Damariscotta Lake, Maine, USA
Damariscotta Lake is a sprawling lake in Lincoln County, Maine. This freshwater lake covers 4,381 acres in surface area and is a mere 51 feet above sea level. Formed more than 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, this glacial lake has one of the most convoluted shorelines of all of Maine’s many lakes. Damariscotta Lake is found in the Mid-Coast Region of Maine, close to the Atlantic Ocean, and only about 23 miles from the capital city of Augusta and 41 miles from Portland.
Davis Stream, at the head of the lake in Jefferson, is the primary source of water for Damariscotta Lake, flowing in from the north; the Damariscotta River directly to the south receives the majority of the outflow, although there are some small pond outlets as well. There is a hardwood flood plain forest on Davis Stream, which can be accessed from the Damariscotta Lake Park Beach.
Damariscotta Lake State Park is a 17-acre area in Jefferson, on the northeastern side of Damariscotta Lake. It’s a popular area for its picnic grounds, including access to grills and picnic tables, as well as a sandy beach and a large playground. This state park, along with most every attraction in this region, is family friendly, encouraging parents and families to bring their children to enjoyable and often educational outdoor activities and sporting opportunities. Although there is no public boat launch in this state park, many are located nearby on the lake. Swimming in the park is allowed and encouraged, and canoes, kayaks, and rowboats are often seen in the water there.
Damariscotta Lake is the largest lake in Lincoln County, and it’s divided into three main basins. The North Basin has a maximum depth of 114 feet and a surface area of 2,129 acres. The Middle Basin is connected to the North Basin through a slim channel called the Narrows; the Middle Basin is 80 feet at its deepest and has 1,463 acres of surface area. The South Basin is the smallest and shallowest: its deepest point is only 38 feet with a surface area of 789 acres. Although the Narrows is a no-wake zone, paddle boats, kayaks, canoes, and rowboats are allowed in the area. Boaters who are interested can navigate the full length of the lake in smaller man-powered watercraft.
Damariscotta Lake is known for its elegant fish ladder, first built in 1807 after it was realized that the large population of spawning alewives had not successfully reached the sought-after freshwater lake since the concrete Damariscotta Mills Dam had been built in 1730–although they continued to try. The fish ladder is still maintained today, and it is currently undergoing a restoration project to make sure it remains optimally useful to the large population of alewives that doggedly attempt to use it each spring. To ascend the 42-foot climb, a group of stepped pools was constructed, allowing the fish to leap from one small pool to the next in order to achieve their ultimate goal of reaching Damariscotta Lake. Although the fish ladder has worked well throughout the years, the current project hopes to fully renovate it and keep it serviceable for years to come. Damariscotta Mills Dam is one of only two remaining dams in the Damariscotta Watershed; it is still used for power generation, though the original mill for which is was constructed is no more. It was noted in 1995 that more than 100,000 alewives entered Damariscotta Lake through the Damariscotta fish ladder–one of the largest runs in the state of Maine.
Damariscotta Lake is bordered by three Maine towns: Newcastle to the west, Nobleboro to the east, and Jefferson to the north. Nobleboro, known locally as “the little town with the big heart,” and other local villages, are very interested in ecological preservation, including controlling invasive plant and animal species in Damariscotta Lake. As fishing is a large attraction, with a wide variety of cold- and warmwater fish both being in supply, it’s important to keep the lake water healthy. Landlocked salmon, brown trout, lake trout, white perch, yellow perch, chain pickerel, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and rainbow smelt are all there for an angler to seek. The local residents show a profound respect for their natural surroundings and encourage all manner of environmental improvements that maximize the potential for sustainable living.
For the archaeologist vacationer, the Whaleback Shell Midden, in Damariscotta, is a unique attraction that has been showcased in recent years. A mountainous pile of discarded oyster shells, left by Native Americans more than 1,000 years ago, was dubbed the Whaleback Shell Midden due to its shape–at its peak, it resembled a beached whale on the shore. Over time, the quantity of shells decreased as they were hauled away and ground up to become an ingredient in chicken feed. However, there is still a significant midden there today, and other activities and attractions have been put in place to make the feature worth a day trip. Bird watching is popular there, and there is a large orchard. A scenic hiking trail has been established for those interested in a relaxing afternoon of natural beauty to go with this interesting remnant of human history.
Damariscotta Lake is surrounded by many other Maine lakes, including Clary Lake to the northwest, Duckpuddle Pond to the southeast, Long Pond to the north, and Medomak Pond to the northeast. This area is very popular among travelers, with its showcase of spectacular countryside and idyllic lakes. New Hampshire’s White Mountains are not far across the border and offer downhill skiing for winter enthusiasts. Throughout the area, fishing, sailing, swimming, boating, water skiing, and more are all popular pastimes. It’s common to see sailboats on the lake, along with kayaks, canoes, rowboats, water skiers and water tubers being pulled by high-power speedboats. Organized hikes are popular, and hikers and walkers who want to explore on their own have endless options, with dozens of established trails to trek. Winter activities include snowmobiling cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, ice skating, and ice fishing. Annual fall events include an apple festival and a pumpkin festival. Wildlife is varied and abundant around Damariscotta Lake. The area boasts one of the most prolific populations of breeding loons in southern Maine. Other fowl include osprey, bald eagles, ducks, and Canada geese. Beavers, deer, coyote, otter, and moose are not uncommon–it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time to happen to be able to see one in its natural habitat.
Tourism is a main source of economy in this area, so it’s no wonder that vacationing around Damariscotta Lake is filled with choice accommodations. Real estate is available here, with prime properties on the lakes for sale, just waiting for a new owner to fill the waiting rooms with life. Chain hotels and motels, private inns and bed and breakfasts, small cabins and quaint cottages, large lakefront homes with walls of windows that overlook breathtaking scenery and vibrant sunrises or sunsets–all of these are options for the weekender, the holiday maker, and the long-term vacationer. It’s a matter of deciding which option best suits the needs of the traveler, because so many choices, from cozy two-bedroom apartments in charming small towns to forest lodges for the whole extended family, make the decision about which vacation rental is best the most difficult part of planning a vacation in Mid-Coast Maine.
Things to do at Damariscotta Lake
- Vacation Rentals
- Ice Fishing
- Water Skiing
- Cabin Rentals
- Ice Skating
- Downhill Skiing
- Cross-Country Skiing
- Wildlife Viewing
- State Park
Fish species found at Damariscotta Lake
- Black Bass
- Brown Trout
- Chain Pickerel
- Lake Trout
- Largemouth Bass
- Smallmouth Bass
- White Perch
- Yellow Perch
Damariscotta Lake Photo Gallery
Damariscotta Lake Statistics & Helpful Links
Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed
Surface Area: 4,381 acres
Shoreline Length: 45 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 51 feet
Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 48 feet
Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 59 feet
Average Depth: 30 feet
Maximum Depth: 114 feet
Water Volume: 87,801 acre-feet
Lake Area-Population: 5,800
Drainage Area: 57 sq. miles
Trophic State: Oligotrophic
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