There’s a rather unheralded conservation property in the Augusta region, an 840-acre gem with more than five miles of meandering trails that is just a delightful place for a hike.
The beautiful and surprisingly wild Jamies Pond Wildlife Management Area spans parts of Hallowell, Manchester and Farmingdale just a couple miles west of the busy Interstate 95 corridor.
Owned and managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, the central feature of the land is the pristine Jamies Pond. The 107-acre pond is 75 feet deep and quite popular with anglers, being home to a range of fish from brook trout and smallmouth bass to splake and chain pickerel.
What’s so surprising is that this big a pond so close to Maine’s capital city could have such an undeveloped shoreline. There are only a couple of camps on it, all located in one area along the southeast shore. Other than that, it’s a gem of conserved woods and waters.
The land around Jamies Pond was once owned by the Pilgrims in the early 1600s. Ownership later passed to the Proprietors of the Kennebec Purchase, a group of Boston businessmen, then to the Vaughan family sometime in the 1700s. While much of the rest of the surrounding area saw considerable development in the late 1700s, for the next 125 years, little such activity happened in the Jamies Pond area. The pond became the water supply for the City of Hallowell in the 1920s and remained so into the 1990s.
In 1991, money from the Land for Maine’s Future program – along with assistance from the City of Hallowell and an anonymous donor – protected the 550 acres around the pond. In the years since, the Kennebec Land Trust has helped with the purchase of three additional parcels of land, bringing the property to its current size.
Jamies Pond Wildlife Management Area is crisscrossed with beautiful old stone walls, evidence of its history as pasture land. The large granite blocks at the outlet stream near the north end of the pond are the remnants of a dam constructed in the late 1800s. Most such dams were built to serve sawmills, but this one was apparently never used.
My first and only visit to Jamies Pond was about a year and a half ago. My wife and I had talked for some time about going to see this place we’d heard so much about from friends, and finally we made it happen.
The wait was worthwhile, believe me, as we made a grand tour of the place, tramping about on six of the eight possible trail segments. We had a wonderful time and I suspect you will as well.
We started and finished at the Collins Road trailhead in Manchester, combining the Collins Road, Hemlock, Pine Point, Lower Pond, Upper Pond and Vernal trails for a sweet loop hike that took us a good two hours, mostly because it was wonderfully scenic and we had nowhere to go and all day to get there.
The meandering paths and old roads, the mixed forest, the pond, the mossy stone walls, the peace and quiet are magnificient. My favorite spot was Pine Point, a large slab of granite ledge that reaches out into the pond at the end of little peninsula. Had it not been a cool, gray day I would’ve surely gone swimming, but the pretty view down the length of the pond was good enough.
A hand-carry boat launch is located at the north end of Jamies Pond, so I’m definitely coming back with a canoe or kayak. But given that winter is upon us, I’m thinking a visit with snowshoes or cross-country skis might be just the ticket.
Since I was last at Jamies Pond I understand that the state has conducted extensive timber harvesting operations to help improve habitat for deer, snowshoe hares and turkeys, among other species, and it’ll be good to get a look-see at how that wildlife management tool has reshaped the landscape.
A good resource for more information on Jamies Pond and many other great hikes in the Augusta area is Capital Walks at capitalwalks.blogspot.com.