Nestled in the shadow of Katahdin, just south of Baxter State Park, The Nature Conservancy’s Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area (DLWA) is a vital link in nearly 500,000 acres of contiguous conservation land. Debsconeag means "carrying place," named by native people for the portage sites where they carried their birchbark canoes around rapids and waterfalls. The DLWA contains the highest concentration of pristine, remote ponds in New England, as well as thousands of acres of mature forests.
This quick, 1-mile, blue-blazed trail offers three separate destinations and highlights one of the most interesting features in the preserve known as the ice caves. The trail leads up and down through granite boulders, leftovers of the last Ice Age’s glacial activity. The first turnoff on the right leads to a scenic lookout, which offers a vista of First Debsconeag Lake and the Debsconeag Deadwater. Continuing down the Ice Cave Trail (left at the fork), will bring you to another fork. Veer right to see the Ice Cave – a deep hole under a jumble of boulders with a cool environment that retains ice sometimes as late as August. This is a great spot to cool off in some of Nature’s best air conditioning. Turning left at the fork will bring you to the shore of First Debsconeag Lake.
While the trail itself is of moderate difficultly, exploring the actual ice caves is a more advanced undertaking requiring the use iron rungs and appropriate equipment for exploring the tight and potentially slippery conditions underground.
Nearly half the forests in the DLWA show no signs of past logging. Trees as old as 300 years have been found in more remote areas. Old, undisturbed forests like these are rich in diversity and complexity. The forest floor is covered with logs and mosses and ancient trees, whether standing or fallen, provide habitat for many woodland creatures.
The Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area Preserve Guidelines:
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The parking lot is located at the end of the Hurd Pond Road. From Millinocket, take the Golden Road approximately 18 miles to Abol Bridge. Immediately after crossing the bridge take a left turn and keep left at the fork. Drive about four miles to reach the parking area and trailhead.
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