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Waterbody and Watershed Physical Characteristics

Messalonskee Lake (aka Snow Pond) (MIDAS 5280) is a 3,691 acre, dimictic, mesotrophic lake located in Kennebec County, in the central Maine towns of Belgrade, Sidney, and Oakland in the southeast region of the larger Belgrade Lakes watershed (see Location Map, File # 3). Messalonskee Lake is the last lake in the chain of seven Belgrade Lakes. It is the second largest behind Great Pond, and the deepest lake in the Belgrade region, reaching 113 ft at its maximum depth at sampling station 1, yet only averaging 31 ft.

Much of the water that enters Messalonskee Lake comes from the watersheds of the upstream lakes via Belgrade Stream which connects the south basin of Long Pond with Messalonskee Lake. Other inflows into Messalonskee Lake include a number of smaller perennial and intermittent streams feeding either Belgrade Stream, or the lake itself. Messalonskee Lake has a flushing rate of 1.59 flushes/yr. Water level in Messalonskee Lake is controlled by two dams in the watershed including the Wings Mills/Belgrade Stream Dam located approximately two miles downstream of Long Pond adjacent to Wings Mills Rd. in Mt. Vernon. The second dam is located at Messalonskee Lake’s outlet at the north end of the lake. Water flows over this dam into Messalonskee Stream, which flows into the Kennebec River and eventually into the Gulf of Maine.

Messalonskee Lake’s direct watershed covers 44 square miles in seven municipalities including a large portion of Belgrade Stream and developed land on the west shore in Belgrade (40%), the east shore in Sidney (28%), and the less developed southern portion of the watershed in the towns of Readfield (9%), Manchester (9%), and Mount Vernon (7%) and Augusta (<1%). Oakland (8%) encompasses the more developed north end of the watershed. The watershed contains areas of dense residential development as well as areas of commercial development along the shoreline, especially on the north end of the lake in Oakland. A study conducted by Colby College in 1997 estimated that more than three quarters of the shoreline lots were developed, and a large percentage (74%) of the developed lots were used year-round.  Recent estimates indicate that there are a total of 650 shoreline properties on Messalonskee Lake and Belgrade Stream, with approximately 600 properties located on the lake itself.

The lake is surrounded by a vast network of state, town, and private roads, as well as a privately-owned railroad that runs along the entire west side of the lake near the shoreline. Major roads include Oakland Rd./Belgrade Rd. (Rt. 8/11) on the west and northwest side of the lake, Snow Pond Rd. (Rt 23) which runs along the east side of the lake, Augusta Rd. (Rt. 27) on the south end of the lake crossing over Belgrade Stream near Hammond Lumber, and Manchester Rd. (Rt. 135) which runs south from Rt. 27 through Belgrade and Manchester. Numerous private gravel roads run perpendicular from these state roads to service shoreline development. There are approximately 125 miles of roads in the watershed.

Land cover in the watershed is dominated by forestland (51%), including mixed forest (31%), deciduous forest (11%) and evergreen forest (9%). Open water (including the surface area of Messalonskee Lake) makes up 13% of the total watershed area. Agricultural land (row crops, grazing and hayfields) is estimated to make up another 7% of the land area.