Middle Bay’s Crow Island Preserve a Quiet Oasis
By Ed Robinson
Saturday morning, August 9th, dawned clear and calm. Even without checking the marine forecast I knew the day would be perfect for a boat trip to Middle Bay. Temperatures in the mid 70’s, a wisp of a breeze, and plenty of sun – it doesn’t come much better in Maine. After stocking my small boat with fuel, water, snacks, bin-oculars, camera and sunscreen, I set out from Reed Cove on Orr’s Island and turned south. My destination was Crow Island, at the northern end of Middle Bay, owned at one time by Civil War hero and former governor Joshua Chamberlain.
Lobster boats were active up and down Harpswell Sound, with gulls in hot pursuit. Soon I spotted two harbor seals gliding along looking for a meal. Making the turn to the west around Pott’s Point, I enjoyed wonderful views south beyond Haskell Island to Halfway Rock Light and Eagle Island. I cruised past the Dolphin Restaurant with recreational boats on the move. Rounding Basin Point and turning north, I followed the long, tawny shoreline of Whaleboat Island.
It is about eight miles from Basin Point to Crow Island, but this stretch of water is some of the prettiest around, with very little visible development. If you launch your boat from the state ramp on Mere Point, or the public ramp on Lookout Point Road, you can cut the trip to Crow Island substantially but you will miss some great scenery. The Goslings, Shelter Island, Birch Island, White Island and Little Iron Island all deserve a look. I also enjoy the lobster buoys in this stretch, since many lobstermen display an artistic flair with their colors and designs, including one with the Norwegian flag.
Rounding Scrag Island, I turned toward pretty Crow Island. A bald eagle was circling just to the south over White Island. Kayakers love the waters surrounding the island because they can generally find shelter from wind and waves. I timed my visit for high tide, because at low tide this area is a broad mud flat. These waters are important habitat for migrating waterfowl, with large numbers of ducks and geese resting and feeding before moving on.
Crow Island is only three acres, with a natural harbor on the south end of the island, next to a raised, level campsite. Part of the Maine Island Trail, Crow can accommodate up to six people with tents. There is no drinking water on the island, so be prepared. No open fires are allowed, so you will need a cook stove for meals. If you take a dog, it must be leashed from April 15 to July 31 to protect nesting birds.
Crow Island was acquired from the descendants of Joshua Chamberlain by the Holmes family of Trenton, NJ, who had a long history in the Pennellville and Middle Bay area. Crow Island was used as a quiet retreat in summer and for waterfowl hunting. In 2002, David Holmes contacted the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust and generously arranged to donate the island so that it could be enjoyed forever by the public. Local legend is that General Chamberlain’s favorite horse, Charlemagne, was buried on the island so he could truly rest in peace.