Saturday, October 6, 2018

An evening picnic on the Songo River

By Briana Bizier

One of the many wonderful things about living in the Lakes Region is that you don’t need to go far to find a beautiful outdoor adventure.

However, last Sunday afternoon it looked like our family had completely missed the outdoor adventure boat. By the time we’d finished all our typical weekend chores, like cleaning the house until it was at least habitable again or going to the store because we’d run out of all the essentials (milk, eggs, and chocolate chips), it was almost two in the afternoon. When my husband suggested a canoeing picnic dinner on the Songo River, I was mildly skeptical. Could we really pull that off on a school night?

Well, there was only one way to find out!

We ordered dinners from a local sandwich shop, packed the car, and headed to one of our favorite easy canoeing sites: the Songo River.

The Songo River flows between Long Lake and Sebago Lake, with a very accessible put-in spot at the Songo Locks. As we rounded up the children and packed our dinners and paddles into the canoe, several kayakers launched their boats from the lovely Veteran’s Fishing Pier on the opposite side of the river. At least we weren’t the only paddlers heading out in the afternoon!

Downstream from the Locks, the Songo River follows a gentle, serpentine route through Sebago Lake State Park as it winds around small islands, laps against beaches, and swirls into bays. Just minutes after launching our canoe, we rounded a corner and saw a great blue heron standing majestically along the shore.
Look at the heron,” I told my little assistants.

So cool!” my eight-year-old agreed.

Where? I can’t see it,” our four-year-old cried.

At that, the heron spread its wings and flew directly ahead of our canoe, its wingtips almost touching the still water.

I SEE IT!” our four-year-old yelled, for all of Sebago Lake State Park to hear.

One of our favorite things about the Songo River, in addition to the herons, are the small beaches which line the river. Unlike many other canoe friendly rivers in the area, the Songo has gentle, sandy banks which are just perfect for beaching a canoe. These banks are also perfectly spaced for small children’s short attention spans. Once the four-year-old began to wiggle in the canoe, we were able to
pull onto one of the many sunlit beaches and let the children explore.

As Mom and Dad cast a fly rod into the calm waters of the Songo on the off chance a hungry salmon may have been patrolling the river (no luck, I’m sorry to report), our little assistants identified deer and squirrel tracks, climbed on logs, and played in the weathered roots of an old tree. At one point, just before the two assistants started fighting over a particularly irresistible stick, the fallen log was both a submarine and a fighter jet with minnows stuck in the engine who needed to be rescued.
However, fighting over a stick was a sure sign that it was almost dinner time.

Do you kids want to eat here, or keep exploring?” I asked.

Explore!” the kids shouted in unison.

We climbed back in the canoe, pushed off from the shore, and continued our slow paddle down the river. Because the twists, bends, and bays of this section of the Songo River are all part of Sebago Lake State Park, paddlers are free to beach their canoes anywhere without fear of trespassing. We chose a quiet, grassy spot beneath towering white pines for our picnic dinner. It may have been the cool evening air, the effects of climbing over a fallen log, or just the excellent sandwiches, but the assistants ate their dinners with gusto and nary a word of complaint.

Is that all it takes to get them to eat dinner?” my husband asked. “Just an hour and a half of canoeing beforehand?”

By the time we finished our dinner, the sun was sinking behind the trees and their long shadows had already reached across the glassy Songo River. We gave our assistants a five-minute warning, then put on our life jackets one last time and began our paddle back up the river. Luckily, because this stretch of river is so calm, there wasn’t much current to fight.

If you’re quiet,” I tried to tell my assistants, “you might see some wildlife.”

Quiet, however, is a difficult concept for the Bizier children. Despite constant running commentary from both little canoeists, however, we did manage to spot several groups of mallard ducks and a red squirrel. We didn’t quite reach the Songo’s outlet in Sebago Lake, but we did have a wonderful adventure for a Sunday afternoon.

And yes, we even made it home by bedtime!

If you’d like to explore the Songo River on your own, follow State Park Road off of Route 302 until your reach the unmistakable Songo Locks. Both the Veteran’s Fishing Pier and the locks themselves offer smooth put-ins for canoes and kayaks. The river itself is quite windy, and it’s also very clearly labeled with arrows. Please note there is a “no wake” regulation for motor boats.

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