The 19-mile Pemaquid River starts at Tobias Pond in Waldoboro (Latitude: 44.134167 N Longitude: 69.439444 W) and ends at Johns Bay in Bristol.
In four stretches of the river, the river expands so broadly and has such narrow inlets and outlets that the stretches function more like ponds because the flow of water is slower through these areas of the river. In other words, Duckpuddle Pond, Pemaquid Pond, Biscay Pond, and Boyd Pond look and behave like ponds, even though they are really just wide sections of the Pemaquid River.
Enjoy a bird’s eye tour of the river by clicking here.
Recreation on the River
Paddling the Pemaquid River
The “Pemaquid Paddle Trail” puts in at the Nobleboro boat launch near the head of Pemaquid Pond, with an easy 10-mile paddle to the Bristol Mills Town Landing. Or, begin at Duckpuddle Pond, coming down into Pemaquid Pond through a wild, scenic marshland by way of Duckpuddle Stream.
The 7 miles from Bristol Mills to Pemaquid Falls has two portages (at Bristol Mills and at Pemaquid Falls) and is not passable below Boyd’s Pond in dry season. There is fine paddling on the saltwater portion of the Pemaquid River from Pemaquid Falls to Fort William Henry.
From May to October, the PWA Paddlers lead free weekly kayak trips around the region.
Pemaquid Paddling in the News
- Duckpuddle Pond boat launch (launch and parking area provided courtesy of 2 private landowners): From Rte 1, take Winslow Hill Rd 2 miles to Duck Puddle Rd. Turn on Duck Puddle Rd and proceed to Bremen Rd on the left. Turn on Bremen Rd and proceed to the culvert between Duckpuddle and Pemaquid Ponds. The launch is on the left just after the culvert. Parking is across the street.
- Nobleboro boat launch on Pemaquid Pond: From Damariscotta, take Rte 1 north 4.2 miles. A short distance after passing Back Meadow Rd and Tidewater Telephone Co. on your right, take a right turn at the Nobleboro Boat Launch sign on Rte 1.
- Biscay Beach boat launch: From Main St. Damariscotta, go about 3 miles on Biscay Rd. Boat launch is on the right; park along the road.
- Bristol Mills canoe/kayak launch: From Main St. Damariscotta, go just about 6 miles on Bristol Rd/Rte 130. Launch is on the left with a parking area, just after entering Bristol Mills where speed limit reduces to 30 m.p.h.
- Crooked Farm Preserve canoe/kayak launch: There is paddling access to Boyd Pond and the Pemaquid River via Crooked Farm Preserve. Requires carrying canoe/kayak over a short trail.
- Colonial Pemaquid (Fort William Henry) boat launch: From Damariscotta, take Rte 130 (Bristol Rd) for approximately 11 miles. Take a right on Huddle Road to its end. Turn right and follow signs for the Colonial Pemaquid boat launch.
There is no public launch on McCurdy Pond, Paradise (Muddy) Pond, or Muscongus (Webber) Pond.
See also Bristol Town Landings.
There are three public beaches on the Pemaquid Peninsula:
- Biscay Beach (fresh water) – view map
- Bristol Mills Swimming Hole (fresh water) – view map
- Pemaquid Beach (salt water) – view map
The lower Pemaquid River, where its freshwater meets the saltwater, provides habitat for shellfish that may be harvested subject to state regulations. For information about shellfishing in the Pemaquid River, contact the Maine Department of Marine Resources:
- Area No. 24-A Johns River and Pemaquid River (South Bristol and Bristol)
- Area No. 24-B Johns Bay (South Bristol and Bristol)
Each spring, adult alewives initiate a migration that starts in the open ocean and brings them to Maine’s freshwater spawning grounds, including the Pemaquid River and its upriver ponds. After breeding in the ponds, alewives head back to the marine environment. Newly hatched fish spend up to several months in their freshwater nurseries before heading to the ocean. After three or four years, they return to their natal waters and repeat the cycle.
Alewives migrating to and from freshwater spawning grounds are a source of food all along the way to predators like marine fish, eagles, osprey, herons, mink, otters, and freshwater game fish. Alewives also are also an important seasonal bait source for Maine’s lobster fishery.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources estimates that the ponds above Bristol Mills have the potential to support over 600,000 adult spawning alewives. However, the number of alewives currently ascending Bristol Mills to spawn is thought to be much lower.
The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, the Maine Coastal Program, and the Maine Department of Marine Resources are working with the Town of Bristol on a project to evaluate and restore the alewife run in the Pemaquid River. Annual alewife counts provide information about the number of alewives reaching the upper portion of the Pemaquid River and how changes in water flow and modifications to the fishway can affect the number of alewives passing upstream.
The 2016 Bristol Mills Alewife Count Summary and 2015 Bristol Mills Alewife Count Summary describe the sampling protocol and the efforts to improve fish passage at the dam. To learn about volunteering to count alewives at the Bristol Mills dam, contact Slade Moore of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. To learn more about alewife, read the Maine River Herring Fact Sheet.
Elvers, commonly known as glass eels, are the young of the American eel. They are almost completely clear and only a few centimeters long, with a slender body and two black eyes on either side of their head.
They are believed to spawn in the Sargasso Sea and drift on currents to Maine, where they make their way to freshwater, including the Pemaquid River. Maine is one of only two states, along with South Carolina, where elver fishing is allowed.
For more information on Maine eels and elvers, read the Maine Department of Marine Resources fact sheet.
Working to Ensure River Connectivity
Riverbanks (riparian areas) provide critical habitat for wildlife as travel corridors and feeding areas. Tree-nesting waterfowl and other birds, as well as aquatic and semi-aquatic animals such as beaver, otter, mink, and moose, require riparian areas. Large pines provide important nesting and loafing sites for bald eagle and osprey along waterbodies where they hunt for fish. Upland mammals such as deer, bobcat, coyote, and bats frequently use shorelands for denning, travel corridors, and feeding zones. Up to 80% of Maine’s vertebrate wildlife species use riparian habitat during some or all of their lifecycle.
During the summer of 2012, the Pemaquid Watershed Association, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, towns, landowners and other volunteers, conducted a survey of the stream crossings and dams in the watershed within the towns of Bristol, Bremen, Damariscotta, Nobleboro, and Waldoboro to evaluate how well they support river connectivity. The survey was part of a larger statewide effort to assess and prioritize potential barriers.
Collecting this information will help the state, towns and private landowners determine which sites could be modified or replaced to improve access for fish and wildlife, accommodate larger stream flows associated with more extreme precipitation events, and reduce long-term roadway maintenance costs. Some high priority sites could be eligible for outside technical or financial help through public and private partnerships if the road owner/manager has an interest.
Data gathered as a result of the 2012 Pemaquid River survey, as well as additional stream habitat information, can be viewed on the Maine Stream Habitat Viewer webpage. The Viewer displays habitats for several fish species and locations of dams and public road crossings.