We periodically publish content from DownEast Magazine, The Magazine of Maine. Dedicated to evoking and illuminating the spirit and culture of Maine at its best.
Acadia's Echo Lake
Size: 237 acres
Maximum depth: 66 feet
Water visibility: 30 feet
For those seeking a way to cool off during the summertime Echo Lake, on the west or “quiet” side of Mount Desert Island, offers top-notch, lifeguard-protected swimming. Lifeguard counts indicate that some 40 percent of the 13,000 visitors to the Echo Lake swimming area, on the south side of the lake just off Route 102 near Southwest Harbor, put their swimsuits to use in the seventy-degree water (in contrast to the 10 percent of visitors to Sand Beach who brave the fifty-five-degree water there). Families are enticed by Echo Lake’s gently sloping sand beach that is ideal for the younger set (older kids may enjoy leaping from the ledges at Ike’s Point just up the lake a bit, though rangers urge extreme caution), brand-new changing rooms, and the dramatic steep backdrop of Beech and Mansell mountains.
A wooden pathway provides a handicapped-accessible entrance to the water, while the lifeguards on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day help keep the volleyball games in control and answer such simple questions as how to decipher the free bus schedules and where the best hiking trails are located. One of the more interesting features of this area includes the fire tower on the summit of Beech Mountain, a three-story structure first built in 1941 and occasionally open to the public (ask the lifeguards if the Beech Cliffs trail is open, as it may be closed to protect nesting peregrine falcons).
Richard Rechholtz, the retired park ranger who oversaw lifeguards in the park, says that while Echo Lake provides swimmers with a welcome break from the busy and sometimes blustery conditions at Sand Beach, it’s hardly as tranquil as it once was, as evidenced by the parking lot, which usually fills by noon. “I grew up here, and the west side of the island used to be quieter, but it’s not so much now,” he remarks. “Come the middle of summer, both sides of the island are busy these days.”
Excerpted from the article by Joshua F. Moore in the June 2008 issue of DownEast Magazine.