Ah yes, Mr. Moose is one of the main attractions in the Rangeley Lakes Region but he has some stiff competition. This four-legged antlered wonder regularly munches his way through the 110 lakes and smaller ponds within his domain. Unlike Mr. Moose, you have the chance to discover this picturesque, unspoiled region of Western Maine from a variety of perspectives. Hop on a boat or seaplane or take to the road and do a little munching on your own, after a busy day of sightseeing of course. Feeling adventurous? Try a hot air balloon tour, especially delightful during the fall foliage touring season.
Boat tours let you enjoy the Rangeley Lakes Region at eye-level. Kevin Sinnett, a Registered Maine Guide, operates year-round boat trips. Enjoy a leisurely lake cruise aboard the Oquossoc Lady. During the summer board the eight passenger vessel before sunset for a dinner cruise experience called “The Loon and the Lady.” For you more adventurous types book one of Stinnett’s Mothership Kayak Excursions. Motor out to a remote spot on the “Gray Ghost,” a 30-foot pontoon boat, launch your kayak and paddle away. Non paddling packages are also offered.
The Dockside Sports Center & Marina is another option for both boat tours and rentals. The South Shore Drive locale offers historically rich tours of Rangeley Lake, fishing and sports boat rentals as well as skis, jet-skis, kayaks, canoes and tubes. Jeff Hinman, a Maine Master Guide, operates Flagstaff Lake Scenic Boat Tours. Cruise along Flagstaff Lake in search of majestic bald eagles or munching moose and learn about the area’s history on a guided tour or motor out to a remote kayak or hiking locations so you can do some exploring on your own.
Hold on to your hat as you pick up speed and take-off from the surface of a quiet lake, splashing all the way. Seaplanes are the only way to get to some of Maine’s more remote fishing and hunting lodges and a lifeline for residents who choose to live close to nature. Some seaplane operators offer tours of the Rangeley Lakes Region. Acadian Seaplanes based in Rangeley also uses these nimble craft for moose sighting tours, fishing or hunting excursions or to get a bird’s eye view of the fall colors. Lake Region Air also offers seaplane tours in the Moosehead Lake and Rangeley Lake Region. You’ll have to hold on to that hat again for the thrilling splashdown.
Take to the skies in a colorful hot-air balloon. As you float above the Rangeley Lakes Region you get a slow-motion view, the forest and trees looking like a veritable patchwork quilt of greens and blues. Add orange, red and gold to the mix during the fall tree sighting season. Damn Yankee Balloons flies out of Auburn between April and November, offering balloon rides and pilot training. Androscoggin Balloon Adventures, based in Lewiston, offers similar services. Riding in a hot-air balloon is about the closest you can get to being a bird. Once you are at altitude and the gush of hot air from the burner is capped all is silent. It’s you, the breeze and the view.
Sometimes it’s fun to just take a good old-fashioned road trip. The Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway is perfect for such a jaunt. It will take you the better part of a day to see the highlights, including the tips of the White Mountains in nearby New Hampshire and Mooselookmeguntic Lake near the city of Oquossoc. Small Falls, a delightful picnic spot is near the end of the 52-mile drive. The drive snakes around Rangeley Lake via routes 4 and 17, climbs the Appalachian Mountains and then dips down into verdant rolling hills and valleys.
The Franklin Heritage Route is similarly enticing taking you to out-of-the-way sites like the Nordica Homestead, the Narrow Gauge Railway and the Stanley Museum. You’ll get a feel for the area that attracted loggers and fishermen alike. Driving gets you up close and personal with the area. Just keep an eye out for Mr. Moose. He thinks the roadways belong to him.
All of the above sightseeing options in the Rangeley Lakes Region are even more eye-popping as summer draws to a close. Fall foliage bus tours make their way to the area every year to get a look at Mother Nature’s handiwork. She gets out her paintbrush and the area’s hardwoods take on their coats of red, orange and gold. The evergreens keep their color, making the contrast between the mottled landscape and the deep blue of the lakes even more dramatic. The changing of the leaves is driven by shorter days and cooler temperatures. The farther south you go, the later the change. In the Rangeley Region the trees tend to peak in mid-October. Maine’s Department of Conservation has a website devoted to keeping track of where the fall colors are breaking out.
No matter how and when you decide to explore the Rangeley Lake’s Region you’re in for an enjoyable experience. Come ski during the height of winter, welcome new life in the early spring and camp out under the stars in the summer. As the days shorten it’s time again to welcome the fall and the burst of color that Maine and the Rangeley Lakes Region are famous for.
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Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region & Franklin County Directory Listings: