Island Getaway

There’s a little slice of heaven on Mooselookmeguntic Lake — and it doesn’t have showers.

By Caroline Praderio
Photographed by Irvin Serrano

Each of the 65 campsites at the Stephen Phillips Memorial Preserve is a little bit different. Hawaiian Point 1A has a sandy beach. Students Island #9 has open space and multiple fire pits. You might choose Ramble, for its views of Elephant Mountain. Then again, you might want a whole island to yourself — and you can get it at Griffin. Here, secluded sites are spread across the shores and islands of Mooselookmeguntic Lake — some just steps from the parking lot, others accessible only by canoe. They’re all part of a 6,000-acre preserve first dreamed up by Massachusetts philanthropist and outdoorsman Stephen Phillips and his wife, Bessie. In 1963, they purchased Students Island, part of Toothaker Island, and land along the shore, hearts set on protecting the area for public use. After Stephen’s death, Bessie completed his vision, creating the trust that maintains and protects the land.

Today, the area retains the same rustic character that first captivated the couple. There are no showers, electricity, or RVs. Campers must endure the requisite storms and mosquitoes of summer. But according to preserve employee Janet House, who manages campground reservations, these small adversities haven’t kept visitors away. “We’ve got second and third generations returning,” she says. “We have children of the children come back.”

It’s not hard to see why. “It’s just beautiful. It’s almost ineffable,” says trustee Steve Parrett, who’s worked for the preserve since 1985. “You can hear loons or see moose on the shorelines. There are big hemlocks, white pines, crashing waves. It truly is forever wild.”

Even at the bustling height of summer there is a profound peacefulness here, whether you’re alone on a trail or gathered around a picnic table with friends. If you listen closely, it’s present in every sound: a canoe paddle cutting the surface of the water, the choppy lake pawing at your campsite’s shore, the hushed rustle of a campfire log collapsing into a pile of blue-orange coals.

The greatest peace of all comes from knowing that when you return next year and the year after — even as you escort the next generation to your favorite lakeside site — the wilderness will remain as wild as you left it.

If You Go:
Stephen Phillips Memorial Preserve, Mooselookmeguntic Lake. $16 per site per night, for 1–2 people. $8 per night for each additional adult. $5 per night for each child 6–12 (children under 6 are free). $5 per night for dogs. Canoe rentals: $20 for overnight use, $10 for day use between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. To reserve a site, call 207-864-2003 from May through September.

Caroline Praderio is an assistant editor at Down East.

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