O, The lovely rivers and Lakes of Maine!
I am charmed with their names, as my song will explain;
Aboriginal muses inspire my strain,
While I sing the bright rivers and lakes of Maine-
From Cupsuptic to Cheputmatticook
From Sagadahock to Pohenegamook-
‘gamook, ‘gamook, Pohenegamook,
From Sagadahock to Pohenegamook.
For light serenading the “Blue Moselle”,
“Bonnie Doon” and “Sweet Avon” may do very well;
But the rivers of Maine, in their wild solitudes,
Bring a thunderous sound from the depth of the woods:
The Aroostook and Chimmenticook,
The Chimpanaoc and Chinquassabamtook-
‘bamtook, ‘bamtook, Chinquassabamtook,
The Chimpassoc and Chinquassabamtook,
Behold how they sparkle and flash in the sun!
The Mattewamkeag and the Mussungun;
The kingly Penobscot, the wild Woolastook,
Kennebec, Kennebago and Sebasticook;
The pretty Presumpscut and gay Tulanbic;
The Ess’quilsagook and little Schoodic-
Schoodic, Schoodic; The little Schoodic;
The Ess’quilsagook and little Schoodic.
Yes, Yes, I prefer the bright rivers of Maine,
To the Rhine or the Rhone or the Saone or the Seine;
These may do for the Cockney, but give me some nook,
On the Ammonoosuc or the Wytopadiook.
On the Umsaskis or the Ripogenis,
The Ripogenis or the Piscataquis-
The Piscataguis. “Away down South,” the Cherokee
Has named his river the Tennessee,
The Chattahoochee and the Ocmulgee,
The Congaree and the Ohoopee;
But what are they, or the Frenchy Detroit,
To the Passadumkeag or the Wassatoquoit-
‘toquoit, ‘toquoit, The Wassatoquoit,
To the Passadumkeag or the Wassatoquoit-
Then turn to the beautiful lakes of Maine
To the Sage of Auburn be given the strain,
The statesman whose genius and bright fancy, makes
The earth’s highest glories to shine in its lakes;
What lakes out of Maine can we place in the book
With the Matagomon and the Pangokomook
”ommok, ‘ommok, The Pangokomook,
With the Matagomon and the Pangokomook?
Lake Leman, or Como, what care I for them,
When Maine has the Moosehead and Pangokwahem,
And, sweet as the dews in the violet’s kiss,
Wallahgosqueqamook and Telesimis;
And when I can share in the fisherman’s bunk
On the Moosetuckmaguntic or Mol’tunkamunk?
And Maine has the Eagle Lakes, Cheppawagan,
And the little Sepic and the little Scapan,
The spreading Sebago, the Congomgomoc,
The Milliemet and Motesoinloc,
Caribou and the fair Anmonjenegamook,
Oquassaac and rare Wetokenebacook-
Oquassac and rare Wetokenebacook.
And there are the Pokeshine and Patquongomis;
And there is the pretty Coscomgonnosis,
The Pemadumook and the old Chesuncook,
Sepois and Mooseleuk; and take care not to miss
The Umbazookskus or the Sysladobsis.
‘dobsis, ‘dobsis, The Sysladobsis.
O, Give me the rivers and lakes of Maine
In her mountains or forests or fields of grain,
In the depth of the shade or the blaze of the sun,
The lakes of Schoodic and the Basconegun,
And the dear Waubasoos and the clear Aquessuc,
The Cosbosecontic and Millenkikuk-
‘kikuk, ‘kikuk, The Millenkikuk,
The Cosbosecontic and Millenkikuk!
Transcribed by Janice Farnsworth
“The rivers of Maine, in their wild solitudes, bring a thunderous sound from the depth of the woods.” The places of the wild solitudes shrink every year yet the Passadumkeag and the other rivers of Maine still have them. You can still canoe around a corner on a misty morning, gliding by the steaming banks to surprise a moose, or a bear, or have your fishing line tighten with the bite of a wild brook trout.
Before the highways and byways of our time, waterways were used for travel, and America’s history is full of tales of the rivers used for travel and trade.
When you look at a topographic map of Maine, you can begin to easily pick out the routes that our forebears used to travel from one place to another. The Passadumkeag River’s translation to the native tongue means above the gravel bar, and is named for a distinct gravel bar in the Penobscot River. That gravel bar is an old river highway exit sign when traveling upstream. The Passadumkeag River was a very important route as it allowed for easterly travel. The Native American language also incorporates an easy way for you to tell whether or not the river is hard or easy to paddle by the name itself. If the river is relatively easy to paddle, it has a “keag” at the end – such as Passadumkeag, Mattawamkeag, and Kenduskeag. If the river is hard to paddle it has a “hunk” at the end such as Nesowadnehunk, Madunkehunk, and O’zwazo-ge-hunk streams. Interestingly the translation of O’zwazo-ge-hunk is “when they come by here they wade their canoes”. So, the Native American names for rivers and lakes in Maine are not named randomly – they all have a specific meaning, worth looking up if you can before attempting a first paddle. My experience with the Passadumkeag begins where the entrance of Cold Stream enters the river a few miles up from Route 2. The river is flat, calm, and deep here and has a marshy/boggy area that extends some distance on either side. Paddling up Cold Stream is fun as well, winding through the marsh. I have yet to paddle down, but someday I want to paddle the length of the stream from Cold Stream Pond down to the Passadumkeag, I think it would be a great paddle.
Last year while slowly paddling and trolling upriver there was quite a disturbance on the bank to my right. I watched for a bit as the commotion continued, and got a glimpse of what I thought was an otter. I whistled and gave a little call out, and shortly a mother otter appeared, steaming across the water with two babies rapidly following her right towards the canoe! They got close enough for me to get a little nervous and she alternated between whistling and hissing at us. She and the young would swim far out, and then back again to the boat, vocalizing all the while. I pulled up my line, and when she would go under, I would give chase, stopping when she came up. We then alternated, and I would paddle away fast with her giving chase. Finally they tired of the fun and swam off downriver in search of other adventures. Otters are such curious creatures – their curiousity is quite similar , in my opinion, to that of a cat, if not more so. My friend Peter once saw one playing with a stray balloon on a stream in the middle of nowhere.
I’ve also seen some large moose roaming the banks in the summer time, and found it interesting that back in the day the Passadumkeag “had some of the best hunting in Maine.” It certainly is teeming with wildlife.
I learned something new when I was looking at things to write about the Passadumkeag. On the knoll that overlooks the Passadumkeag and Cold Stream confluence there is a small farm (Hathaway Farm) and there is also an old cemetery there, references for the cemetery and history of the region can be found here, here, and here. Take the time to scroll down and through the last link – it’s a good read.
And interestingly in reading about the cemetery there on the hill they talk about the “Red Paint People”, a mystery in and of itself. The Red Paint People flourished between 3,000 and 10,000 BC and were found from Labrador to New York on the coasts and rivers. For their time, they had elaborate burial ceremonies and used Red Ochre to paint shrouds and gravesites. Olamon stream, which is very close to the Passadumkeag and also flows into the mighty Penobscot translates to “Red Paint” and is known for its naturally occurring Red Ochre. They used tools, but did not have pottery or metal. They fished the Passadumkeag before the pyramids of Egypt were even built. They are somewhat of a mystery because they seem to have disappeared without much of a trace, other than their elaborate burial ceremonies and leaving lots of speculation as to what happened.
I find it very fascinating that a cemetery used by the Red Paint people is overlooking my little piece of the Passadumkeag River where I love to go fishing, and apparently where people have loved to go fishing since 10,000 BC. Now that’s transcending history!