There are lots of nooks and crannies to explore and an abundance of wildlife to see at Runaround Pond in Durham.
A unique ravine leads to the old Judah Chandler Dam at Runaround Pond in Durham. Credit: Courtesy of Ron Chase

My one-word description for Runaround Pond is serene. I found the narrow 2.7-mile-long pond located in Durham last fall when I was looking for an easy kayak paddle while recuperating from hip surgery. I located it in my DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer when plotting a course to another pond and decided to stop on the way. From the moment I arrived at Runaround Pond Park, I was enthusiastic about everything I found. 

The park has a boat landing, picnic area, hiking trail, toilet and parking space for a few vehicles. The landing is ideal for a hand-carry launch. I backed my vehicle down to the water and literally dropped my kayak in the pond. 

The Runaround Pond Recreation Area is part of Royal River Conservation Trust. As can be evidenced by the conservation’s Landscape Map, there are lots of nooks and crannies to explore. One only has to paddle around the first bend to find the pond hosts an abundance of wildlife. 

Runaround Pond has an interesting history. In prehistoric times, it was home to the Wabanaki for centuries. In the mid-1700s, a settler named Judah Chandler moved to the area. He built a dam and sawmill at the head of a falls on a stream now named Chandler River. The dam created picturesque Runaround Pond. 

My first visit to Runaround was a very pleasurable paddling experience. I went back for another trip early this summer. Each time, I returned home extolling the benefits of my newfound kayaking adventure. Intrigued, my wife Nancy joined me on a recent visit. 

When we arrived at the park, Nancy immediately remarked, “This is nothing like what I expected.” That was similar to my first reaction. The landing on the eastern end of the pond is nestled in a wooded area that looks more like the entrance to a rest area than a pond. From the landing, only about an acre of pond is visible. From that viewpoint, you would not expect that a more substantial paddling outing is forthcoming. 

Shortly after launching, a great blue heron wading in swamp grass loudly squawked at us and begrudgingly flew farther west. Each time I’ve paddled Runaround, lone great blue herons have been encountered at different locations. I’m unsure if they’re the same bird or several.  

With the exception of a home situated at the top of a clearing near the western terminus, the shoreline of winding Runaround Pond is undeveloped. Besides the ubiquitous herons, wildlife is plentiful in this wilderness setting. Beavers, otters, eagles, ospreys and kingfishers are frequently spotted. Multitudes of turtles can usually be found lined up on logs along the shore. 

We passed a beaver hut on the left at the outlet of a tiny tributary but no sign of beavers. In that same area, we met a solo kayaker fishing. She reported several bites. Runaround Pond is a popular fishing destination. Bass and pickerel are plentiful. 

Shortly after passing the mouth of Libby Brook on the right, we entered a sector cluttered with colorful lily pads. Locating a route in the maze was similar to negotiating a slalom course. The dense vegetation continued and the pond narrowed as we progressed west. Beyond the distinctive home on the right, we arrived at a dock where a pontoon boat was moored. Since aquatic vegetation thickens at that location, it had been my turnaround in the past. 

Nancy and I decided to continue with our exploration. Although shallow and congested, we slowly progressed to an area where swamp grass appeared to block further advancement. Careful inspection identified an attenuated passage we negotiated using our paddles as setting poles. Just beyond, we converged on a culvert under Pownal Road. This was truly the end of the line, as submerged rocks prevented further progress. 

On our return, we followed the Libby Brook tributary to the end of navigation. An otter swam in front of us just before we rejoined the pond. Approaching the landing, we turned right and paddled through a tunnel under Runaround Pond Road and entered a unique ravine. The pond ends there at what appears to be Judah Chandler’s original dam. The 250-year-old barrier continues to provide for the serenity of Runaround Pond. 

Read about more than two dozen exciting paddling exploits in my book “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine.”

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Ron Chase, Outdoors Contributor

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is now available at northcountrypress.com/maine-al-fresco.html. His previous books are...