Difficulty: Easy. The Kenduskeag Stream Trail is just under 2 miles, according to a trail map provided online by the City of Bangor. Surface with gravel in most areas, the trail is fairly wide and smooth.
How to get there: The trail’s southern end is on the north side of Franklin Street bridge in downtown Bangor, on the west bank of the Kenduskeag Stream. There is parallel parking along the side of Franklin Street. The trail’s northern end of the trail is off Valley Avenue, 0.4 mile north of where Valley Avenue crosses under I-95. There is a fairly large parking area just south of that end. The Kenduskeag Stream Trail can also be accessed at multiple points along the trail, including Lover’s Leap Park and Gateway Park, both on Valley Avenue.
Information: The Kenduskeag Stream Trail is a walking and biking path that runs along the Kenduskeag Stream for about 2 miles, connecting downtown Bangor with a number of small parks and scenic outlooks on the stream. Along the way, educational displays provide information about features of the landscape, local wildlife and the stream’s history.
Currently, the trail’s south end is the Franklin Street bridge in downtown Bangor, and its north end is upstream, near a parking area on Valley Avenue. However, the city and the Bangor Land Trust have recently discussed expanding the trail farther upstream.
A number of benches and picnic tables are located along the trail for people to rest and watch wildlife. Dogs are permitted but must be kept under control at all times. Pet owners are required to collect and dispose of pet waste while in public parks, per Bangor city ordinance.
Starting at the trail’s southern end at the Franklin Street bridge, the Kenduskeag Stream Trail begins with a display entitled “Abuse and Restoration” about the stream’s history.
The Kenduskeag Stream originates at Garland Pond in Garland and flows southeast through the towns of Corinth, Kenduskeag and Glenburn before striking through the center of Bangor, passing through downtown, and emptying into the Penobscot River.
While the stream isn’t pristine, it’s a great deal cleaner than it used to be.
In 19th century, a variety of mills were constructed along its banks, including sawmills, a flour mill, a grist mill and a tannery. Also during that time, public and private sewers were being constructed to discharge directly into the stream. It’s estimated that more than 1 million gallons of raw sewage was dumped into the stream each day by the middle of the 20th century, according to the display at the south end of the trail.
The Kenduskeag wasn’t cleaned up until the early 1960s, when the City of Bangor built interceptor sewers to remove the sewer discharges and volunteers started picking up debris and planting trees and shrubs along the river. Since then, the stream has mostly restored itself. Nowadays, the streams pools are filled with alewives, eels, trout and Atlantic salmon, and the shrubbery along the stream house a variety of songbirds. Bald eagles have been known to nest by its bank, teaching their young to fish in its waters.
From Franklin Street, the trail travels upstream and enters the woods, the hilliest area of the walk. A short distance down the trail, it crosses the stream on a footbridge behind the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing on Harlow Street. The iron and wood footbridge replaced the Morse Covered Bridge in the mid-1980s after it was destroyed in a fire.
After the bridge, the trail follows the stream on the east bank, which is lined with a wooden fence to prevent people from falling down the steep bank. However, in April, several sections of the fence were missing. Use caution in this area, especially if walking with children.
You’ll cross the stream again on the Harlow Street Bridge and then come to Gateway Park, where display offers information about the wildlife commonly seen on and near the stream. At the park, you’ll find a covered picnic table, as well as a lawn shaded by pines. This is a good spot to look for waterfowl in a relatively calm section of the stream.
Continuing on, the trail parallels Valley Avenue and soon comes to Lover’s Leap Park, where there’s an observation deck overlooking the stream and a 150-foot tall cliff called Lover’s Leap. The cliff is named after a legend of two lovers who were forbidden to be together and leapt to their deaths long ago, according to an educational display at the park.
After the lookout, the trail crosses the stream again on a road bridge, which has a narrow shoulder. Exercise caution. Beyond this point is what is known as the most peaceful 0.5-mile of the trail.
This section of the trail starts with a display about the annual Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, which has become the most popular whitewater race in the state, attracting hundreds of participants and spectators each year. The race will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.
After traveling under Interstate 95, the trail comes to an interesting wooden platform that zigzags out above the rapids. Near the platform is a display about the historic dams of the stream.
The trail then enters what’s known as Kenduskeag Stream Park, a peaceful grassy area dotted with trees. A covered picnic table near the edge of the stream and a sign marks the north end of the trail, which appears to continue on but enters private property.
If looking add distance to your walk (or run), the Kenduskeag Stream Trail’s southern end at Franklin Street connects to the Downtown-Waterfront Connector Trail, which leads through downtown (across a few busy roads) to the Penobscot River Walkway, which starts near Sea Dog Brewing Company. These two trails add about 1 mile to the walk, one way.
City trails are co-maintained by the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department and Bangor Forestry Division of Public Works. For information about the trails and their ongoing development, call 992-4900 or visit bangorparksandrec.com.
Personal note: For a couple years, I’ve visited spots along the Kenduskeag Stream Trail to look for bald eagles, hawks, turkey vultures and ducks. But I’d never walked the entire 2-mile trail until April 22, a sunny Wednesday in an otherwise rainy week.
My dog Oreo and I started at the Pickering Square parking garage and walked through downtown Bangor to the trail’s official start at the Franklin Street bridge, where a double-crested cormorant was swimming upstream. The large dark waterbird has a hooked orange and grey beak, round blue eyes, and tufted plumes that resemble large black eyebrows.
A man sitting on a bench near the stream remarked on the beauty of the day. It was his first time walking the trail too, and he offered to hold Oreo’s leash as I tried to photograph two noisy crows perched in a tree nearby. I politely declined, explaining Oreo’s discomfort with strangers.
While Oreo’s aversion to new people is usually disheartening, I was glad for my dog’s unfriendliness a few minutes down the trail when I ran into a group of people that instantly made me uncomfortable. Sitting on by the footbridge, they were drinking beer and smoking. One yelled after me, telling me that “marijuana wasn’t a drug, it was an herb.” I hadn’t asked. They asked to pet my dog, and for once, I felt good telling someone that Oreo wasn’t friendly.
From that point on, I only encountered kind people who were respectful of my (and Oreo’s) space. The trail became increasingly beautiful, though much of it was littered with trash. I wasn’t surprised. I’d heard the trail needed cleaning, so I had brought along a few trash bags and quickly filled them up — mostly with beer cans, fast food bags and soda cups.
At Lover’s Leap, I stopped to watch two whitewater kayakers take on the rapids below the 150-foot cliff. I imagined they were practicing for the famous Kenduskeag race, scheduled for that weekend.
I came across the first flowers I’d seen in many months in the park at the north end of the trail — blue and yellow, the blossoms stood out against the matted lawn, which was just beginning to turn green.