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American writer E.B. White put the Belgrade Lakes Chain on the map with his piece "Once More to the Lake": "Summertime, oh, summertime, pattern of life indelible with fade-proof lake, the wood unshatterable, the pasture with the sweetfern and the juniper forever and ever, summer without end." This is the world that he remembers through nostalgic eyes, from the perspective of his childhood self.
The Belgrade Lakes are a series of seven bodies of water in Maine's Kennebec & Moose River Valleys tourism region: East Pond, North Pond, Great Pond, Long Pond, McGrath Pond, Salmon Lake, and Messalonskee Lake. The Belgrade Lakes are part of the Messalonskee Stream drainage basin, which feeds the Kennebec River. East Pond empties into North Pond, which is connected to Great Pond. Great Pond empties into Long Pond, which flows into Messalonskee Lake. McGrath Pond flows into Salmon Lake, which is also coupled with Great Pond. Together, these lakes make up a combined surface area of 20,311 acres.
Fishing reigns supreme at the Belgrade Lakes, particularly for brown trout, brook trout, northern pike, landlocked salmon, largemouth bass, white perch and smallmouth bass. Twenty species of fish inhabit these seven lakes.
Messalonskee Lake is the deepest of the Belgrade Lakes, with a maximum depth of 113 feet. It is also the second largest lake, with a surface area of 3,510 acres. Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass, white perch, trout, pickerel, splake, and rainbow smelt are the most common catches. The Messalonskee Lake Dam is controlled by Central Maine Power.
North Pond is the shallowest of the Belgrade Lakes, with a maximum depth of 20 feet. White perch, chain pickerel, and bass are prevalent throughout its 2,873 acres of surface area, and ice fishing is extremely popular during the winter. North Pond holds Maine's northern pike state record. A dam controlled by the North Pond Association exists at Great Meadow Stream, a brook that brings waters from both North Pond and East Pond into Great Pond.
East Pond boasts a surface area of 1,823 acres and a maximum depth of 27 feet. Due to large numbers of illegally stocked crappie, its brown trout population has been drastically reduced. Its dam is controlled by the East Pond Association.
McGrath Pond has the smallest surface area of the lakes, featuring 486 acres. It has a maximum depth of 27 feet. Crappie, a species that feeds on smelt, has also been illegally introduced into McGrath Pond. With fewer smelt to eat, brown trout are fewer in number than in the past.
Long Pond has the best visibility of all of the Belgrade Lakes, with 2,714 acres and a maximum depth of 106 feet. Salmon and smelt are the predominate fish at Long Pond. The Wings Mill Dam is controlled by the Belgrade Lakes Committee.
Salmon Lake has a surface area of 667 acres and a maximum depth of 57 feet. The Salmon Lake Dam is located where Hatchery Brook exits Kozy Cove, and is controlled by the Belgrade Dams Committee.
Great Pond is the largest of all seven lakes, with an impressive 8,239 acres. It features a mean depth of 21 feet, and is a rewarding place to fish for northern pike, but there are few salmon and smelts here. Writer Ernest Thompson made Great Pond famous in his descriptive work "On Golden Pond." The Mill Dam is controlled by the Belgrade Lakes Dam Committee.
The Belgrade Lakes are home to intense beauty. Numerous real estate properties and vacation rentals are available. As much as three quarters of lake shoreline is already developed.
Recreation at Belgrade Lakes is truly unbeatable. For some heart thumping adventure, try jet skiing or wake boarding. More relaxing water activities include canoeing and kayaking through the peaceful canals and waterways connecting these bodies of water. Paddle boating, sailing, and tubing are also popular. Wildlife lovers should keep their eyes peeled for majestic creatures like moose, bear, deer and waterfowl.
Hiking is incredible at Belgrade Lakes. Numerous trails to panoramic look-out points are available, including to French's Mountain and Mount Philip, the later of which boasts 755 feet in elevation. The Mountain Trail offers views of Great Pond and Long Pond from 663 feet elevation. Blueberry Hill has some great scenic spots right from the highway, and the Kennebec Highlands features pathways throughout its 6,000 acres of wetlands, rivers and ponds. The Round Top Trail and the Sanders Hill Loop are the most frequently traveled. These trails are perfect for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and - during the winter - cross country skiing and snowmobiling.
For some off-water fun, visit some of Belgrade Lake's nearby towns. Shopping malls, 18-hole golf courses, and bowling alleys are available in Belgrade. Established back in 1796, Belgrade today boasts a number of historic attractions. The town was primarily agriculture-based then, with factories making shovels, spools, rakes, shingles and boxes. With the construction of a nearby railroad in 1886, the town's focus switched to tourism and has remained so ever since. Augusta, the state capital, is 15 miles southeast of Belgrade.
Belgrade Lakes truly offers a dizzying array of things to do and places to see. Families, friends, couples and solo-travelers alike have a hard time leaving when their vacations are over. Grab a book and read by any one of Belgrade Lake Chain's seven tranquil shores - and see for yourself if you agree with E.B. White's or Ernest Thompson's wistful and accurate descriptions of the area.
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