I’d seen references to Lake of Isles in North Stonington, CT, over the years, including one in “A Fisheries Guide to Lakes and Ponds of Connecticut,” published in 2002 by what is now the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. It described the shoreline of the lake as “Wooded with very little residential development.” I’ve wanted to check it out for years. A natural pond of only 88 acres, augmented slightly by a small dam at the north end, it sounded intimate, peaceful.
Well, I spent a good part of a morning kayaking Lake of Isles the other day.
There is still very little residential development. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any cottages. But the pond has been transformed nonetheless.
Lake of Isles, accessible by a small, nicely designed and maintained state boat launch, is entirely within Mashantucket, the reservation of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and home to the massive Foxwoods Resort Casino.
I was hoping to find that rarity in Connecticut, a pond or lake surrounded by woods, a body of water that at least gives you the sense of untamed, seemingly pristine nature, an oasis of quiet.
What I did not realize is that 2002 description of Lake of Isles is now very much dated. Since then, the Mashantucket Pequots used Lake of Isles as a focal point for the development of two 18-hole, high-end golf courses. Two long, wooden cart path bridges actually cross the lake, with greens, tees and fairways seen from one end of the lake to the other. The courses opened in 2005.
Lake of Isles has become scenery. Think of it as Lake of Links.
Still, Lake of Isles can be a pleasant, reasonably peaceful place to commune with nature. With a speed limit of 8 mph, a small launching area, and the golf development, I suspect this lake is never really busy with boats, especially larger powerboats. On an early weekday morning in late May, I had the water to myself for a couple of hours.
In places the shoreline is still forested. I came upon wild blueberry in bloom, wild azalea in bloom. Bullhead water lily was just emerging, with bladderwort and its tiny yellow flowers mixed in. Aquatic vegetation is widespread, some of it invasive. Great blue herons, mallards, Canada geese, kingfisher, green heron, red-bellied woodpecker were among the shoreline species. All pleasant enough.
Amoeba-shaped, Lake of Isles has coves everywhere, enough that, considering its small size, I managed, according to the GPS on my smart watch, to paddle 2.5 miles, looping the entire lake, crossing it a couple of times.