Pemaquid River

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.

  • fall foliage on the Pemaquid River

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.

Coastal Rivers Paddlers

From May to September, the Coastal Rivers Paddlers lead free weekly kayak trips around the region.

Pemaquid Paddling in the News

paddlers on the Pemaquid River

Put-in Sites for Accessing the Water

  • 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.
  • 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.

Boating Safety

image of booklet cover The Official Maine Boater Safety Handbook ($1.99, available in various eBook formats)


There are three public beaches on the Pemaquid Peninsula:



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, see the Maine Department of Marine Resources website resource on Shellfish Sanitation and Management.


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. 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.

duckpuddle stream part of the Pemaquid River

heading toward Pemaquid Pond via Duckpuddle Stream, photo by Karen Berg

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Working to Ensure River Connectivity

For thousands of years, the Pemaquid River provided a seamless connection of life between the Gulf of Maine and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems deep inland. Fish, such as alewife, American eel, and brook trout, use the river corridor to migrate into the Pemaquid River watershed to feed, reproduce, and grow to adulthood. Turtles and amphibians move upstream and downstream between ponds to find habitat to live.

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.

mallard on the Pemaquid River

mallard using the riparian area near Biscay Beach, photo by Christopher Hayes

Dams and roads that cross the Pemaquid River and its tributaries can create barriers to free-flowing conditions that alter the habitat “connectivity” and hinder physical processes that are essential to creating and sustaining habitat for these fish and wildlife species. Physical processes that are commonly interrupted by barriers include sediment transport and deposition, movement of woody debris, and tidal flow.

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.

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