Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lake St. George State Park, Liberty, Maine

This year, I was lucky enough to have my summer vacation fall on the hottest and most humid week of the summer.  I was also lucky enough to be able to book a few days of tent camping that week at a beautiful Maine state park I had never visited before: Lake St. George in Liberty, which is between Belfast and Augusta.  I’d tried unsuccessfully to book campsites at Lake St. George on weekends in the past, but it is very popular with a limited number of sites.  The best sites fill up further in advance than I typically like to reserve, due to weather worries. (Tenting in the rain is an activity in one of the inner circles of my personal Hell.)  It was easier to book a couple of midweek days I found, and I did just that, getting a great spot right on the lake itself.  As warm and sticky as the weather was, I didn’t notice it very much because I could literally walk about ten feet and find myself in the clear, cool waters of Lake St. George any time I wanted.

For some reason, I didn't take many photos of my stay at Lake St. George, but here is one of my campsite there.

Lake St. George State Park is on the site of an old farmstead, and there is still a large barn in the center of the park that I believe is from that original farm.  It’s not a large park compared to some of Maine’s other state parks, only 358 acres total.  When you first drive into the park, you can turn left or right from the ranger station.  A right takes you to the camping area, and a left to the public day use area.  

The day use area features plenty of parking, a large beautiful beach with a lifeguard on duty in season, a children’s play area, and plenty of picnic areas.  It is all handicap-accessible.  I’m not sure if there is a boat launch area on the day use side of the park, but I do know there is a public one just up the shoreline a bit, as well as an area in the campground where boats can be launched.  Motorized boats are allowed on Lake St. George, but I didn’t find there to be a huge number of them, even at the height of summer.  There were plenty of canoes, kayaks and sailboats on the water when I was there, and everyone seemed to co-exist peacefully.

The camping area is basically a large loop, with a smaller loop branching off from it.  Only about a half dozen campsites are as directly on the water as mine was, but none of the 38 total sites are more than a moment’s walk to the shoreline.  Privacy varies from site to site, but none of the sites are ones I would consider uncomfortable.  There is a large, centrally-located shower and restroom building in the middle of the camping area that was keep sparkling clean, though I’ve found that most Maine state parks with camping take very good care of their facilities.  Water is available at various places around the campground.  There is a free wifi kiosk for campers near the ranger station, though I didn’t make use of it during my stay.

One of the things I like best about Lake St. George is that, if you are a user of Google Earth, you can actually see ground-level photographs of each campsite.  There is a link at Lake St. George’s page on the state of Maine website that allows you to do that.  It’s not a 360 degree view, but it does give you a good impression of what you are reserving if you’ve never been there previously.  I am really hoping more of Maine’s state parks will start including this feature.

If Lake St. George sounds familiar, that may be because it is the location of the 6-acre Birch Island, now known as “Hawaii 2”, that was purchased by the makers of the game Cards Against Humanity and given out in 250,000 square foot plots to their customers during a promotion back in 2014.  Wikipedia gives a quick overview of Hawaii 2.  If you are one of the owners of Hawaii 2, then Lake St. George State Park would be a great place to stay while exploring your one square foot of real estate.  I don’t think camping is allowed on Hawaii 2 itself, and you’d need a mighty small tent for that one square foot if it was.

Other than the difficulty in making reservations, the only downside I found to Lake St. George State Park is the grocery selection at nearby stores.  There are a couple of small convenience stores within a few miles, but on the day I went looking for supplies, they didn’t even have milk on hand.  They were all sold out.  I’m not sure if it was a fluke or not, but I had a real need (there was cereal to be eaten, after all), and wound up driving all the way into Belfast to get some.  It was 32 miles, round trip.

One other note: take care not to confuse Lake St. George State Park in Liberty with Lake George Regional Park, which is a lovely park near Canaan, Maine. The two names are often confused, but they are nearly an hour’s drive apart from each other, and the Canaan park does not offer camping.

I stayed at eight state parks this past summer, and Lake St. George State Park was definitely one of the highlights.  If you are looking for a camping trip or just a place to dip your toes on a hot day, I’d highly recommend it.