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Splash in, ski in, or land at Maine's Moosehead Lake year-roundSplash in, ski in, or land at Maine's Moosehead Lake year-round

Welcome to The Birches ResortWelcome to The Birches Resort

For an authentic Maine Northwoods experience, just fly in to The Birches Resort, open year-round. Owned by pilot and licensed guide John Willard, the resort is open to fly-in aircraft on wheels, floats, or skis, depending on the time of year. Once “in camp,” as Mainers like to say, you can go fly fishing, boating, river rafting, birdwatching, swimming, hiking, leaf-peeping, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or ice fishing. Or, just put your feet up and toast the sunset.

  • John Willard takes off from Moosehead Lake in his Super Cruiser. Conditions permitting, you can fly in to The Birches on floats, skis, or wheels. All photos by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • The 1,800-foot airstrip is about one mile from the resort. Staff will either pick you up or leave a Jeep for you.
  • Moose are plentiful around The Birches, so enjoy an evening on the lake with a “Moose Safari.” These three-hour trips depart in a pontoon boat around 4 p.m. In summer, moose feed heavily on underwater plants that grow in the lake, as the plants provide much-needed sodium for the big ungulates.
  • On Moosehead Lake you can paddle a canoe around the open water or head over to an island or the opposite shore.
  • A pair of young hikers enjoy the views from Borestone Mountain.
  • An immature bald eagle launches from a pine branch. The forest around The Birches is thick with wildlife, making it a treasured destination for ambitious photographers.
  • Kids love to be let loose on the lake, and the cold water is just the thing on a hot summer day.
  • The Birches is happy to create a custom trip with you. You could grab a quick floatplane ride to a nearby lake and be dropped off with lunches and access to kayaks or canoes. You’ll be picked up in time to catch the sunset back at the resort, feet up and drink in hand. Here, a kayaker paddles up a quiet stream from Brassua Lake.
  • Kineo, across the lake from The Birches, has an old-world Scottish-style golf course. You can take a powerboat over or drive to Rockwood in a borrowed Jeep and catch a ferry ride across.
  • Left to their own devices in the big out-of-doors, kids at The Birches can spend unstructured time playing outside, a departure from life in the big city. Most won’t run out of fun things to do all day, and at night the sky is filled with stars that inspire a sense of wonder.
  • Fall at Moosehead Lake. There’s a chill in the evening air, the maples and birches are turning red and gold, and it’s a great time for flightseeing trips over the lake.
  • The Birches was founded in the 1930s as a hunting and fishing camp. John Willard, Sr. and his wife Norma purchased it in 1969. John Willard, Jr. now owns and runs the resort. In 1993 he purchased 11,000 additional surrounding acres, ensuring that the area will be preserved intact. Guests simply need to step outside and go for a hike to be immersed in the beauty of the deep northern Maine woods. The resort is open year-round, and snowshoeing is popular in winter.
  • Winter in Maine means ice fishing, and The Birches has all the equipment to get you set up.
  • The Birches rents snowmobiles to guests; those who stay in one of the rental homes enjoy complimentary snowmobile access.
  • There’s nothing like a peaceful jaunt through the quiet Maine Northwoods on a pair of Nordic skis. It’s a great way to exercise your body and relax your mind at the same time.

You’ll find The Birches on the western shore of Moosehead Lake, just southwest of Farm Island, the most northerly large island in the lake, at 45° 42.12 N / 69° 47.16 W. Floatplanes can land on Moosehead Lake and tie up at the resort docks. If it’s winter and you’ve got skis on your airplane, call ahead to get ice conditions before departure. For wheeled aircraft, there’s a 1,800-foot grass/gravel airstrip 1.1 miles southwest of the resort. The strip is uncharted, but it’s 1 nautical mile north of the charted private Avery airstrip. Both airstrips are on the north side of the canal that connects Moosehead Lake to Brassua Lake. The runway runs roughly 13/31, with an uphill slope on Runway 31 and a cleared area south of the runway. This gives you a good approach for landing uphill on Runway 31, and a long overrun for climb if you depart downhill off Runway 13. Bring tiedowns; if you called ahead, someone will either be there to pick you up, or a Jeep will have been left at the strip for you so you can get to the resort. For airstrip, lake, and ice conditions, weather information, or hangar space, call the lodge or call Willard direct at 207/400-9091.

Willard offers flights in his Super Cruiser, on floats or skis, depending on season.

If you want to fly in but need fuel and/or a longer, paved runway, Newton Field in Jackman is just 20 nm west of the lake. Greenville is 18 nm southwest; call to be sure they have fuel. The Birches will pick up from Greenville or Jackman airports if you call ahead. Willard also keeps a car in Jackman. Speaking of Greenville, be aware of the big International Seaplane Fly-In held each September the weekend after Labor Day, when traffic will be heavy; monitor and make position reports on 122.9 MHz.

You can fish from the docks or a pontoon boat. Anglers here catch brook and lake trout, land-locked salmon, white and yellow perch, and smallmouth bass. Bring in your catch and have the chef cook it for dinner.

The Birches encompasses more than 11,000 acres. Guests can simply step outside and go for a hike to be immersed in the beauty of the deep northern Maine woods. If you’d like additional adventure, The Birches has all the equipment or can make the necessary arrangements. Enjoy an evening on the lake with a “Moose Safari.” Other trips include whitewater rafting, family river floats, Jeep tours, and mountain bike trips. Do-it-yourselfers can rent mountain bikes, canoes or kayaks, sailboats, paddleboards, Jet Skis, and speed or aluminum boats. Take a powerboat across the lake to Mount Kineo, where you can hike to the observation tower on top. Or, play a round on the Scottish-style golf course. Winter equipment rentals include snowmobiles, cross-country skis, snowshoes, and accessories.

The Birches offers a wide selection of lodging arrangements. The main lodge, in addition to being equipped with Wi-Fi, offers lodge rooms, three of which have decks overlooking the lake. Lakeside log cabins sit near the shoreline, include a small kitchen and bathroom, and sleep two to eight people. Rental homes are mostly modern and popular with larger groups. A Moose Safari and access to canoes or snowmobiles comes with a house rental. More rustic accommodations include Kozy Kabins and Yurts, which lack plumbing but offer more of a wilderness experience. Some of the Kozy Kabins are situated in more remote locations, while the Yurts are closer to the lodge. Finally, you can pitch your tent at one of the campsites.

The Birches has its own restaurant in the main lodge that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as a full bar. Several optional meal plans are offered for guests. On weekends, the specialty is a traditional prime rib dinner that’s popular with local residents as well as guests. It’s very good, it’s authentic, but it’s not overly fussy—a perfect reflection of the authentic Maine camp experience. Fly in and experience it yourself!

John Willard prepares to depart a frozen Moosehead Lake. The Birches is open year-round.
Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel

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