Friday, June 29, 2018

A kid-friendly paddle on the Heath by Briana Bizier

Canoeing or kayaking with children can be a serious challenge. Part of the struggle is finding the right water. An ideal place for a paddle with young children is a body of water with very little current, no wake from huge motorboats and enough variety in the surrounding environment to keep little canoeists interested. It’s especially nice if there aren’t too many houses on the shore with vacationers who don’t want to listen to a potential mid-water meltdown. Throw in a chance to catch a fish or two, and you’ll have the perfect spot for a quick, kid-friendly canoe or kayak.

For Father’s Day, our family decided to return to one of our favorite spots for
fishing and paddling: The Heath, a little pond nestled next to Thompson Lake which sits just over the border between Raymond and Casco.

This small body of water does not allow any motors, which means a kid-powered canoe is at no risk of being flipped by the stray wake from a large motorboat. It also means this pond remains quiet and calm, even on beautiful Sunday afternoons. As we set off on our canoeing adventure, the water was calm enough for my seven-year-old assistant (and the bow paddler) to watch shiny, black water boatmen insects skimming along the surface. As we paddled further along the heavily wooded shore, we observed brilliant dragonflies dipping to the surface.

“Oh, the dragonflies must be thirsty,” I said.

“Mom,” said my assistant, with an expert seven-year-old eye roll, “they’re eating the water bugs.”
A few moments later, a bass jumped from the water to make a lunge at a dragonfly, which was exciting enough to make certain canoeists shriek. My husband, who celebrated Father’s Day with two uninterrupted hours of fly fishing before we arrived, told us he’d seen a falcon snatch a fish from the water that morning. So, sometimes a simple canoe ride can turn into a lengthy discussion about the food chain.

The Heath meanders in a figure-8-shape for about two miles; stretching from a wide section near the road to a narrower band in the middle, which features a lily-filled cove and an island with several falcon nests. The far southern end of The Heath widens again and becomes shallow and marshy, with several large boulder “islands.” Numerous tree stumps protrude from these shallow waters; my children did not believe me when I said they were alligators.

“Mom,” my skeptical seven-year-old assistant explained, “painted turtles don’t sit on alligators!”
The water in this part of The Heath is crystal clear, allowing us to watch the bottom for turtles and fish. And, while the fishing was slow during our mid-day paddle, my husband assured me the largemouth bass had been very active that morning.

Unfortunately, after several explorations around submerged stumps, the heat of the day started to bother our youngest paddler. Despite bribes of ice cream cones, we experienced a “hot day, no fish” mid-canoe meltdown. If you were on or around The Heath last Sunday, I apologize!

A full paddle around the many coves and inlets of The Heath would cover roughly three miles and could keep adults entertained for several hours. If you are willing to portage your canoe or kayak over the road to explore Thompson Lake before or after your adventures on the Heath, this could easily become a day-long expedition.

Finally, although the breeze kept the bugs away last weekend, bug spray would be an excellent addition to your canoeing supplies if you plan to explore The Heath.
To access The Heath, follow Route 11 east from Raymond. Take a left on Johnson Hill Road, and another left on Heath Road. The access is easy to spot (it’s just before Thompson Lake Marina) and parking is available on the side of the road.

No comments:

Post a Comment