Thursday, July 26, 2012

Around Orson Island in Low Water

        When people think of summer in Maine, days like July 25 are the days they dream of:  low humidity, pleasant temperatures, a nice northwest breeze and a sky that goes forever.

      We were lucky to have the opportunity to paddle around Orson Island in Old Town, a place we’ve been before.  But this time, the water level was significantly lower than before, as evident in this launch photo.

Low water meant the squeeze point between Indian Island and Orson Island was not too much of a challenge.
    However water depth later on, at the easternmost tip (where the current reverses) and between Orson and other small islands was a problem, especially for Mark with his high angle stroke.

Wildlife was plentiful as ever.  We saw many turtles, fish, kingfishers, crows, herons, a few eagles, a swimming muskrat and beaver, various ducks and ducklings, as well a small hawk and other birds.

It was evident that some animals were taking advantage of lower water levels to gain access to more freshwater clams.

My favorite photos were of water-lilies blooming on mud flats. 

Summary:  Launch: Old Town Boat Launch, located on Fourth Street by the Elks.   Lots of Parking, but no facilities.  A public restroom is available in downtown Old Town, on North Main Street right by Riverfront Park playground.  It’s heated in the fall and cooled in the summer.  But it is not always open as early as we like or as late in the season as we like.  Stillwater Avenue, running from the highway has a variety of fast food restaurant as well as a Hannaford, all with restrooms.
     We prefer to go counter clockwise around Orson, a hard mile and a half against the current and the rest downstream.  There is a squeeze point to be wary of though, about a mile up, just after the beach on Indian Island.  After a heavy rain storm or in the spring the water comes through there at 3 to 4 knots.  One of our friends is so nervous about the squeeze point that she only does the circumnavigation clockwise. 
      All islands in the Penobscot River are a part of the Penobscot Indian Nation and all request no trespassing. However, right before the Twin Islands there are picnic tables on the mainland which are part of the Cutler Family Land, donated to Old Town for use as a park.  A second possible stopping area is the informal ramp where route 116 crosses over Birch Stream.  That’s located almost exactly halfway round.  The distance we paddled, which included some auxiliary islands was 8.4 miles, and took us about 2.5 hours, partly because it was the sort of day when you couldn’t help but take a break and just enjoy.


  1. Pretty sure the point labeled "Old Veazie Railroad" is actually the old extension of the B & A. It was the connection to Old Town. The Veazie Railroad connected Bangor to Milford crossing around where the current dam is.

    1. Scott, you're right! Thanks for the correction. Now I just have to figure out how to get the pin out of there....

  2. I lived there for 46 years and never did the trip you did. As a child the river scared the heck out of me and I never could get by it.
    In the 60's the water was very dirty, we used to fish not far from the landing. Nice to see all the beauty now.

    1. I'm so glad the Penobscot is cleaner know and I hope it stays this way. As to being afraid of the river, in the spring and winter the river is a far different place than midsummer. I was never allowed near rivers in the spring. Mark on the other hand grew up on the Kennebec, and tells tales that terrify me; of falling through the ice and playing out on leaky boats.