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Nothing represents the outdoor largesse of Maine's Lakes and Mountains region better than the six pristine Rangeley Lakes. These natural lakes sprawl beneath famed 4,120-foot Saddleback Mountain along the Androscoggin River drainage. Several dams, built between 1850 and 1920, have enlarged and stabilized the original lakes in order to generate hydroelectric power.
Contained by the Rangeley Dam, Rangeley Lake covers more than 6,300 acres and is the farthest east along the water route. Upper Dam raised the water level of Mooselookmeguntic Lake so that it joined with Cupsuptic Lake to form a reservoir of 16,300 acres. Richardson Lake, often called Upper Richardson Lake and Lower Richardson Lake, is long and relatively narrow with 5,100 acres behind Middle Dam. After a meandering course containing several great fishing pools, the Androscoggin flows into 8,500-acre Umbagog Lake along an 11-mile stretch of the New Hampshire-Maine State Line. Umbagog Lake also receives the flow of the Maggalloway River after it travels past the dam that encloses 6,872-acre Aziscohos Lake.
(Statistics listed on the sidebar are for Aziscohos Lake only. Data for Umbagog Lake, Mooselookmeguntic Lake and Rangeley Lake are listed on their respective Lakelubbers pages-see links on sidebar.)
The vast wetlands and 'floating Islands' at the north end of Umbagog Lake are listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. Downstream in New Hampshire, several more dams along the Androscoggin River also generate hydro-power to provide clean, renewable energy to homes and businesses in the Northeast. The waters of the Androscoggin and its tributaries generate electricity and provide thousands of acres of water-based recreation to lucky visitors.
Few private homes dot the shorelines of the Rangeley Lakes. The only city of any size is the Village of Rangeley at the east end of Rangeley Lake. Most activities in the region are organized out of Rangeley, a well-known resort town. In years gone by when the area was served by passenger trains, the era of big resort hotels held sway, with thousands of visitors arriving each summer. The large hotels have been replaced with motels, bed & breakfasts, guest cottages and camping resorts providing all types of lodgings.
Rangeley Lake State Park on the southern shore of Rangeley Lake is a popular family vacation destination for camping, fishing and nature observation. Umbagog State Park just over the state line in New Hampshire offers camping trails and plenty of lake access. The 6,000-acre Stephen Phillips Memorial Preserve offers primitive camping on both the mainland of Mooselookmeguntic Lake and on Student Island and Toothaker Island for a nominal fee to maintain the property. Numerous small commercial campgrounds can be found along the lakeshores.
Boating is popular, with several launch sites available on each lake. A small marina in Rangeley can handle most daily boating needs and repairs, while numerous fishing camps and cottage resorts rent boats and small watercraft. A modern version of the historic steamboat cruises are chartered lake cruises on Rangeley, Mooselookmeguntic, Cupsuptic, and Richardson Lake. One of the cruise operators also arranges boat transportation to distant locations for paddle sports fans.
All of the lakes are popular for fishing, with landlocked salmon and brook trout the most sought-after species. Lake trout can be found in Richardson Lake. Many of the lakes and nearby ponds and rivers are fly-fishing only, so a current copy of fishing regulations should be consulted while planning for a fishing trip. Fishing guides are available and very helpful in finding the hottest fishing holes on the large lakes. Resorts catering to fishermen usually also sell fishing licenses, rent boats, and arrange guides. Upper and Lower Richardson Lake have sandy shorelines and several good swimming spots, but other lakes are primarily rocky shores.
Umbagog Lake, Aziscohos Lake, Mooselookmeguntic Lake and Rangeley Lake all have islands large and small to explore, making paddling particularly enjoyable. The lakes are utilized for canoe and kayak day-trips and for camping, with campsites located along the shorelines of most of the lakes. The lakes can get very rough quickly when the winds increase, so paddlers should be prepared for rough water. The entire region is surrounded by some of Maine's highest peaks, and hiking in the area is always a popular activity. Non-climbers will still appreciate the breathtaking views of many 4000+-foot peaks.
The fun doesn't cease at Rangeley Lakes with the end of summer. Fall colors paint the landscape in brilliant hues, adding a colorful new dimension to the surrounding landscape. Wildlife is plentiful year-round, with a variety of birds, waterfowl and mammals approaching the lakeshores to drink and bathe. Loons and great blue herons are always common here, as are eagles and ospreys. Many of the resort cabins remain open to serve hunters and fall color observers. In winter, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing draw many outdoor enthusiasts to the Rangeley Lakes area. Over 250 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and nearly 50 miles of cross-country ski trails beckon visitors for a weekend respite. The ski areas on Saddleback Mountain are some of the most famous in Maine, with excellent resort facilities.
Activities on Saddleback Mountain are not limited to the snow season. Trails, guided nature hikes, moose tours, easy hikes to Angel Falls and Smalls Falls, festivals and special events keep visitors coming year round. And visits to The Wilhelm Reich Museum, with its exhibits and nature studies programs, will interest every budding scientist in the family. A feel for the logging heritage of the Rangeley Lakes is the result of a visit to the Rangeley Lakes Logging Museum. The Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce can provide maps and information on all of these activities.
The Rangeley Lakes area is the perfect year-round getaway, accessible within an afternoon's drive of Rumford (36 miles) and Portland (111 miles). Don't plan on a lightning-fast highway trip, however. The roads wind through scenic mountains and past lovely lakes, making the trip slower and more enjoyable than most weekend getaways. The trip is half the fun. Take your time and bring the camera.
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