Muscongus Bay Kayak Trip

Hi, My friends and I are planning a 3-day kayak trip and I’d like to try Muscongus Bay after reading so many good things about it. I’m having a hard time finding some answers, though. Mainly,

  1. Is there spot where we can launch and leave the cars for 3 days?

  2. I know there’s a bunch of island hopping in Muscongus. Which islands are available for camping?

  3. Anybody have any recommended spots or itineraries? We’re happy to paddle ~15 miles per day or a little more if the conditions are friendly.

    Anything else?

    thanks so much

Lots of time in Muscongous
We’ve been going there for over 20 years. Just for starters, join the Maine Island Trail Association and get the book. They should be coming off the printing press just about now.

As to your questions - there are public as well as private islands. The private islands require you be a MITA member, are much less crowded and offer more flexibility in places to camp if you need to have a slow but safe return home behind islands for bad weather. Or you can stay land-based and still be in a great spot to het all of the islands on the western side from your beach, staying on Ames Island. Look up the Flood’s Cove website for more info there.

Lots of launch points, some less friendly to overnight cars with out of state plates than others.

Fog can be a huge issue. If you can’t navigate in pea soup, don’t go for stuff well offshore.

When are you going and what is the general level of the paddlers involved? I can give you better info if I know that.

Muscongus details
Thanks Celia. The paddlers in the group are probably all in the intermediat-ish level, though I don’t know them all yet. All able-bodied 30-40 y.o. males. do you have details on parking-friendly launch spots? I or someone in the group will join MITA, but your recommendations for good spots would be great. thanks.

More thoughts

– Last Updated: May-23-12 8:30 AM EST –

First, you did not answer my question about fog. That can be particularly bad in June, some years into early July, and we are due for a nasty bout this year. Two years ago was pretty clear, last summer was stunningly so, and that part of the coast never gives you three light-fog early summers in a row. So unless you have some fog-paddling skills that went unmentioned, I'd suggest a mainland base camp. That way you can't get stuck out there.

The best in terms of privacy and sheltered alternatives to get to some nice islands is Ames Island, four maybe five camp sites set up on an isthmus that forms the western boundary of Flood's Cove in Friendship. There are cabins on the other side of the cove but the camp sites are all set up so that you don't see the cabins and vice versa. The camp sites are quite lovely and private, look out over the Medomak River, and there is a screened gazebo at the southern end of the island where you can eat in peace from the mosquitoes. It also has a hell of a view. At low tide you can walk across on a land bridge and get fresh water from a spring. Parking no issue, comes with using the sites on a road off the main loop thru the cabins.

Ames Island is in the MITA book but is also a paid situation (very reasonable) - sites developed by the owner of Flood's Cove.

The obvious choices for leaving a car parked for three days either cost money or can be problematical in other ways. On the western edge you have a private marina, Round Pond Harbor and Muscongous Harbor. You'd need to call each of these to find out cost or viability for leaving a car parked. But the other issue with these is that it is a lot longer haul to get to some of the nicer private islands than from anywhere in Friendship. And the wind and tide can throw you a hell of a cropper getting across to there at times, an issue if you have to take whatever you can find in three days.

There are two options further north along the western boundary. Bremen Town Launch is one, but is notoriously unsafe for out of state plates even for day paddling according the locals who like us. Broad Cove is fine, but you have to paddle out the last leg of the Medomak a ways to get to the islands. Ames is much closer to islands.

There is a town launch in Friendship, off of Martin Point Road, where Maine plates never get bothered overnight. It jumps into Hatchett Cove, not a horrid starting spot to get to islands. But I am not sure about out of state plates, at least unless it is after July 4 when they just have to put up with out of towners. I'd suggest a call to the Town. Some of the minor launch points in Friendship are not landable at low tide. Bradford Point is a nice launch for a day paddle out of Friendship, but I do not believe that you can leave a car there overnight unless they know it is a local. Do not bother the folks at Friendship Harbor about launching out of there - it is a working harbor and they get damned cranky about it. Rightly so, since there are other launches in town.

Port Clyde is a tough option, but I just read eel's post and apparently he has found a way to leave a car there. But as he said, the (OOPS! eastern) side isn't the best for places to get to.

I disagree with him about the western side being best though - I really think that Friendship has the best location for getting to the islands. It is pretty much in the middle.

As to camp sites on islands - if you must - Crow is quite a close hop from some place like Round Pond, but is also a public island so you can find yourself sharing the space with a troop of boy scouts. Thief is the other public island, but you can get stuck by weather on Thief. The crossing to the mainland is just interesting enough that people have had to stay an extra day.

Below part edited out. kayakmedic has a point... though our visits to the private islands in Muscongous has indicated that total compliance with the rules is not to be guaranteed. Summer-only guides from outside of Maine are the usual issue from what we have seen on the water and in the log books.

If you base on Ames Island, in bad weather you could beach in Hatchett Cove, walk up the road to Flood's Cove, grab a car and drive the boats back to the dock.

Also - in Muscongous just stop and sit and wait when you see a lobster boat. It has the densest concentration of pots in that entire region of Maine, and it is easier to be annoying to them than not.

Some info
There is at least one great spot for parking and launching, but the owner doesn’t want it advertized or spoken about to the public so it is not even mentioned in the MITA guide. His reasons are legitimate and I’m not even going to give a hint.

However, on the western side there is limited OK parking and a nice ramp at Round Pond which I have used for multi-day trips no problem. There is also the Broad Cove Marina which provides good parking and a decent launch site for a modest fee. I have used it too without problems. On the Eastern side you can arrange to park your car in the lot for the Mohegan Mail Boat/ferry and launch from the Port Clyde ramp. They will let you park for several days at a per diem rate. Odds are you will want to launch from the Western side as there are few camping islands on the East side.

If its foggy it is best NOT
to paddle in the morning in Muscongus. The lobster hauling traffic is heavy. Lobster boats have the right of way over kayaks and often they never see you. They start hauling about four AM.

I like a couple of the MITA Islands up in the bay but avoid leaving a car at Dutch Neck. Its notorious for vandalism. Broad Cove is quite a bit safer. Round Pond sometimes gets quite crowded.

Thief being a public island with limited camping can be expected to be full up on weekends. Here is where a MITA membership pays dividends… use of some half dozen private islands not open to the public.

I didn’t see a question about fog - most, if not all, of the paddlers in the group have navigating experience. Also, we are going in late August.

Thanks for the information. I have plenty of research to do leading up to the trip. We’re all in Maine so maybe our cars will be spared.

Sorry we answered a question you
didn’t ask. But last August we ran into fog too one morning. And while navigating is not a big deal…dead reckoning works well with not much current, being seen is.

In that case

– Last Updated: May-22-12 9:35 AM EST –

If you live in southern Maine you should go to a SMSKN meeting or paddle and ask around. You will likely hear about places nobody mentions to both launch and camp. Some owners of islands let friends and friends of friends camp on their islands if discreet. You can also just walk into MITA office, ask questions and get a great deal of info and suggestions.

Edit: When suggested stopping by MITA I was assuming you would join. My opinion is anyone who paddles much on the coast of Maine should contribute/join MITA and MCHT.

Just join MITA
I am not even mentioning private islands. There are a few of them in Muscongus… Its simply not appropriate to mention them to the general public. While the OP may join there are lurkers too.

safe parking
We just got back from there. Last year we found completely safe parking at the end of Muscongus Point Road (drive thru Damariscotta). The owner and his son are welcoming and they let us use their hose to fill up our waterbags. It’s very convenient and a short carry. They do charge 10/day to park.

Call Nelson Webber at 207-529-4004 to let them know you’re coming.