The Great Outdoors: Exploring Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park by kayak

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Experience one of Maine’s most popular state parks this summer from a little different perspective – from your kayak.

If you love viewing osprey, blue herons, and eider ducks you have found the place. Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park is famous for the nesting osprey on Googins Island a few yards east of the popular Casco Bay Trail. Ospreys have been entertaining families here for decades. They are to Freeport what Andre the Seal was to Rockport a few years ago.

There are two distinct shorelines to Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park. A mile of beautifully shaped and colored ledges shaded by an unbroken forest of oak and pine look out over Casco Bay. Another 4,000 feet of shoreline borders the eastern side of the Harraseeket River across from Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster in South Freeport.

You can start your outing from a couple of launch sites: Winslow Park in South Freeport, or the Little River Bridge on the Burnett Road a half-mile north of the state park. Check out the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (Map No. 6) for help in getting to your launch site.

Winslow Park charges a $3 launch fee per kayak plus a $4 parking fee. The advantage of launching here is that you have a little more leeway as far as the tide is concerned. At the Little River site you will only be able to land or take off within the period from two hours before high tide to two hours after high tide. Otherwise you will be dealing with a lot of knee-high mud.

We started our outing from the Little River Bridge an hour before high tide, and explored along the shoreline for a leisurely three hours. A mile south of Googins Island we saw 10 harbor seals on Googins Ledges, their rich brown coats glowing in the early morning sun. We gave them plenty of room and observed from a long distance away with our binoculars.

We stopped to talk with a couple from Auburn fishing from the shoreline just north of Googins Island. Osprey wheeled overhead while a blue heron stood in the marsh grasses only yards away surveying the placid waters. The husband had just landed a 12-pound striped bass. He then told us about a 52-pound sand shark he had landed from this same spot last summer.

At the southwestern corner of the park you will see a wooden sign marking the park boundary. There is an exceptional sand beach here perfect for swimming. As we arrived a pair of sandpipers flitted along the shoreline. We enjoyed an early morning dip, a great way to begin what would turn out to be yet another ninety-degree summer day. You will be sorely temped to spend hours here, so keep in mind the critical timing of the tide where you put in.

As you paddle toward Moore Point at the mouth of the Harraseeket River you will pass by a few large ocean-side homes and docks. Just after you pass by a cluster of boats you will see a granite jetty sticking out from shore. We came upon a blue heron standing still at the end. It slowly began walking away from us as we floated to within a few yards. We marveled at its bewitching yellow eyes.

Hug the shoreline as you enter the mouth of the river. The current is very strong here as water swirls and gurgles around Pound of Tea and Pumpkin Knob. There is also a lot of lobster and pleasure boat traffic to contend with in the deeper water.

You’ll pass homes for a mile then enter park territory once again. Nearly two miles in from the ocean you will come to a 20-foot angular boulder sitting in the water a yard from shore. It looked like a mammoth walrus bull rearing up, head swept back, ready to lunge into battle. We were simply astounded.

If you comprised a list of the Top Five Geologic Wonders of Casco Bay this would be on that list. What would your other selections be? Perhaps included would be Sandy Beach on Long island, the rugged cliffs at Portland Head, the fortress-like Junk of Pork, and the perfect round shape of Eagle Island.

We got out a few yards beyond the rock and walked around it, enjoying the refreshing coolness of the shade. Flecks of mica dotted the boulder and the adjacent cliff in addition to knobs of white quartz. This boulder can also be enjoyed from above by hiking the Harraseeket Trail in the state park. As we got back in our kayaks and headed back to the Little River a kingfisher flew by, its rattling call echoing along the shoreline.

If this sounds like something you would enjoy, but you are not yet a kayaker, then consider joining up with the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Paddling School for a kayak lesson and tour. One of their paddling centers is right there in the Harraseeket River, within a mile of the giant boulder.

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Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses and schools. Contact him at