There is a grand tradition that has become an integral part of Maine’s heritage. Unique to Maine and about 140 years old, it is called the Maine Sporting camp. Although each is different, there is a certain feel to a Maine sporting camp. Nearly all are on a lake or a river, generally in a remote area of forested land. Most have buildings made of peeled and chinked logs, roofs of split cedar shakes and porches overlooking the water. The guest sleeping cabins are clustered near the shore of a central dining lodge. Plumbing was (and can still be) out back and the entire place had the appearance of having grown out of the ground. The Maine sporting camp is a phenomenom that began appearing in the 1860’s. In the 19th century guests would travel up from Boston and New York. In 1904 there were at least 300 camps in the State of Maine in operation. Today there are less than 50 of the original ones. NOTE: 50 – Still operating. Many sporting camps remain, purchased by descendants of original “sports”. Many of the sporting camps on Onawa Lake date back to the 1890’s.
This structure measures 1200 feet long and 130 high over the Ship Pond stream gorge on the Southeast end of Lake Onawa.
On the western lakeshore of Onawa lies Borestone Mountain. A majestic granite top and steep side covered with trees. A trail, somewhat strenuous, leads to the top and an awe-inspiring view. The mountain was owned by Robert T. Moore through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Mr. Moore had a seaplane which he would land on one of the three mountain lakes. He would fly down to Onawa and offered us children seaplane rides. It was my first time in any airplane. He and his wife Katrina, remained on the mountain, allowing all (two legged and four legged) to climb whenever. Upon his passing in the 80’s, the land was given to the Audubon Society for a mountain sanctuary and preservation. Unfortunately, four legged best friends were no longer allowed. Today, the Audubon Society runs the lodges, the road up the mountain and the hiking trails. A small fee is charged, but the hike is worth the fee and the sore muscles. The first half of the hike is the road up to the visitor center and facilities. Once here, you can rest a bit, sign in and move forward when ready. You can actually view climbers atop the peak as well as peregrine falcons. Bring binoculars. Continue on the marked trail to the summit for a 360 degree view of the Maine vista.
Burke Memorial Chapel
In the early 1920’s, there was a small colony of lady doctors from the Philadelphia area who had camps on the south shore of Onawa Lake. One of these, Dr. Elise Rose, was not only an outstanding doctor but a Philanthropist as well. She had traveled extensively through the churches of France and was also a devout Catholic. At the same time, there was another dedicated Catholic woman, Alice Gagnon who was a year round resident. Mrs. Gagnon had a growing family and there was no church available where the usual sacraments could be performed. Together, Dr. Elise Rose and Alice Gagnon decided Onawa should have a church. The women looked around trying to find a suitable location, only to be refused the use of the land by the lumber company owners. Unhappy, but undefeated, Mrs. Gagnon and her husband went to call on Mr. Alfred Burke. Immediately Dr. Burke offered his land opposite his house as a gift.
There’s a reason we call them man’s best friend. We can learn so many things from a dog’s behavior, personality, demeanor, resiliency, and most importantly, the willingness to provide their family members with unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship down to their very last breath. We treasure the relationships we have with our friends at Onawa Lake. Reluctantly, the sad duty I have is removing a dog’s picture we he has moved own. However, our dogs are always in our heart’s.
Make Your Own Onawa Lake Memories
Come with your family and friends, create lifelong memories at Lake Onawa. Memories are powerful family possessions that profoundly link hearts together. Remember to be diligent in planning memories (as well as enjoying those that come as surprises) one of the reasons for this site is to catch memories. Nearly any event has the potential to become a treasured memory. What better place to make new memories than Maine’s grand tradition – Onawa Lake.