The Ingalls Pond Conservation Area is a complex of interconnected shallow ponds, marshes and swamp lands with “islands” of forested land and many man-made features that have “reconstructed” the ponds during centuries of use.
Many centuries ago, this was a broad shallow pond, left after the continental glaciers last retreated. This water body has always been associated with the nearby Saco River, and… in past ages… was more of a back-water of the river instead of being a separate pond. Ingalls Pond is similar to Brownfield Bog rather than being a distinct pond or lake like Barker Pond in Hiram, Moose Pond in Denmark, or Colcord Pond in Porter. Those ponds developed as areas scooped deep by the continental glaciers, and those are separate water bodies, with outlet streams that run to the Saco and Ossipee Rivers. In contrast, Ingalls Pond is part of the Saco River flood plain, where the river expands from time to time, flooding high to encompass all of this pond and nearby lands.
As the Saco River carved meanders and alternate channels during thousands of years, it is likely that parts of Ingalls Pond were actually in the river, but now (and during recent centuries) the Saco is bounded by distinct river banks and some lands rising a little higher than the usual flood plain level.
As a shallow pond, during centuries to come, eutrophication and persistent growth of plants will eventually eliminate the ponds, becoming entirely marshes and swamps. The water bodies will reappear from time-to-time with river flooding, but will become only temporary features. But, for now we can enjoy the spacious views across these ponds, and many will also enjoy the boating and fishing opportunities here.
Our industrial development has made major changes to Ingalls Pond during the past two centuries.
Four hundred years ago this area was visited only by indigenous peoples such as the Ossipee, Newichewannock, and Pequawket tribes. Here they found a broad, shallow pond, connected to the Saco River, that had water depth normally determined by the flow of the Saco. We know that those tribes and others sometimes met at the nearby confluence of the Saco and Ossipee and may also have frequently visited the Great Falls of the Saco.
In 1642 Darby Field (1610-1649), a ferry master and Indian translator from Durham NH, passed through here on his way to be the first non-native to climb Mt Washington. In his notes, he complained of the many portages required in following the Saco River to its source near Crawford Notch. Certainly, the Great Falls was one of his many travel obstacles, but Ingalls Pond was just one of many wetland areas along the Saco. He probably passed by, taking little notice of this adjacent pond, as he paddled upstream and returned.
Benjamin Ingalls (1728-1815) was the first settler of Hiram, where he established a home in 1774 on the west bank of the Saco, a short distance north of the Great Falls. For some time, his family managed a ferry across the Saco with landing just south of Ingalls Pond, and with travel to Baldwin along what has been called the Old Pequaket Roard. At this time, Ingalls Pond still looked much as it had for centuries past. However, human industry was soon to make major changes to Ingalls Pond.
A county road was established in 1826 to run from Standish to Hiram village on the easterly side of the Saco River. This road was developed, used and relocated at times and served as the main travel route from Baldwin to Hiram. In the area of Ingalls Pond, this road ran between the pond and the river, but we are uncertain of the exact location of this road near the south end of the pond during the first forty years of its use.
During 1867 to 1875, the Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad constructed the route, now known as the Mountain Division, from Portland, through Baldwin and Hiram, and continuing northward through Conway and Crawford Notch. Passing through Baldwin, the railroad established a man-made causeway (avoiding grades and wasteful turns) that separated the south end of Ingalls Pond from the river. That construction, probably during 1871-1872, provided one stone culvert that connected the remaining pond to the Saco and that stone-work still remains (a point of interest marked on the map), although some of the underground portion of this culvert has collapsed, restricting flow to and from the river. Later reconstruction by the Maine Central RR also added several steel culverts to avoid having flow over the tracks at times of minor flooding.
Prior to 1941, the County Road crossed the south end of Ingalls Pond on a short causeway, then crossed the railroad, and continued north to Hiram running on land between the railroad and the river. A short distance into Hiram, that road crossed the tracks again near Bridgton Junction, where the narrow gauge railroad from Bridgton and Harrison had a junction station with the Maine Central RR.
Clearly, that route of the County Road had frequent flooding problems and probably had numerous accidents from the two RR crossings. Just prior to start of WW2, a new route for the highway was developed with a long causeway that bisected the remaining pond. This is the current route across the pond of State routes 5/113/117, also now known as Pequawket Trail.
Construction of the RR and highway has left Ingalls Pond as a collection of five separate ponds, with interconnecting culverts. This interruption of water flow has also accelerated the expansion of the marsh and swamp areas, leading to smaller significant pond waters. However, this area of wetlands, ponds, and lowland forests is also an area that sustains a wide assortment of wildlife. Watch for many bird species, many ducks, and frequent visits by blue herons. Parts of this area have been identified as critical turtle habitat, but the increasingly heavy traffic on the highway has also decimated the turtle populations.
Directions & Parking Area
Ingalls Pond is almost entirely in Baldwin, Maine, and is bisected by the Pequawket Trail highway. The parking area is at latitude, longitude: 43.857861, -70.790080.
From the south drive to West Baldwin on Pequawket Trail (State routes 5/113/117 though West Baldwin.). The West Baldwin Post Office is at 932 Pequawket Trail. From that Post Office continue driving 2 miles north. As the highway descends to Ingalls Pond the southern-most part of the pond will be on your left, and the small parking area is just a short distance ahead on the left. Beyond the parking area you will also see a sign on the right for the P Y Estes Contractor Quarry.
From the north, drive through Hiram on Pequawket Trail. From the Saco River bridge in Hiram, where State route 117 (Main Street) joins with State routes 5/113, continue south. At about one mile from the bridge, you will cross the town line into West Baldwin and you will see parts of Ingalls Pond on both sides of the road. Continue for about a half mile; just after seeing the P Y Estes quarry sign on your left, you will see the small parking area on your right.
Degree of difficulty: Easy.
Click here to download the trail map.