Friday, September 2, 2011

Hermon Pond and the tranquility of small streams

Basics: Launch Jackson Beach on Hermon Pond, off Newburgh Rd in Hermon, Maine, open 9AM to Sunset. No entrance fee, but there is a gate that does close. Changing rooms, pit toilets, concrete ramp, short dock, picnic tables, grills. Alternative unofficial launch where Newburgh Rd and the railroad cross the Souadabscook Stream. About 4 miles to circumnavigate Hermon Pond, 2 miles to and around Ben Annis and back, 1.5 miles to the first dam upstream on the Souadabscook and back, 6 miles upstream on the Souadabscook to Black Stream and back.
Just off the launch, heading for Ben Annis pond (What a fun name!)
Jackson Beach can be a nice place to go when you have more paddlers than boats. Those on shore can picnic, fish, run around and/or swim (untended swimming and the water does get algae.)
A couple of tables. The picnic area extends quite a ways over to the ramp
Though it’s a small pond, Hermon Pond is also a gathering place for local fisherman. Every evening we’ve been there a few other boats have been launching, taking advantage of the new concrete boat launch, and additional gravel. The boat dock is the same short dock as it’s been in prior years.
When the water level is high enough, you can sneak from Hermon Pond into Ben Annis Pond. The connection to Ben Annis is located along the south east shore, between the picnic area and the houses. The entrance is quite narrow and twisty, perfect for nimble recreation kayaks, a challenge for our longer boats. It was also shallow and weedy, even with additional water from recent rain, we barely made it. (In the top photo I am midway there.)
This is what the entrance looks like from Hermon Pond
Ben Annis is a tiny pond, with no houses. It reminds me of the end of the life-cycle of a pond as illustrated in all the ecology books of my youth. Ben Annis is rapidly becoming either a marsh or a swamp. Herons, kingfishers and a variety of ducks are frequently found in Ben Annis.
On Ben Annis
Hermon Pond is surrounded by camps, mostly converted into year round houses, and a few larger houses. An eagle nests in a pine along the shore, osprey are frequent sightings, as are loons.
Along the shore grow thousands of red maples, whose colors are beginning to change even now.
But is especially striking at peak, as this photo from a prior year shows.
This photo was taken on Hermon Pond near the entrance to Ben Annis
About a quarter of a mile to the north of the launch, the Souadabscook Stream feeds into Hermon Pond. This is a beautiful quiet stream, wide and deep enough for carefree paddling. It’s a wonderful place to see wildlife; beaver lodges line the stream, sunning turtles are a frequent sighting, especially in the fall. Trees lean over the stream and regularly topple in, rarely they form arches, like this arch near Hermon Pond.

There are the remains of three stone dams on the stream, and at least two beaver dams. Each dam is an obstruction where the water narrows and the speed of the water increases. Sometimes the water at the dams is low and the openings obstructed by beaver debris so there is no choice but to portage. Other times, water moves swiftly through the narrow opening. Over the years, we’ve each capsized at a dam. These are the only capsizes we’ve had outside of rescue sessions, surf lessons and attempts to stand. For my capsize, I was doing something incredibly foolish, paddling up as fast as I could, then when I stalled in the current, attempting to grab a branch on a tree growing on the dam. Mark was flipped while turning around at the base of the narrow outlet, when the stream pushed the rear of his kayak onto a rock. The sensible thing to do is portage at the dams. But we usually attempt to just plow through, because plainly we’d rather capsize than admit we can’t paddle quickly.

Near Route 2, the Souadabscook meets the Black Stream, though a wide section of the Souadabscook continues to the left (west.) To the right (north) the Black Stream flows downstream to the Kenduskeag. I don’t know how long they remain paddle-able.

A few wildlife sightings included some bryozoan  ( and this somewhat drippy hornet’s nest – found up near the Black Stream.

The Souadabscook is a peaceful and quiet stream, protected from the wind. Heading downstream can be so calming that it is almost like meditation, making this a great end of day paddle.

We went to Hermon Pond two nights this week, the first night we were there photographing mainly Ben Annis and the entrances. We went to the Souadabscook after, making it only as high as the second dam before deciding to turn back. The trip back was just totally relaxing, but reviewing the photos, I didn’t see any which showed the width of the stream, the canopy above, the security of it all. So, the next night we went back to get a picture of the stream with trees bending over it. We spent time watching a bat out well before dusk, flying over the stream and dipping down to the water’s surface to capture insects. I attempted to save a beautiful dragonfly by putting it on my deck to dry. Once its wings were half-dry it took off and landed back in the stream. Again I rescued it; again it flew off to the water. The third time I brought it to a downed tree on shore. It rested there a minute, then flew back and crashed again in the center of the stream. I figured it must be time for the obviously suicidal dragonfly to feed the fishes.

Continuing on, we were successful in charging up all the dams. We were amused by a kingfisher which lingered on branches until our fingers nearly pressed the camera shutter buttons, then it flew off, landing on a branch a few feet ahead only to repeat the game. We made it up to Black Stream and were happily going further, when we noticed the sun was much lower than we expected.
No peaceful paddle back, no calm feeling; instead a nice aerobic workout as we raced the sun back to the launch. And that's why in the photo above, I'm headed upstream.


  1. Growing up in Maine I probably have an unnatural fear of the ocean, so when I see your pond and stream adventures I feel more comfortable. I love the stone and beaver dams, as well as those hanging trees and branches. As fall comes the bonus of colors is just icing on the cake! While I now live in the desert, your adventures bring me there. Nice!

  2. Great post! Looks like I would be right at home paddling Hermon Pond!

  3. You can paddle at least 2.4 miles up the Souadabscook above Black Stream. It is gorgeous, there are no more dams, and the only signs of habitation are a dock that the owner walks/rides to and a railroad bridge.

  4. Thanks for the info, we'll have to try that!

  5. This is awesome. Me and my friends are planning to go up there tomorrow to clean up a little for a community service project in my English class! It looks pretty clean though, I wonder if we will even find anything to clean up!

  6. Good for you guys! I suspect there will be trash by Jackson Beach, ad maybe even some on the stream. But we are fortunate that most folks are careful when they're outside. Let me know how you project goes!

  7. The "amphibian egg mass" is not one. I had made the same mistake when I first saw one in my lake. It is a bryozoan, A colonial filter feeder and much more fascinating. Look them on on the web.

  8. Not an egg mass, it is a Bryaozoan.