has served as the water source for Bar Harbor. It’s also a scenic paddling and fishing location, offering views of Connor’s Nubble, the Bubbles, Pathetic Mountain, The Whitecap, Brewer Mountain and McFarland Mountain.
The lake’s rocky shoreline is entirely undeveloped aside from an inconspicuous boat launch and small parking area at its north end. Gravel carriage roads used by walkers and bicyclists circle around the lake but usually can’t be seen from the water.
Sources vary on the lake’s size, with estimates ranging from 436 to 466 acres, and a maximum depth of 110 feet.
“The pond’s deep, cold, crystal clear, well oxygenated water provides ideal habitat for lake trout,” according to a survey conducted by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife that was last updated in 1999. It’s also home to brook trout and landlocked salmon.
A wealth of information about the lake is provided in a report prepared for the National Park Service called “ History of the Bar Harbor Water Company: 1873-2004” by Peter Morrison Crane & Morrison Archaeology, in association with the Abbe Museum. The report states that Eagle Lake is fed by numerous streams and Bubble Brook, which flows into the lake from Bubble Pond to the south. And Duck Brook is the lake’s natural outlet, located at its north end.
The lake’s shore is lined with rocks, granite blocks and ledges. On the east side of the lake are a few pseudo islands, which are linked to the shore by grassy bridges. Also on the east side is a series of stone arches nestled in the woods near the shore. Though trees mask some of the structure, segments of it are clearly visible from the water. This may have been the foundations of a summer cottage dating back to the early 1900s, according to the blog Abandoned Trails of Acadia National Park, which cites multiple sources supporting that origin.
Because the lake is a public water supply, swimming is not permitted and pets are not allowed in the water. Also, boats must have no greater than a 10 horsepower motor, and windsurfing is not permitted.
All visitors to Acadia National Park are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October. Park passes can be purchased online. They usually can also be purchased at several locations on the island, including park visitor centers and entrance fee stations. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the park is encouraging all visitors to buy and print a pass online before arriving at the park. This allows you to drive directly to a trailhead or parking area and display your pass from your vehicle. The only in-person pass sales location currently available on Mount Desert Island is the Sand Beach Entrance Station (which is nowhere near the Eagle Lake boat launch).
Dogs are permitted if on a leash no longer than 6 feet. For information, including updates about COVID-19-related changes and guidelines in the park, visit nps.gov/acad or call 207-288-3338.
How to get there: After crossing the causeway onto Mount Desert Island, veer right at the fork (by the gas station) onto Route 102. Drive 4.3 miles, then turn left onto Route 3. Drive 1.4 miles, then turn left onto Eagle Lake Road. Drive 3.6 miles, past the parking area for the carriage roads, then turn right onto the drive leading to the boat launch and a small parking lot. The parking lot often fills up. You may need to unload your boat by the boat launch, then park on the north side of Eagle Lake Road, well out of the way of traffic.
Personal note: On my 14th birthday, my parents gifted me with an Old Town Loon kayak, complete with a red ribbon on top. Since then, the little green boat has allowed me to explore numerous ponds, lakes and quiet waterways. Aside from a few scratches, it’s the same as when I first sat in it on the lawn of my childhood home in Winterport.
A few years ago, my husband Derek and I purchased a used Old Town canoe. This expanded our adventuring to include lakeside camping with our dog, Oreo. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, we added to our fleet once more with two bright yellow sea kayaks. Designed to slice through waves, our new kayaks are perfect for exploring larger lakes and eventually, the coastline and Maine’s many coastal islands — once we acquire a few more skills.
So on July 7, we launched our new kayaks from the north shore of Eagle Lake and battled the wind and waves north. “It would be good practice,” we said. But about halfway down the lake, I started to question our judgment. The relentless wind pushed against us every step of the way. You couldn’t rest for a moment without being pushed sideways and back. My arms burned and I considered turning around.
Landing on a rock shelf protruding from the west shore of the lake, we waited for the wind to die down. An osprey soared overhead, also battling the wind. A thin veil of low clouds swept over the tops of surrounding mountains. And eventually, when the wind did not abate, we stubbornly decided to forge ahead.
Paddling south, the steep slopes and sheer cliffs of Conners Nubble rose to our right. And just beyond that, the water calmed as the mountains blocked the wind. The south end of the lake was a haven that day. We lingered, stepping out of our boats for a few minutes to stand on a rocky stretch of shore. In the shallows, giant frog tadpoles — I’m talking as big as the palm of my hand — swam in the sun. At first I thought they were some sort of strange fish, then I noticed hind legs flailing under the tail. We also spotted a few actual fish (though I couldn’t tell you what kind), and along the shore were bunches of bright pink sheep laurel blossoms.
The wind pushed at our backs on the way back, lending us speed. Along the way, I spotted two loons fishing and a large snapping turtle lounging on a rock. We also spied the mysterious stone arches along the east shore. Despite the challenges of the trip, it turned out great, and we were able to gain a little more experience navigating wind and waves in our new boats.
Aislinn Sarnacki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her 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.