Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | October 15, 2011


The Nesowadnehunk Stream to the North

At least it’s not raining, but the sixty-foot tall, black-green fir trees at the edge of the yard stand like silhouettes against the blanched curtain hiding the bay.  You would think the day would be great for ducks, but it’s the crows that are having their convention.  One flies to a fir tree and lights on the tip branch, the single, thin bough that creates the peg upon which a star, angel or dove are placed at Christmas time.  Soon others, four to six of them, land on the surrounding topmost horizontal branches.  These stems are also thin and bend under the weight of the crow.  The crows bobble and caw, then fly off, like flapping black clothes, in all direction and disappear into the white featureless fog.  They’ll return in about ten minutes—but enough about crows. 

Bridge over the Nesowadnehuck

This post is about the northern stretch of the Nesowadnehuck Stream flowing on the west side of Katahdin through Baxter State Park, ME.

The gravel Tote Road that traverses Baxter from the Visitors Center at Togue Pond Gate, the park’s southern entrance, to Matagamon Gate, the northern entrance, parallels the Nesowadnehuck from Foster Field-Kidney Pond Camps to Nesowadnehuck Field Camp.  Since this is distance is about eight miles, and it was already after lunch, we decided to drive, wanting to return to our campground before dark.

Kidney Pond Library

After a short visit to Kidney Pond Campground, a more manicured camp with rustic cabins than the one on Daicey Pond, we connected with the Tote Road at Foster Field, a picnic area and primitive camping site.  The spectacular steep face of O-J-I Mountain (height 3434 feet) can be seen from the picnic area.  The name of this mountain came from past rock slides that carved the initials into this landmass. 

Camper's Cabin at Kidney Pond

From Foster Field the Tote Road runs along the base of O-J-I Mountain and periodically comes into the shadow of this mountain’s second, lower West Peak (height 2502 feet).  The fir-birch forest occasionally opens and the road dust clears, providing a view of West Peak and the mountain’s initials.

About a mile up Tote Road, on the left, is the grave of the unknown River Driver.  These were the sure-footed, hearty, crazed men that waltzed about the logs that were cut in the winter and floated down the raging Nesowadnehuck to the Penobscot River sawmills in the spring.  River Drivers are pictured wearing felt hats and carry long poles, which they use for balance, redirecting stray logs, and breaking jams.  A missed step, ricocheted push, or a collision, while driving rolling logs down a highballing, whitewater streams, sends the driver into the cold, churning foam.  The felt hat, found swirling in an eddy, signified another of these gandy dancers had met his demise.

Slide Dam area on the Nesowadnehuck Stream

Two miles ahead is the Slide Dam, where the Nesowadnehuck spills, slides, and glides, and turns, twists and swirls over smooth, flat granite slabs down a thirty-foot gradient of about a quarter mile in length.  It’s as if one could easily surfboard or snowboard down this slide.  I did so in similar stretch of a mountain stream in western Belize, but without any board.  The butt of my bathing trunks got a bit worn. 

Slide Dam on the Nesowadnehuck Stream in Baxter State Park, ME

Plein air artists and sketchers of postcard scenes are drawn to the Nesowadnehuck Slide because of its idyllic beauty and color.  This place glows in the autumnal colors of reds, yellows, purples, browns, beiges and greens.  The dark green of the firs, maple reds and shimmering yellow birches contrast the purples and violets of the surrounding mountains.  Clumps of asters and sunflowers, fresh and dried sedges, grass and alders trim the shoreline of the pewter bottomed, eager flowing stream.

Upstream of the slide about three quarters of a mile, the Nesowadnehuck crashes down Ledge Falls.  Here the beauty brackets an angry stream.  Two miles farther upstream, the Nesowadnehuck narrows and meanders serenely toward its headwaters outside the state park. 

The Nesowadnehuck Stream Looking Downstream from bridge.

We had reached Nesowadnehuck Field Campground, a desolate area near the western boundary of Baxter State Park, containing a picnic area and primitive tenting site.  I stood on a bridge crossing the stream, wondering how big the brook trout were that swam below.  Atop a straggly fir an American kestrel perused the landscape and a Philadelphia vireo flitted to another tree.  Sunlight waned.  We turned for Daicey Pond Campground and returned in time to toast a rising full moon with a glass of wine and hear the kindling in the fire pit begin to crackle. 

The Nesowadnehuck Stream Looking Upstream from Bridge

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 © Copyright Richard Modlin 2011


  1. Hello Richard
    You have done a really thorough job of relating our adventures up in Baxter last month. And hard to believe it has been a month since we were there! Sure hope to do it again. Maybe next year there will be more color. Perhaps we will go a bit later.

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