Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on the weather and how much of the pond and adjoining stream you explore.
Information: Etna Pond is a shallow body of water that covers 362 acres in the towns of Etna, Carmel and Stetson. An excellent place for paddling, fishing and using small motorized boats, the pond is split into two basins, which some locals refer to as Big and Little Etna ponds. A narrow section of open water joins these two basins, and flowing out of the smaller of the two is a wide, calm portion of Souadabscook Stream — another great place to explore by boat.
While a few houses dot the pond’s edge, much of the shoreline is undeveloped, including the entire shore of the pond’s smaller basin. In addition, the wide section of Souadabscook Stream — stretching from Etna Pond to a beaver dam near Fuller Road in Carmel — is entirely undeveloped, giving boaters a feeling of remote wilderness.
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The plants growing along the edge of the pond and stream vary from dense bushes and cattails to mixed forest. This combination of open freshwater, wetlands and forest makes for excellent wildlife watching. A variety of birds nest in the vegetation bordering the pond and stream, including red-winged blackbirds, grackles, common loons and flycatchers such as the eastern kingfisher. Warblers and other songbirds call from the forest. Great blue herons stalk fish and frogs in the shallows. And bald eagles sometimes perch along the water’s edge to fish.
Especially on a spring morning, paddlers can enjoy a chorus of birdsong. Eastern painted turtles are sometimes found basking on rocks and fallen trees. And beavers are active along Souadabscook Stream, where you’ll find two beaver lodges and a dam.
Etna Pond used to be called Nawlombages Pond, an Abenaki word that roughly translates to “a little pond upstream,” according to the resource “Indian Place Names of New England” compiled by John C. Huden. The pond has also been known as Parker Pond.
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Etna Pond’s maximum depth is about 12 feet, so it tends to warm up quickly in the summer. Anglers can find smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, white perch, chain pickerel, American eels and other fish in its waters, according to surveys last conducted in 2000 by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
In the narrow section between the two basins, keep an eye out for an old, abandoned turquoise car wedged into the forest.
For more information about the boat launches, call the Etna town office at 207-269-3551 or the Carmel town office at 207-848-3361.
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Personal note: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much birdsong,” my mom, Joyce, said while paddling along a narrow stretch of Etna Pond recently.
It was a balmy, sunny morning, with the temperature creeping into the low 80s. The water resembled old glass, with the gentlest of ripples and dimples marring its otherwise smooth surface. All along the shore, birds called out, their whirs, cheeps, trills and whistles mixing together in a wild chorus.
My mother is a part of a small pod my family created during the COVID-19 pandemic. So while I haven’t been able to see friends for months (other than virtually), I’m happy that I can at least spend time with a few family members, granted we all stay safe and practice social distancing. And my mom is always down for a good outdoor adventure.
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Launching from the boat launch at the end of Town Landing Road in Etna, we paddled along the shore in two kayaks, heading southwest to the narrows between the pond’s two basins. Along the way, we spotted a pair of eastern kingbirds, which is a fairly large fly-catching bird with a dark gray head and back, and a white belly and throat. In fact, upon later inspecting the photos I took, I noticed that one bird was actually munching on a fly as it perched in a tree bordering the water.
A great blue heron flew overhead, its long legs trailing behind it. An eastern painted turtle slid off a rock with a splash. Red-winged blackbirds clung to cattails and belted out a variety of songs, including a robotic trill that’s easy to recognize. Every once in a while, one would fly right in front of us, showing off its bright red shoulders, which are far more noticeable when the bird’s wings are outstretched. And of course, I took the opportunity to offer my mom an unsolicited nature lesson, pointing out the female red-winged blackbirds are actually brown and stripy. Their coloring is so dissimilar that it’s easy to assume they’re entirely different species, but their general shape is the same.
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Heading across the smaller of the two basins, we navigated our way down a lazy section of Souadabscook Stream, following its gentle turns until we reached a boat launch by a large beaver dam. There we beached our boats and took a snack break at a picnic table, then retraced our route back to the pond.
That day, we only saw two other boats: a small pontoon boat that politely slowed down to pass us and a small motorboat occupied by two young fishermen. They, too, were exceptionally polite, giving us plenty of space to load our boats before using the boat launch themselves.
The outing reminded my mom of how much she loves kayaking in peaceful places. And it reminded me of how patient and enthusiastic my mom is as a wildlife watching companion. I think I’ll have to ask her on another adventure soon.
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How to get there: Etna Pond can be explored from at least two well-maintained public boat launches. One boat launch is located at the end of Town Landing Road in Etna. From Route 2 in Etna, turn onto Lakins Road (Route 43) and drive north about 0.7 mile. Turn right onto Town Landing Road and drive about 0.3 mile to the boat launch, continuing straight at any intersections along the way. At the boat launch are signs directing traffic in a one-way loop to drop off boats by the water, then continue to park in the gravel parking lot a bit farther from shore. Be sure not to block others from dropping off boats. A portable outhouse and picnic table are located near the launch, which features a trailerable concrete ramp beside a long, sturdy, wheelchair-accessible dock.
A second boat launch, which just opened in July 2019, is located on Fuller Road in Carmel. From Main Road (Route 2) in Carmel, turn onto Fuller Road and drive about 0.3 mile, passing straight through the intersection with Damascus Road, and the boat launch will be on your left. It has a big gravel parking area, a picnic table by the water, and a trailerable concrete boat ramp that leads to Souadabscook Stream just before a beaver dam. This boat launch is a great option if your main goal is to explore Souadabscook Stream.
Aislinn Sarnacki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook: facebook.com/1minhikegirl, Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.