The 10 Best Lakes In Maine: Truly Awesome, Famous In Literature & Majestically Beautiful

Written by Sean Moore
Published: July 25, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/mountinez
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It might not be the first place to come to mind when you think of states that have amazing lakes, but it should be. Maine is home to some of the most interesting and beautiful lakes in the entire country. Beyond the standard lake affair, there is deep history in the area including references by several famous authors.

There are good reasons these famous writers were including the region and its lakes in their work. The majestic beauty, especially in the autumn, is the source of inspiration for many creatives. Henry David Thoreau mentioned the area in the famous book In The Maine Woods and Theodore Winthrop wrote about it in Life in the Open Air.

Hunting and fishing are also world-class and sought at the lakes of Maine. East Grand Lake hosts an annual ice fishing derby, Mooselookmeguntic Lake sports trophy-sized brown trout, and the Grand Lake Stream has been a fly fishing hot spot for nearly two centuries. Maine is full of truly awesome lakes, here are ten of the best, most well-known, and highly recommended of them.

Let’s dive into 10 of the best lakes in Maine!

1. Sebago Lake

Sebago Lake in Maine New England
Sebago Lake is the second-largest and also the deepest lake in Maine and offers a huge variety of activities from fishing and camping to float-plane rides and mini-golf

iStock.com/Angela Fouquette

● Surface Area: 30,510 acres

● Max Depth: 316 Feet

● Camping/Overnight Available: Yes

● Boating/Docks Available: Yes

● Swimming Permitted: Yes

● Fishing Permitted: Yes

● Best For: Sudden Changing Weather, Deepest Lake In Maine, Second Largest Lake In Maine, Cleanest Water in the State

Sebago Lake was created by glacial activity over fourteen thousand years ago. Today it’s the primary water supply for Portland, Maine, and is utilized for outdoor recreational activities such as canoeing, cross-country skiing, sports fishing, camping, hiking, snowshoeing, roadway biking, float-plane excursions, and golf. The lake is known for its erratic and sudden changes in weather during all seasons so visitors should be aware and prepared.

Tassel Top Beach has a secure swimming area along the lake’s one hundred and five-mile shoreline. Much of the shoreline has limited access however there is a pier at Sebago Lake State Park. The lake has two hundred and fifty campsites shared between two campgrounds, Witch Cove and Naples Beach. 

Primary fish species sought by anglers at Sebago Lake are landlocked salmon, lake trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, whitefish, northern pike, cusk, and smelt. Unlike most parks in Maine, winter fishing is allowed. Visitors to the lake can also enjoy the Songo River Queen II, a privately built replica of the famed Mississippi River Paddle Wheelers.

2. Chesuncook Lake

Chesuncook Lake
Chesuncook Lake is located in north-central Maine, connected to Ripogenus Lake and Caribou Lake creating a fishing dreamland for anglers

iStock.com/mountinez

● Surface Area: 25,180 acres

● Max Depth: 150 Feet

● Camping/Overnight Available: Yes

● Boating/Docks Available: Yes

● Swimming Permitted: N/A

● Fishing Permitted: Yes

● Best For: Maine’s Third Largest Lake, Landlocked Salmon Fishing, Chesuncook Salmon Derby, Salmon Overpopulation, Historical Literary References

Chesuncook Lake is located in north-central Maine and was formed by the damming of the western branch of the Penobscot River in 1903 and 1916. It was created for water storage and hydropower and as a means to send pulpwood to downstream paper mills. The lake was important for logging and lumbering during the early nineteenth century.

Ripogenus Lake and Caribou Lake are connected to Chesuncook Lake creating a fishing dreamland for anglers. Fish species known to swim the waters include brook trout, lake trout, huge white perch, chain pickerel, cockeye salmon, sucker, muskie, northern pike, smelt, lake whitefish, blacknose dace, and fallfish. For winter angling ice fishing shacks are available and during warmer weather fly fishing for carp is said to be great.

Chesuncook Lake and the surrounding area are prime for many types of wildlife including moose, deer, beaver, raccoons, eagles, and loons to name just a few. This makes hunting for white-tail deer, bear, moose, and grouse extremely popular. The lake is also home to the small, off-grid Chesuncook Village where Henry David Thoreau once stayed, later writing about it in his book The Maine Woods.

3. Flagstaff Lake

Flagstaff Lake, Maine
Flagstaff Lake is the fourth largest lake in Maine with an undeveloped shoreline providing a great relaxed atmosphere; and an interesting ghost town history

Casey Dugas/Shutterstock.com

● Surface Area: 20,300 acres

● Max Depth: 48 Feet

● Camping/Overnight Available: Yes

● Boating/Docks Available: Yes

● Swimming Permitted: Yes

● Fishing Permitted: Yes

● Best For: Fourth Largest Lake In Maine, Kennebec River Basin Water Regulation, The Ghost City of Flagstaff Village Under Beneath Lake, Undeveloped Shoreline

Flagstaff Lake is seated in the mid-western part of Maine north of the Bigelow Mountain range. The area was once a small town named Flagstaff Village until 1949 when inhabitants were forced from their homes so the lake could be created. Some residents sold their properties and relocated while others refused and their houses flooded anyway; parts of buildings and other remnants are still visible today.

Deeper waters can be accessed through a number of boat launches on both the east and west ends of the lake. Anglers can expect to find yellow perch, chain pickerel, American eel, brook trout, brown bullhead, burbot, fallfish, landlocked salmon, rainbow smelt, slimy sculpin, and white sucker. Flagstaff Lake has an undeveloped shoreline providing a peaceful, serene atmosphere that is excellent for fishing and wildlife viewing.

The lake is part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a seven hundred and forty-mile trail, that follows historic waterways from New York state all the way into Fort Kent, Maine. Nearby thirty-six thousand-acre Bigelow Preserve hosts twenty miles of designated trails for snowmobiling and cross country skiing. Hunting is also popular in the area with common game species taken home being deer, moose, bear, and many small game animals and birds

4. Pemadumcook Chain of Lakes

The Pemadumcook Chain of Lakes system includes Ambajejus Lake, Elbow Lake, North Twin Lake, Pemadumcook Lake, and South Twin Lake known for great warm water fishing and written about by many famous authors

Marqqq / Creative Commons – License

● Surface Area: 18,300 acres

● Max Depth: 103 Feet

● Camping/Overnight Available: Yes

● Boating/Docks Available: Yes

● Swimming Permitted: Yes

● Fishing Permitted: Yes

● Best For: Fifth Largest Lake System In Maine, Historical Literary Relevance, Productive Warm Water Fishing, Unique Lake System

Pemadumcook Lake was first documented as Lake Bennedumcook in 1764 by British surveyor Joseph Chadwick. The entire system of lakes that comprises the Pemadumcook Chain of Lakes includes Ambajejus Lake, Elbow Lake, North Twin Lake, Pemadumcook Lake, and South Twin Lake. The translation of Pemadumcook in the native American Penobscot language means “lake with gravelly or sandy bottom or sand bars.”

This complex lake system consisting of many separate bodies of mostly shallow water and islands provides a perfect home to a wide variety of fish species. The common fish found in the Pemadumcook Chain of Lakes include brook trout, togue lake trout, landlocked Atlantic salmon, whitefish, chain pickerel, American eel, white perch, yellow perch, chubs, minnows, sunfish, brown bullhead, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass. Most of the lake’s waters increase in temperature from top to bottom during the summer months providing favorable conditions for warm-water species; this is prime time for anglers.

Henry David Thoreau crossed the lake in September 1846 and wrote about the area in his famous book The Maine Woods. Theodore Winthrop wrote about the lake chain and surrounding area in his 1856 title Life in the Open Air. And, Charles E. Hamlin wrote about the lake chain in 1881 in the journal of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Visitors can also enjoy the two hundred miles of hiking trails ponds and smaller lakes at nearby Baxter State Park which offers a slew of water recreation activities including sailing, canoeing, and kayaking.

5. Spednic Lake

Spednic Lake
Spednic Lake is one of Maine’s largest undeveloped lakes sometimes referred to as the best least-known fishing area in the state

Carol Behan/Shutterstock.com

● Surface Area: 17,220 acres

● Max Depth: 54 Feet

● Camping/Overnight Available: Yes

● Boating/Docks Available: Yes

● Swimming Permitted: Yes

● Fishing Permitted: Yes

● Best For: Renowned Smallmouth Bass Fishery, Hiking, Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing, Snowmobiling

Spednic Lake is a mesotrophic lake, meaning the water has beds of submerged aquatic plants and medium levels of nutrients in it. It’s located in the Chiputneticook Lakes chain along the Canadian and United States borders. Spednic Lake is one of Maine’s largest undeveloped lakes providing a pristine and untouched atmosphere.

The lake is sometimes referred to as the best least-known fishing area in Maine due to its low-key and out-of-the-way attitude and environment. The seventy-two miles of shoreline provide home to a wide range of fish including Atlantic salmon, white perch, and the prime attraction smallmouth bass. Other fish species in the lake include pike, hornpout, cusk, chain pickerel, lake whitefish, pumpkinseed, and rainbow smelt. There is a dock available to anglers at the Grand Falls Dam and several boat launches for deeper water fishing.

Other popular activities at the lake include hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ATV riding, wildlife viewing, and camping. Wildlife regularly seen in the area include common loon, bald eagle, osprey, otter, American black duck, ring-necked duck, ruffed grouse, mourning dove, ruby-throated hummingbird, sharp-shinned hawk, barred owl, blue jay and tree swallow.

6. Mooselookmeguntic Lake

Mooselookmeguntic Lake Maine, New England
Mooselookmeguntic Lake has one of the longest names out of anywhere else in the United States and is also peaceful and quiet

iStock.com/Holcy

● Surface Area: 16,300 acres

● Max Depth: 132 Feet

● Camping/Overnight Available: Yes

● Boating/Docks Available: Yes

● Swimming Permitted: Yes

● Fishing Permitted: Yes

● Best For: Trout & Salmon Spawning & Nursery Area, Peaceful & Quiet Environment, Mentioned In Magic Thinks Big Children’s Book, Trophy-Sized Wild Brook Trout, Longest Place Names in the United States

There is some debate about Mooselookmeguntic Lake got its name, one explanation is the translation from Abnaki being “moose feeding place” and another tale saying it means “moose look my gun stick.” Despite its interesting name, Mooselookmeguntic Lake is located in central-western Maine and it’s the sixth-largest lake in the state. The lake is part of the larger Rangeley Lakes region, six lakes in total, two other prominent lakes being Rangeley Lake and Richardson Lake.

Mooselookmeguntic Lake has sixty miles of shoreline for anglers to explore in hopes of catching a trophy-sized brook trout, brown trout, yellow perch, or landlocked Atlantic salmon. The lake has many tributaries including the Cupsuptic, the Rangeley, and Kennebago Rivers which provide excellent spawning and nursery areas for both trout and salmon. Visitors can expect light boat traffic on the lake enabling perfect conditions for fishing, wildlife viewing, canoeing, and kayaking.

Wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers can expect to find plenty of loons and ducks in the area. There are two islands in the southern part of the lake called Toothaker Island and Students Island that provide excellent opportunities for moose watching, which are said to be easiest to find in the morning or evening. Mooselookmeguntic Lake is also popular during winter for the one hundred and fifty miles of well-maintained snowmobile trails.

7. East Grand Lake

● Surface Area: 15,920 acres

● Max Depth: 128 Feet

● Camping/Overnight Available: Yes

● Boating/Docks Available: Yes

● Swimming Permitted: Yes

● Fishing Permitted: Yes

● Best For: Greenland Islands, Birdwatching, Wildlife Viewing, Ice Fishing, Grand Lake Stream Historical Society Museum, Annual Ice Fishing Derby

East Grand Lake is part of Maine’s Chiputneticook chain of lakes and Saint Croix River Basin. The twenty-two-mile-long lake acts as an international border between the United States and Canada. Fishing is the main draw at East Grand Lake however the Grand Lake Stream Historical Society Museum is said to be a “must-see” attraction as well.

East Grand Lake is known statewide for its cold water game fishing opportunities, there’s even an annual ice fishing derby held each January. Common fish species caught at the lake include landlocked salmon, lake trout, brook trout, smallmouth bass, black bass, chain pickerel, pike, smelt, white perch, whitefish, and yellow perch.

Forested trails surrounding East Grand Lake provide an excellent home to deer, coyotes, bears, and moose. Interesting bird species seen in the area include bald eagles, black-back woodpeckers, chickadees, and yellow-bellied flycatchers. A popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts is Greenland Islands, a six-acre piece of wooded land near the entrance of the lake’s Greenland Cove Campground.

8. West Grand Lake

● Surface Area: 14,340 acres

● Max Depth: 128 Feet

● Camping/Overnight Available: Yes

● Boating/Docks Available: Yes

● Swimming Permitted: Yes

● Fishing Permitted: 

● Best For: Quietest Coastal Region in Maine, One of the Largest Salmon Lakes in Maine, Exceptional Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Ice Fishing for Whitefish

The early, crude dam structure for West Grand Lake was originally built in the early 1800s. Fishing, hunting, canoeing, hiking, birding, wildlife watching, photography, family reunions, and vacationing have been popular at West Grand Lake since that first dam was constructed. Today there are modern vacation rentals and cabins available and a public boat launch near the dam for anglers looking to take advantage of the great salmon fishing.

The most popular species caught at West Grand Lake are brook trout and smallmouth bass. Other common species caught at West Grand Lake include lake whitefish, pumpkinseed sunfish, white perch, yellow perch, and chain pickerel. The lake is said to be one of the largest salmon lakes in Maine making it a required stop for any hardcore anglers.

The West Grand Lake area is also a popular hunting destination with common game species being moose, black bear, and white-tailed deer. The area has been an extremely popular hunting destination since the 1800s and many great guides are available. Nearby Grand Lake Stream has been a fly fishing hot spot for nearly two centuries making this one of the best fishing areas in the state and eastern seaboard.

9. Chamberlain Lake

● Surface Area: 10,932 acres

● Max Depth: 154 Feet

● Camping/Overnight Available: Yes

● Boating/Docks Available: Yes

● Swimming Permitted: Yes

● Fishing Permitted: Yes

● Best For: One of the Largest & Deepest Lakes in the North Maine Woods, Lake & Brook Trout Ice Fishing. 

Chamberlain Lake was originally discovered by settlers in the 1700s and later surveyed in the mid-1800s; it was initially called Apmoojenegamook Lake. The first and historic timber crib structure was built as one of two dams that provide a lock in between Chamberlain Lake and Eagle Lake. Popular activities at the lake today include boating, camping, fishing, swimming, hunting, canoeing, and snowmobiling.

The lake is prized for its notable brook and lake trout fishing. Other fish species anglers can expect to catch at Chamberlain Lake include lake whitefish, arctic char, and Atlantic salmon. Hunting is popular as well, late summer being the ideal time to take home trophy bears; other common game include grouse, moose, goose, and duck.

Birdwatchers are in for a treat getting an opportunity to view northern Maine’s specialty birds including gray jay, spruce grouse, black-backed woodpecker, three-toed woodpecker, rusty blackbird, boreal chickadee, olive and yellow-bellied flycatchers, twenty warbler species and six northern finch species. Other birds that can be seen at Chamberlain Lake include ospreys, eagles, and loons.

10. Moosehead Lake

Moosehead Lake
Moosehead Lake, the second largest lake in New England, gets its name from the shape of the lake when drawn on a map; it’s also got a massive moose population!

iStock.com/mountinez

● Surface Area: 160,309 acres

● Max Depth: 246 Feet

● Camping/Overnight Available: Yes

● Boating/Docks Available: Yes

● Swimming Permitted: Yes

● Fishing Permitted: Yes

● Best For: Second Largest Lake in New England, Largest Mountain Lake in the Eastern United States, Rich Cultural History, Steamboat Katahdin, Lily Bay State Park

This glacially-carved lake’s name comes from its shape when drawn out on a map; it actually looks like the head of a moose with antlers. The lake and surrounding area have a massive moose population, outnumbering humans three to one! Henry David Thoreau is said to have noted: “…a gleaming silver platter at the end of the table” in regards to Moosehead Lake.

Moosehead Lake offers world-class fishing with common catches being landlocked salmon, lake trout, brook trout, round whitefish, rainbow smelt, smallmouth bass, white perch, yellow perch, longnose sucker, white sucker, rompout, and burbot. Hunting is also top-notch at the lake, common game species include ruffed grouse, rabbit, wild turkeys, deer, bear, and of course tons of moose. Greenville is the largest nearby town with a small downtown area with banks, shops, and restaurants.

The lake has over eighty islands with the largest ones being Sugar Island and Deer Island. Moosehead Lake sports an impressive four hundred-mile shoreline and is the source of the Kennebec River. Today the lake is enjoyed by tourists and locals for fishing, camping, hunting, birdwatching, cruises on the Katahdin steamboat, and even golfing.

Moosehead Lake
Moosehead Lake, the second largest lake in New England, gets its name from the shape of the lake when drawn on a map; it’s also got a massive moose population!
iStock.com/mountinez
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About the Author

Sean is a professionally published author, mostly in the tech space. He's worked as a writer, editor, and reviewer for O'Reilly Media, Adobe, Manning, Addison-Wesley, and many more. Sean is also a lifelong musician and writes about audio production. Recently he's been focused on web3 and music NFTs.

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