|Wassataquoik Lake from the viewpoint above Little Wassataquoik Lake|
Backcountry travelers in the Park will find some changes in camping opportunities in the Wassataquoik Lake area in 2014.
The Wassataquoik Lake and Little Wassataquoik Lakes area have provided remote backcountry camping opportunities for Park visitors for many decades. Wassataquiok Lake (178 ac.) is one of the most beautiful and pristine water bodies in the Park and one of the few Park waters supporting a natural population of blueback trout or arctic char (Salvelinus alpines). Little Wassataquoik Lake (10 ac.) is a small high mountain pond perched at the height of land north of Wassataquoik Lake. The Park provides two sites in the area, a canoe-access only leanto on Wassataquoik Lake Island and a leanto on Little Wassataquoik Lake.
|Little Wassataquoik Lake|
In the winter of 2013, Park staff cleared a winter-access trail from the Park Tote Road to Center Pond, west and south of Little Wassataquoik Lake. The trail provided winter snowmobile access to haul in materials for a leanto at Center Pond. The Center Pond leanto was constructed in the spring of 2013 and opened for rental in the summer of the same year. With the completion of the Center Pond leanto, consideration rose regarding the leanto at Little Wassataquoik Lake, as the trail access cleared to reach Center Pond would also provide a good start on accessing the Little Wassataquoik Lake site, but without other needs, the trail should be left to return to its natural state. The trail issue prompted a revival of the review process of both the Little Wassataquoik Lake site and the loon nesting impacts on the Wassataquoik Island site. The area between the north end of Wassataquiok Lake and the leanto at Little Wassataquoik Lake was examined by several members of Park staff including administrative, enforcement ranger and campground ranger staff.
|BSP Staff Taylor, Hoekwater, Woodard and Morrill recon site options|
After careful consideration and discussion, here’s what we decided. I’m certain that there will be hikers who think these changes are great and others who will disagree. The changes are intended to protect the flora and fauna of the area, while providing a variety of recreational opportunities to backcountry campers.
1. Construction of a new leanto, privy and access trail at Alternate site 6. The site will be named “Wassataquoik Lake”.
The shared conclusion of the reviewing group is that the current status of the Little Wassataquoik leanto site is unacceptable. Several alternate sites were reviewed. In addition, the general lack of tentsite opportunities in the area was also considered. This led to the determination and review of alternate sites 3 and 4 as tentsite opportunities. As consideration widened to include the concerns of the loon nesting issue at Wassataquoik Island, a stronger consensus emerged that the establishment of a second appealing site on Wassataquoik Lake would provide a good alternative to campers in the early season when the island site is closed. The existence of a good alternative within the reasonable hiking distance of Russell Pond Campground (3.9 mi.) would also allow a firmer opening date to be set for the Wassataquoik Island Leanto of August 15. This date will better ensure the annual opportunity for loons to nest undisturbed on the island shore. Alternate site 6 emerged as the clear best opportunity for this additional leanto. Alternate site 6 is within reasonable hiking distance of the Center Pond Leanto (5.5 mi.) and can be reached by stronger hikers in one day from the trailhead at Nesowadnehunk Field (10.2 mi). The site is appealing, located on well-drained soils and can be enhanced by a dedicated canoe. A modest length of trail will be required to access the site to the Wassataquoik Lake Trail and provides good privacy to the site from the main trail. Opportunities to successfully site a privy between the leanto and the main trail appear to be good.
2. Removal of the Little Wassataquoik Leanto and conversion of this site to a tentsite. The existing privy on site will be retained. Selected trees around the tentsite will be removed to admit some sun and airflow to the site.
With the decision to install a new leanto on Wassataquiok Lake on alternate site 6, attention returned to the issue of tentsites in the area. After careful consideration of alternative sites 3 and 4, the option of utilizing the current Little Wassataquiok Lake leanto site as a tentsite emerged. This option would allow the use of the existing privy and would recognize the attraction of the spring brook at the site. The overgrown and dark nature of the site could be corrected with some careful and judicious removal of trees and vegetation around and over the site. The establishment of this site as a tentsite will allow reasonable access to Russell Pond from Nesowadnehunk Field (9.4 mi.) by tent campers.
|Park Naturalist Jean Hoekwater checks shoreland plants at Little Wassataquoik Lake|