It’s just light bouncing off atmospheric particles. Those brilliant sherbet-colored sunsets are the result of sunlight scattering across the sky – the varying wavelengths of light knocking into dust, water droplets, and gas molecules.
But damn, it sure is pretty. [Learn more about how sunsets get their color]
And when that sunset is seen from the water, the colors multiplied by the water’s reflection, well that’s the kind of sight that makes you stop mid-paddle to stare for a long while.
During a sunset or full moon canoe tour on the Scarborough Marsh, you’ll get a sunset (and maybe a moon rise) on the water, in a canoe, at a place that’s supremely scenic and filled with all sorts of marsh wildlife, with a knowledgeable guide who can name all the birds and the fish and even point out some planets in the night sky.
The Maine Audubon location at the Scarborough Marsh hosts regular sunset and full moon paddles. The cost is only $14 for sunset tours and $16 for full moon tours (discounts for Maine Audubon members), which includes all the paddling essentials (kayak for 2-4 people, PFDs, paddles, and guidance). I checked it out a couples of years ago and wow – we were treated to a stunning moon rise and sunset AT THE SAME TIME. Whichever direction you looked, there was something beautiful to see.
The group met at the Scarborough Marsh Nature Center on Pine Point Road a half hour before our departure time to sign waivers, pay up, get PFDs, and hear a safety talk from one of the Maine Audubon staff.
Then it was into the boats.
Staff helped everyone bring their canoes down to the water and get in (stronger paddler sits in back and does all the steering).
We made our leisurely way down the marsh, with black ducks quacking their hello and sandpipers bouncing along the muddy edge of the marsh, as the moon rose up in the sky and the sun dipped below the horizon, leaving layers of pink and orange and blue in its wake.
The water was so still and the moon was so ridiculously bright. And once the sky went black, a volunteer pointed out the planets Venus, Mars, and Saturn. I saw one of the dippers, too, but I can’t ever remember which dipper is which.
We paddled for 40 minutes or so before turning around and heading back to the Nature Center, the ridiculously bright moon lighting the way.
These tours are open to paddlers of all levels (they’ll give pointers on proper paddling and will help out on the water, too, if needed). Kids are welcome, and there are boats suitable for groups of 2, 3, or 4 people. Pre-registration is required (I was originally on a waitlist, but go to go after a few people cancelled). Call 207-883-5100 for more information or to reserve your spot.
++ NOTE: This post was originally published in 2016. Tours have begun for 2020, but with specific protocols in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Read more about what to expect. ++
2020 canoe tours at the Scarborough Marsh
Full Moon Canoe Tours
7:30 p.m. August 1, 2, and 3
7 p.m. September 1, 2
Members $14, Nonmembers $16
Sunset Canoe Tours
6 p.m. July 19
6 p.m. August 18 and 19
Members $14, Nonmembers $16
Scarborough Marsh, Maine Audubon Nature Center
92 Pine Point Road, Scarborough
Advanced registration is required
Call 207-883-5100 May-September to reserve
*This post was originally published August 18, 2016*