Damariscotta Lake, Maine | Great Coastal Lake

Damariscotta Lake on Maine’s busy Midcoast is the glacier’s gift to those of us who love to look at the ocean but shiver at the thought of jumping in.

By Christina Tree

Jul 01 2013

Lake Kayak
Lake Kayak
Damariscotta Lake on Maine’s busy Midcoast.

Damariscotta Lake is the glacier’s gift to those of us who love to look at the ocean or sail it but shiver at the thought of jumping in. Sited on Maine’s busy Midcoast, Damariscotta is a big, pristine lake with summer water temps that top 70 degrees.

Fourteen miles stem to stern, Damariscotta Lake seems longer, changing character as it wanders north through three towns, its largely wooded shoreline patched with rolling farmland. Great Bay, the north basin, is wide and deep, good for catching smallmouth bass and trout, while South Arm is skinny and shallow, great for swimming.

Locals gather on the grassy bank and ledges of Ice House Park in Damariscotta Mills, not far off coastal Route 1. A sign reads No Foul Language as well as No Alcoholic Beverages, but nothing prohibits kids from jumping off the bridge.

The public boat access is a few miles farther up on Bunker Hill Road (Route 213), and there are spruce-topped islands to paddle out to. Although there’s no boat ramp at the state park, you can launch a kayak or canoe from there.

Damariscotta Lake State Park, the major public swimming access, is in Jefferson, nine miles north of Route 1. The sand beach there is backed by picnic tables and grills under pines, and the shallow water is great for short legs. There are changing facilities and a playground, but no snack bar or camping. For sustenance there’s the Jefferson Scoop up the road and the general store beyond.

At Damariscotta Lake Farm (at the junction of Routes 126 & 32), twin rows of private cottages file down to the dockside building housing the Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association, a clue to this lake’s pristine look and water quality. Founded in 1966, the association, with nearly 500 member families, is fiercely dedicated to maintaining the lake’s ecosystem. Its office is a source of local maps, books, and a summer sailing program for kids.