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.
The Horserace Pond Trail (4 miles round trip) and Blue Trail (5 miles round trip) provide access to some of these remote pristine ponds in the heart of the preserve. Both trails cross a wooden bridge over a stream and pass through the forest for about a half-mile before splitting at the intersection of the Horserace Pond Trail and the Blue Trail.
Follow the left fork for the 1.5-mile hike to Horserace Pond. The Horserace Pond Trail continues to meander along the picturesque Horserace Brook that drains the pond, as well as through a stand of old-growth hemlock. The pristine Horserace Pond is surrounded by deep green conifers and granite cliffs and boulders. There are three backcountry campsites on the banks of the pond (See TNC website for camping guidlines).
The Blue Trail is the left fork and is a steeper 2.3-mile hike past Clifford and Woodman ponds, ending at Rainbow Lake. This trail is strenuous, so make sure to bring good shoes and plenty of drinking water. The path leads through some remarkable stands of old-growth forest, and loops around Clifford and Woodman ponds. Rainbow Lake, the terminus of the trail, is the largest of the lakes in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, and is a great spot to see Loons and Bald Eagles. It is also one of seven lakes in Maine with arctic char, a native fish related to salmon and trout.
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:
Visit The Nature Conservancy online for more information or contact:
From Millinocket, take the Golden Road about 18 miles to Abol Bridge and then 5 miles further west. Take a left turn onto a road marked with a white sign at the top of the hill just west of the sign for Horserace Brook campsite. Follow the dirt road several hundred yards and park at the trailhead near Horserace Brook.
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