Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kennebec River, Augusta ME: Wildlife and Current

Beach beside the launch.  That tiny white dot by the bridge piling; a sturgeon jumping or an osprey diving?
  If you're in Augusta, even if you're without boats, you should stop by the boat launch under the Memorial Bridge.  There's a small park there, trees for shade, a playground, picnic tables and benches looking over the river.  And a great variety of wildlife;  we saw osprey, eagles blue heron, herring gulls, mink, and ducklings.  But we were there primarily to look for sturgeon.  Large 3-4 foot long sturgeon, which for unknown reasons jump straight up out of the river, primarily in late June and July.  And, while you can just sit on the shore and look for sturgeon, if you have a boat available, it's also fun to play on the Kennebec River.

     Augusta has about a five foot tidal range, we were there about an hour before low, with a swift moving down river current, and a moderate south wind acting against it.  Noting the eddylines, we choose to ride the current down to buoy 82, cross there and wend our way back using old boom islands to assist us.

  Just above buoy 82 are some great stone buildings, the old Kennebec Arsenal, built between 1828 and 1838.  These structures were annexed by the nearby Maine State Hospital in 1905, and abandoned in 2004.   Note the wonderful broad ship landing, and the elegant copper structures capping the ventilation shafts.  It's a beautiful property, awaiting redevelopment.   

Picking my way back upstream behind boom islands, the launch is just beyond the bridge
    Having made it back to the launch in a reasonable time and with a reasonable effort, we headed north, past Old Fort Western.   Fort Western was built in 1754, and is New England's oldest  remaining  wooden Fort.  A bateau associated with the fort was docked at the landing.

    We made it up to the railroad bridge before reaching a point of no further progress, then crossed the Kennebec and rode down to the buoy again.

Gliding by the Old Augusta Post Office and Courthouse, the mink was hiding along this shore

  Along the way we probably saw ten or twelve sturgeon jump, including a few really big ones.  We didn't get any pictures, but Linwood Riggs, a patient photographer, has captured several jumping sturgeon.  Our wildlife photography was limited to some gangly ducks hoping for a handout.

  It was a delightful evening, temps in the 70's, low humidity, incredible architecture, amazing animals and just a great time to play on the water.

Summary:  Launch:  Augusta Boat Launch, off Howard Lane.  Concrete ramp, kayak condos, several parking spaces shared with a picnic and playground area, porta-potties.  The Augusta Tide Chart is here, it's far enough up river to have a very different tide from most places.  The loop with the extra section was 2.5 miles.

Links:  Kennebec Arsenal
           Wikipedia Kennebec Arsenal:

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