Sunday, May 15, 2011

Phillips Lake, Dedham Maine

Phillips Lake with Bald Mountain in the background
Basics: Access from Pearl Point Rd (off Poplar Rd) Narrow Gravel Ramp, not much parking. No facilities.

Phillips Lake is lovely, deep and clear, decorated with granite boulders, surrounded by hills, sprinkled with islands. Access is limited.  The launch is a narrow strip wedged between a private beach and Camp Capella, parking is limited to some wide spots at the top of the ramp and along the camp road. So, it’s not a place I would recommend visiting on a hot summer weekend.
The launch in use, the rock to the right marks one boundary
We were there on the one bright day of the week, the one day above 50 degrees, the one day without rain and the many black flies who’ve been lurking in shelter all week building up an increasing hunger were there too. Generally, I expect black flies to be bad at a launch and often carry a bug net to use while I strap down boats. But usually on the water, they tend to disperse. These persistent bugs were always with us. I hear that black flies can’t fly over 1 mph, but I suspect they may be faster, for whenever the wind died, there they were. Not that they were terrible, but they were always nearby, ready to crawl on my face.

Six of the islands on Phillips Lake (Shelter, Patmos, Treasure, Fortune, Mystery, Moccasin) allow access through an easement by Great Pond Mountain Trust and available for careful day use (no fires). Sadly, I’ve yet to find a map naming the islands, but one has a sign posted on it clearly marking it for day use. Not that it mattered to us, because I was not going to voluntarily stop to feed the natives.
Instead we wove between the islands, admiring a little Christmas tree island.

And the ice carved  rocks.
We cruised the shore admiring the houses, especially this classic cottage, built right on a rock by the shore.
As the wind died off for longer and longer periods, we decided to return to the launch and practice efficient boat loading.

Black flies are considered “the defenders of the wilderness” by the Maine Black Fly Breeders Association. And it is true that they do encourage a certain efficiency to outdoor usage. As I looked at various black fly sites, I was reminded that black flies prefer dark colors and are attracted to perfumes. They mainly stick to the head, so a hat is advised (and sometimes a bug net). They are rarely active below 50 degrees and a mere 4-7 dry hot days usually eliminate the scourge. Much like rain, they are rarely as unpleasant to endure as missing out on a day of paddling. And as a bonus, the male black fly is thought to be a major pollinator of blueberries, so they aren’t pure evil.

These last little foxes are from an evening paddle (sans flies) along the Penobscot. I’m not sure if there den is in the banks or that’s just where they were hiding while momma was out hunting.


  1. Phillips Lake looks like a great paddling spot (sans Black flies!). Do you have to be on the look out for the "underwater" ice carved rocks? Great photo of the little foxes! Looks like you were able to paddle rather close to them?

  2. Asute observations! It is a beautiful lake, and you do need to keep your eyes open for rocks; in fact one is lurking near the surface in the Christmas island photo.

  3. I love your pictures. How little the lake has changed in close to 30 years. I spent every summer until I was fourteen visiting family. With little else to do my brother and I navigated every inch of the lake in our canoe. We camped out on the islands, and made forts to fight of "bad guys". The rocks surrounding many of the islands have always been a bit scary. I believe the island with the tree on it used to have a tiny cabin on it. The tree is bigger, but in about the same place.

    I am glad you enjoyed the lake. Thank you again for sharing

  4. How lucky you were; Phillips looks like an amazing area for exploring and swimming. Did you try jumping off any boulders?