Chesuncook Lake

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Chesuncook Lake
Location Piscataquis County, Maine
Coordinates 45°59′14″N 69°20′27″W / 45.98722°N 69.34083°W / 45.98722; -69.34083Coordinates: 45°59′14″N 69°20′27″W / 45.98722°N 69.34083°W / 45.98722; -69.34083
Type Mesotrophic
Catchment area 1,420 square miles (3,700 km2)
Basin countries United States
Max. length 22.5 miles (36.2 km)
Max. width 1-4 miles
Surface area 25,183 acres (101.91 km2)
Average depth 40 feet (12 m)
Max. depth 150 feet (46 m)
Water volume 136,667 acre·ft (168,576,000 m3)
Residence time 6 months
Surface elevation 942 feet (287 m)
Islands Gero Island
Settlements Chesuncook Township, T2 R12 WELS, T3 R11 WELS, T3 R12 WELS

Chesuncook Lake is a reservoir in Piscataquis County, Maine, formed by the damming of the West Branch of the Penobscot River in 1835, 1903 and 1916.[1] It is approximately 22 miles (35 km) long and 1–4 miles wide, with a surface area of 25,183 acres (101.91 km2) and a maximum depth of 150 feet (46 m). It is the third-largest body of fresh water in Maine.[1]

The lake was named "goose place" by combining the call of the Canada goose schunk with auke (the Abenaki word for place). Henry David Thoreau visited Chesuncook (village) and lake in 1853 and wrote about its beginnings in his book "The Maine Woods" Chesuncook Part 4; 'Ansell Smith's the oldest and principal clearing about this lake,...' Thoreau observed no geese on the lake during his visit.[2]

The original lake was enlarged by construction of Ripogenus Dam in 1916 to cover Ripogenus Lake, Caribou Lake, and Moose Pond. The enlarged lake became less suitable for Lake trout because of fluctuating reservoir levels for generating hydroelectricity.[3]

In H.P. Lovecraft's horror short story The Thing on the Doorstep, the ill-fated Edward Derby found himself lost in the town of Chesuncook, "close to the wildest, deepest, and least explored forest belt in Maine."

Chesuncook Lake features in First Lensman by EE "Doc" Smith as a clandestine handover point for a shipment of illegal drugs.

Chesuncook Village of Piscataquis County, Maine is located on the northwestern shore of Chesuncook Lake with a year-round population of approximately 10 people on this otherwise uninhabited lake. It is in an unorganized township in the heart of the east coast's largest unsettled logging forest and is considered to be the last wilderness area on the eastern seaboard of the United States. It is approximately 60 miles from the nearest towns of Greenville and Millinocket, Maine. It is completely off grid with no infrastructure. Chesuncook "Village" was settled in 1849 by Ansel A. Smith as a logging outfit. The historic Chesuncook Lake House Inn, built in 1864 is still in operation 150 years later as of 2014 by its current owners the Surprenant family. Set on the shoreline of Chesuncook lake and facing Mount Katahdin in the distance, the Lake House and its acreage are one of the few remaining North Woods "logging hotels" which at one time were built at intervals of every 30 miles through the logging regions in order to house and feed the logging industry as well as visiting travelers and sportsmen such as Henry David Thoreau. The rest of the village which is actually a 1920's subdivision that never really took off, supports a scattering of privately owned seasonal camps and a few permanent year-round residents. The only public land within the village is maintained by the state as a pasture and public boat launch/beach area. There is a non denominational meeting house which is used as seasonal churches, meeting place and foul weather refuge for those traveling through the area. For current information regarding Henry David Thoreau's 150 year anniversary of the publication of his book "The Maine Woods" in regards to his 1853 visit to Chesuncook Village can be found either through the non-profit or Lake House Facebook. Both publications are produced year-round in Chesuncook Village, Maine.

See for more history and information. (NB: The original public property owners' association, founded by Bert McBurnie, Alice Cousins and others is the CVA whose website is .)


  1. ^ a b Mark Shanahan, "Searching for Thoreau", Portland Press Herald, 1997
  2. ^ Thoreau, Henry David The Maine Woods Apollo edition (1966) Thomas Y. Crowell Company pp.162,414-416&423
  3. ^ "Chesuncook Lake" (PDF). State of Maine. Retrieved 2012-12-30. 

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