Moosehead. The Kennebec. And An Endless Steps Workout

OH MY! Wildlife delivers $1.4 billion to Maine’s economy; $1.9 billion w multipliers. Begs the question, is the Moosehead Region ready to secure this and other nature-based economic assets against inappropriate development or over-use? Do all of Maine’s ‘gateway’ communities have the support they need to harness conservation for long-term economic health?

On August 16th, I will be a guest of a Natural Resources of Maine webinar to discuss recreation tourism in the Moosehead Lake region. The panel will share our ideas on the issue as well as tips of how to explore the region. (Info and registration here.)

Explore Moosehead Tips:

Suggest you access land sites around 6 AM (or on September weekdays) as hiking and fishing sites have gotten very popular. (Pandemic discovery has not waned.)

Paddling on Indian Pond

Paddling: Moosehead Lake often has big water, pushed by its forty-mile length. My favorite paddle is the north end of Indian Pond (fed by the Kennebec River’s two headwaters leaving the lake). It has protected shores, campsites, hidden coves and a very wild marsh.  Paddle up toward East Outlet to find current and rapids that dump into the pond or find wild marshlands and wild coves where West Outlet joins the pond. (Accessed on a dirt road the leaves 6 & 15 as you head north.)

Further up the east side of the lake, Spencer Bay is surrounded by public land and it’s often a more protected paddle as well. Put in at the public campsite at the east end. (Use your Delorme Atlas.) I like to paddle into pebble beaches on the north side, plunk a folding chair in the water, and read and swim all day.

Fly Fishing: Try the Moose River below the dam, the Roach River or East Outlet around 6 AM or seek out smaller streams and remote ponds. Although the Maine Guide Fly Shop is no more, its old site has all you need to know to find a remote pond.

Treat yourself by renting a drift boat with guide. (And if the fishing does get tough, guides pull out every trick they know and you’ll walk away with tons of strategies.)

My favorite dog walking off leash: the ski area (at least until it gets developed.) Best wildflowers ever, late June until late July. (Stay away from raspberry areas in late summer. Bears.)

Fav workout: I used to hike up into the Squaw Mt Trail (find the info kiosk off rt 6 and 15 north of town) to the seemingly endless rock steps built by the Youth Conservation Corps. Try and do them up and back without stopping and then sit in the cool stream. (At the top of the stairs is a fine lookout off to the left.)

Biking: There’s off road biking on endless dirt roads. Look at your Delorme Atlas and imagine biking anywhere ‘dirt” from the Prong Pond public access just past Beaver Cove Marina. (Take a page from the Atlas with you.) The main roads are not safe.

Kid stuff;  Catch-something easy places: Prong Pond and Mt View Ponds have good parking and boat ramps for motor or carry in (and are stocked). Drop a canoe in the ponds below the West Outlet dam. Kid hikes: Lily Bay State Park has some lovely woods trails. The Moose Ponds areas has several options. The first pond you get to is an easy, fun hike and there’s a small beach for swimming. Great loons. For adults or older kids, the whole loop is lovely and the upper pond is quieter. (Find the public lands info kiosk north of town.)

The Natural Resource Education Center partners with AMC to offer week youth long summer camps that are rich in experiential outdoor fun.

Best views.  Eagle Rock: locals know the best and shortest way … about an hour … to get there is the old trail access further down the road past the turn-off to the Indian Pond launch area. Almost 360 views of Katahdin over to the Whites. Some wonderful souls continue to mark the old trail. (The new trail is over 12 miles round trip. Not going to do that.)

A trip for all abilities. A short shuttle to Kineo and its trails runs every hour from Rockwood docks. Some folks can just stroll the trail at the lake’s edge. Others can climb up to the restored fire tower. There’s something for everyone. (This shuttle and trail are very popular in the summer, but again, go early. It’s worth it.)

X-Ski or Snowshoe. The volunteers at the ski area flat-groom a great 5-mile loop. Lily Bay state park maintains some trails. I like to ski out to park campground areas on the lake and then explore the nearby islands. I also drive up to the AMC’s wonderful maintained trails and while it’s almost an hour or more, it’s worth it. Thank you, AMC! (Ski from West Branch Pond camps down toward Lyford camps and back. Just lovely.)


Economic issues find their way into the plots of my murder mysteries, because I care about the forest’s future. (And at Maine Audubon, I researched and shared the economic value of our woods, waters, and wildlife.)

“Deadly Turn” Here the narrator is hiking out of the woods with a 15-year-old who’s just trapped and then released her dog.

If trapping was his survival issue, I needed to watch my words.

Wildlife, how it got managed and how money got made off it, was the second hottest issue in Maine. Second only to anything to do with sex. Money from people pursuing any kind of wildlife recreation—trapping, fishing, hunting and even just watching animals—sent over a billion dollars to us each year. I was sure any benefits from sexual activity weren’t as carefully tallied.

Chan turned to face me, one hand clenched white on his shotgun.

“OK. OK. Down there around water is where most all the animals need to come and go from where they live, eat, hide, hunt. Me too, so I’ve met most of them.” He smiled a soft smile that didn’t make it to his eyes. “I’ve killed ducks, partridge, deer, bear, otter, mink, coyote, fox, beaver, muskrat, bobcat, raccoon, and squirrel. Add marten. And one fisher. And skunks under our house. If I won a permit in the moose lottery, I’d kill a moose, too.” He tipped his chin into the air and looked down his long regal nose at me.


On Amazon, find “Lost Landscapes and Failed Economies” and “Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities” (last one is my fav book to re-shape local planning perspective).

$$$$  About Recreational Tourism: Recreational Tourism is Big Business. For example:

Boothbay Harbor, Maine: A land trust survey on trail use spending: visitors $73.77 per day and seasonal residents an average of $57.94 per day. The annual economic impact from visitors to land trust preserves was $3.9 million in revenue, generating 39 full-time and part-time jobs and $1.1 million in related labor income.

Skowhegan is investigating the creation of a whitewater activity park. Research from other towns hosting this kind of site suggest $6 million a year in its first year and up to $19 million by its 10th year. In year one, 43 Jobs in Skowhegan and 54 in Maine total. By year 10, 136 local jobs, 171 statewide. (In addition to the boaters or tubers, thousands of people visit just to watch the fun.)

The 60-mile Mt. Agamentius conservation area in southern coastal Maine delivers between $5.3 -$6.4 million in goods and services and economic value.

Wildlife delivers $1.4 billion to Maine’s economy; $1.9 billion w multipliers.  (For perspective, snowmobiling, a significant economic contributor, is about $459 million.)

For every $1 spent to acquire a Land for Maine’s Future conservation site, $11 is returned in goods and services. (Moosehead Lake’s Mt Kineo and its trails were its first acquisition. Think how much economic activity Kineo generates because it has no, No Trespassing signs.)

Maine’s Great Ponds generate $6.7 billion per year.

Acadia National Park generates $3,400 per acre in goods and services. ((Actively managed forest land’s economic contribution is about $368 an acre. How much per acre do Moosehead’s outdoor assets deliver? What if we lose hundreds of economically productive acres to sprawl and inappropriate development?)

Maine outdoor recreation delivers $2.3 billion and 4.7% of the state’s employment. (How much does outdoor recreation deliver to the Moosehead region? How many jobs?)


  1. Well, general ignorance about how our woods, waters, and wildlife habitat is a multibillion-dollar asset that will deliver forever if we manage mindless sprawl, inventory a region’s prize assets, and use conservation strategies.

    The BEST book to help legislators and especially local rural planners realize that conservation works to secure a rural economy. “Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities”

2. We lack any state agency that combines conservation with the recreation economy. The Maine Office of Tourism does marketing and analysis. The Office of Outdoor Recreation has no conservation organizations on its partner list and says it “leverages Maine’s assets and outdoor recreation heritage to grow the outdoor recreation economy.” Hmmn……thinking that ‘leveraging’ is a financial transaction, not a strategy to preserve the goose that lays the golden recreational economy’s eggs.

Please join us for the webinar.

Sandy’s debut novel, “Deadly Trespass, A Mystery in Maine” won a national Mystery Writers of America award, was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, and was a finalist for a Maine Literary Award. The second Mystery in Maine, “Deadly Turn,” was published in 2021. Her third “Deadly” is due out in 2022. Find her novels at all Shermans Books (Maine) and on Amazon. Find more info on Sandy’s website.




About Sandra Neily

Sandy’s novel “Deadly Trespass” received a Mystery Writers of America award, was named a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, a finalist in the Mslexia international novel competition, a runner- up in Maine’s Joy of the Pen competition, and recently, an international SPR fiction finalist. Sandy lives in the woods of Maine and says she’d rather be “fly fishing cold streams, skiing remote trails, paddling near loons, or just generally out there—unless I’m sharing vanishing worlds with my readers. "
This entry was posted in Sandra's Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Moosehead. The Kennebec. And An Endless Steps Workout

  1. Brenda Buchanan says:

    This is a treasure trove of a post, Sandy, for the tips about places to go and what to expect and (even more important) for your insight and wisdom about how conservation is critical in these precious places. Foresight is key, because overdevelopment is forever.

    • Sandra Neily says:

      Well put, Brenda. Overdevelopment is forever. Even bad forest cutting grows back. Driveways and septic systems don’t. Thanks for your caring and support!

  2. John Clark says:

    I second Brenda. Overdevelopment, mining and excessive cutting of timber are all unwelcome and unhealthy for Maine.

    • Sandra Neily says:

      Thanks John……check out what I wrote to Kait’s comment. There’s a lot of sentimentality in extraction industries (driving forward by looking out the rear-view window) that does not reflect the present value per acre of many lands. It’s hard for people to imagine that forests might deliver more jobs, as we can’t go to one job site and count workers, but often … forest lands are delivering more economic goods to an entire region, than a more limited number of extraction jobs.

  3. kaitcarson says:

    Fabulous tips to the treats and treasures of Maine. Definite YES to #2 of the problem section. Someone has to start looking at creating a woven fabric of wildlife assets and economic gain. I’m up here in the Crown – if you walk out my backdoor you can get to the St. Lawrence Seaway without encountering any habitation in about 100 miles. Sounds wonderful? Would be if not for the clear cuts, including deforesting the deer wintering areas. The lumber industry is an important economic generator for this area, but so is the wildlife. If this keeps up, Northern Maine will be the wilderness equivalent of a dirt parking lot. Sorry for the rant – I’ll park my soapbox at the door.

    • Sandra Neily says:

      Hi Kait…..out here clapping at your soapbox. Intensive forest harvesting might not be as huge a regional economic driver as you think. It is a sentimental industry where the much fewer mechanized jobs are nowhere near the past. Unless you have a working mill in town. The forest service found, after lots of lawsuits about giving cutting priority, that their forest lands deliver more in economic value per acre from other forest-based uses (chiefly various kind of recreation including wildlife life recreation) than intensive harvesting. At Maine Audubon, I created a project called “Conservation Works” to study the Rangeley Region and we found again (surprise to the locals) using an economist and other professionals as well as local info, that non-timber uses delivered more value to the region. No reason to stop some harvesting, just good reasons to do better planning and conservation of assets. Again, if there’s a mill in town it’s a tougher thing to prove depending on what the mill drops locally for money and jobs.

      • kaitcarson says:

        No mill. I’m in Wallagrass – but a huge stumbling block (as I understand it, not presenting myself as an expert here) is that the timberland is foreign owned. Although that company does have a mill in Madawaska, my neck of the woods has the forest!

Leave a Reply