Runaround Pond Landscape & Chandler Brook paddling

The Runaround Pond landscape in Durham includes more than 350 acres of conserved land, with RRCT’s Chesley Meadows Preserve, the Town of Durham’s Runaround Pond Recreation Area, and a working farm conserved by an agricultural conservation easement held by RRCT.  This page also describes the paddling trip downstream, along Chandler Brook, from Durham to North Yarmouth.

Printable 8.5 x 11 pdf trail map.

Chesley Meadows Preserve. This 153 acre preserve was created in late 2015 and expanded in March 2017. The preserve includes more than a half mile of Runaround Pond shoreline along with a stream, open marsh, beaver lodges, and forested riparian zones. The trust prioritized the property due to the wild shoreline, mapped deer yards, and significant wading bird and waterfowl habitat. The preserve hosts a snowmobile trail and is popular for its pond frontage, its hunting, neighborhood equestrian use and snowshoeing. There are no developed or marked trails. Parking is available at the town recreation area, and also parking is available for two cars at a small turnout at the intersection of Davis Road & Chesley Hill Road; look for the blue Chesley Meadows Preserve sign at the intersection. A November 2015 article in the Tri-Town Weekly describes the first acquisitions.  An April 2017 article in The Times Record describes the most recent acquisition. Funding sources included private donors and the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership.

Runaround Pond Recreation Area. This popular spot includes 133 acres managed by the Town of Durham for paddling, fishing, skating, and many other adventures. The recreation area also protects and provides limited access (downstream) to the uppermost reaches of Chandler Brook (Middle Branch of the Royal River), stocked for trout.   The recreation area has a toilet, picnic tables, hand-carry launch, and more.  New signs, bridges, kiosks, and other minor capital improvements in 2017 are funded by the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund and the Royal River Conservation Trust along with the Town of Durham.  This document describes all recent work at the recreation area, and proposed next steps.  

New trail work includes a safe leisurely route from the parking lot to the dam, crossing the Runaround Pond Road near the Davis Road intersection.  Follow the blue diamond blazes NORTH from the parking lot.

Runaround Pond has a rich history, including as a location for several works of the author Stephen King, who spent most of his childhood living on Runaround Pond Road. This document describes the historic, community, and literary context of Runaround Pond and its conservation lands.

Old Crow Ranch. This private farm producing local hogs, chickens, and cattle is protected by a 68 acre agricultural conservation easement held by the Royal River Conservation Trust, with funding from the Land for Maine’s Future program.

Maine Forest Yurts: This dog-friendly year-round campground with yurts on Runaround Pond encourages visitors to explore the nearby conservation land at Runaround and Bradbury Mountain.

Conservation planning: Durham is on the southern edge of Androscoggin County. According to recent state recreation plans, Androscoggin County has the lowest percentage of conserved land of any county in Maine (3.60%), as compared to 18.9% statewide and 6.5% in Cumberland County. According to 2016 USFWS data, only 0.83% of Durham’s land is conserved, even while Durham’s population is growing steadily. Eight percent of Maine’s population is in Androscoggin County, but the county benefits from less than one fifth of one percent of Maine’s conservation land. Durham is thus dramatically underserved by conservation land, compared to most Maine towns.  Recent RRCT acquisitions have slightly improved that 2016 statistic, but more work is necessary; RRCT works to guarantee that the youth of Durham and Androscoggin County have more opportunities to hunt, fish, paddle, hike, skate, and explore.

Recent mapping by The Nature Conservancy has identified Runaround Pond as one of the highest priority areas for planning for habitat “resiliency” in the face of climate change, and as part of a priority focus area for riparian (stream and pond) corridors for habitat.

Paddling Runaround Pond & Chandler Brook:

Runaround Pond, starting and ending at the town recreation area’s hand-carry access point, is always an exceptional paddling experience. Soon after paddlers or skaters leave the boat launch, the winding pond creates a near-wilderness experience with miles of undeveloped forested shoreline. Fish and wildlife includes beavers, otters, eagles, osprey, kingfishers, herons, frogs, turtles, bass and pickerel. A portage around the dam allows paddling downstream, on Chander Brook — the Middle Branch of the Royal RIver.

Except for two flatwater sections (described below) Chandler Brook can be paddled only during spring high water or after heavy rain. The most delightful whitewater trip is from Runaround Pond (below the dam) to Elmwood Road, or any subset of that trip.  To determine water levels, look at the stream from the road where it parallels Lawrence Road in North Pownal. If the water is high enough to run those rapids, the water is high enough to run the entire stream. The most fun rapids are just downriver from the Bradbury Corridor trail bridge crossing the stream below Sweetser Road. Please respect any private property postings at bridges; all bridges have enough public access if you hug the bridge abutments. Poland Range Road, Lawrence, and Elmwood have ample access and safe shoulders.

The stretch between Runaround Pond (below the dam, requires a portage or carry) and Poland Range Road is flat, easily paddled in either direction including upstream and back from Poland Range Road, even at low water. Some beaver dams and strainers can be a challenge just downstream from Runaround Pond, but the trip is surprisingly remote and pristine.

The lower-most reaches of Chandler Brook can be paddled upstream (and back), by starting (and ending) on the Royal at Route 9. The North Road bridge creates a short rapid that can be waded upstream at most water levels, or paddled upstream at some levels. Strainers block upstream travel prior to reaching Milliken.

  • Caution:  All sections of the stream have some strainers (downed trees) that might require a short portage with steep banks. Stream conditions vary considerably from year to year, and from storm to storm.
  • Caution:  In 2017, significant major strainers (downed trees) make it very frustrating to paddle the stream between Milliken and North-Route 9, and also between Elmwood and Chadsey.  Be warned.