Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2000)
- Intrinsic QualitiesScenic
- Length78 miles
Seeking adventure? Relaxation? To connect with history? Whether you venture a few minutes or a few miles from your vehicle, the Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway provides an opportunity for all of these experiences. Fondly known as the Old Canada Road or OCR, this 78-mile (126 km) long byway begins at the Robbins Hill Scenic Overlook in Solon, Maine on Route 201 and ends at the Canadian border above Jackman, Maine in Sandy Bay Township. Visitors can extend any of these experiences along the Kennebec River and its surrounding mountains and towns.
Story of the Byway
As rich in history as it is beautiful, the Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway's 78 miles runs through land used as a travel corridor for thousands of years. Its waterways of the Dead, Moose, and Kennebec Rivers were indigenous travel corridors all the way to Merrymeeting Bay. These bold travelers linked the St. Lawrence River with coastal Maine. Today these rivers and multitude of lakes and ponds offer the enjoyment of all types, from quiet canoe fishing to the rush of whitewater rafting! Years ago, Massachusetts funded the Canada Road to connect agricultural areas to Quebec City for trade purposes. In the late 1800s the route was a gateway to America and the promise of a better future for thousands of immigrants from France and Ireland. These industrious people influenced the New England culture and powered the mills of the Industrial Revolution.
"Drive Back in Time"
Visitors learn about the region's culture and history through signage along the byway, detailing everything from its logging roots to its development into the important trade route that it is today. In the region's early days, men and boys would leave family and their subsistence farms in the fall to build lumber camps where they would stay and log all winter and ride the river log drives home on the spring freshet.
Byway signs tell the story of an arduous, ill-fated journey during the American Revolutionary War. In 1775, Colonel Benedict Arnold took his army up the Kennebec River from Augusta to meet General Montgomery to lay siege to Quebec City. Land grants dominated this region, and timber barons were known to wager entire townships (36,000 acres) in card games! Maine became the paper-making capital of the world.
"Water Adventures Abound"
Rivers and their powerful currents, as well as many nearby lakes and streams, beckon byway visitors who will find no shortage of water activities, for both thrill-seekers and the leisurely-paced. The byway's southern half meanders the eastern side of the Kennebec River through its man-made Wyman Lake all the way to The Forks, where the Dead and Kennebec Rivers meet. The dam-controlled releases of this intersection make it the Northeast's premier whitewater rafting destination, with trips ranging from "mild to wild." In The Forks area, Moxie Falls is one of Maine's highest waterfalls with an impressive 92-foot drop. This is a family-friendly hike that's also great for dog-walkers. Parlin Pond. a crystal clear, spring-fed lake, is ideal for a paddle or swim. The serene water offers great fly-fishing for landlocked salmon and brook trout. Hike to nearby Cold Stream Falls (30 ft drop), a short drive off the byway to a 1.2-mile trail. With cool lakes, streams, brooks, and rivers easily accessible, paddlers and anglers of every type and skill will appreciate Jackman Moose River Region, a quality fishing area.
"Must Stop Viewpoints for a Photo-Op or Picnic"
Old Canada Road earned the distinction of national scenic byway for a good reason—the breathtaking overlooks dotting the byway are worth every stop. Marking the southern gateway of the byway and showcasing the sprawling beauty of Maine's western High Peaks, Robbis Hill is a must-stop. A gentle network of trails, some being ADA-accessible, offers a mix of forest floor and the chance to get up close to some of Maine's flora and fauna on crushed stone and grass paths, all with expansive mountain views. Just south of Jackman, the Attean overlook highlights sweeping views of Moose River Valley, Attean Pond, border mountains, and miles of connecting rivers and streams flowing to the Canadian border. For the final crescendo of the Old Canada Road, there is a scenic roadside stop. featuring views of a waterfall and offers picnic tables and interpretive panels.
"Walk, Hike, Bike, ATV and Snowmobile"
Whatever the season, a visit to Old Canada Road offers plenty of opportunities to get your heart pumping and legs moving on one of the many nearby trails. Whether visitors seek the steep, the gentle, the short, or the long mountain trails with vistas or flat trails with local flora and fauna, this area has them all. Part of the Appalachian Trail, the local favorite Pleasant Pound Mountain (2447 ft) is accessed by a short, somewhat steep hike from the west (1.6 mi) or a more gentle hike from the east (5 mi) and rewards accordingly with expansive, 360-degree views. Whether running, hiking, biking, or have kids and a dog in tow, the Forks Area Scenic trail will meet your needs with scenic beauty and gravel trails. This 3-mile section, the beginning of a network of trails connecting the whole Kennebec River Valley, offers numerous adventures and is ideal for introducing children to hiking. Just north of the confluence of the Dead and Kennebec Rivers, the graveled Dead River trail takes you along the Dead River. Part of the trail is wheelchair accessible (2 mi), and there are picnic tables and fire pits. No ATVs on this one. Watch the kayaks and rafters. The town of Jackman has several trails spanning woods, waters, and impressive summits.
The byway offers four-season fun—you'll want to return for these ephemeral highlights that will become lasting memories. Foliage enthusiasts, rejoice. The brilliant color you witness on the road, trails, and overlooks will inspire you (and your camera). Foliage typically peaks in late September through early October.
"Rest and Refuel"
A day on the road calls for a night or two at one of the many lodges. Relax and watch a sunset, listen to the loons or wake up to their calls, and enjoy a hearty breakfast before venturing on. Or experience moose excursions, guided fishing trips, and guided snowmobile rides. Whether you choose a full-service lodge or a rustic campsite- Old Canada Road has you covered!
The southern stretch of the byway begins at the Madison/Solon town line and passes along the Kennebec and Dead Rivers and Wyman Lake. The northern section runs from West Forks township through forested mountains to the Canadian border. The 78-mile two-lane paved route features seven interpretive rest areas and additional scenic turnout sections that hug cliffs and the water's edge. The route is heavily used for international commercial trucking. Locally-owned businesses provide meals and lodging along the byway. Once thriving hubs, small towns on the byway strive to maintain their character.
Points of Interest
Solon Meeting House
Built in 1842, its podium, pews, choir loft, windows and steeple are original and it is on the National Historic Register. In the 1950's an exemplary community-building project covered the walls and ceiling in fresco.
Bingham Meeting House
The Bingham Free Meetinghouse is a historic church on South Main Street in Bingham, Maine. Built in 1835-36, this wood frame structure was the first church to be built north of Caratunk Falls in northwestern Maine. The building is architecturally transitional, exhibiting both Federal and Gothic Revival elements.
The dam was built in 1930 and connects the southwest corner of the town of Moscow with the southeast corner of Pleasant Ridge Plantation. Owned and operated by NextEra Energy, one of six of their hydroelectric facilities on the Kennebec River, it's named in honor of Walter Wyman, the president of the original builder Central Maine Power Company. The dam is partly earthen and partly concrete, with a height of 155 feet and 3054 feet long at its crest.
The Caratunk Falls Archeological District is a complex of prehistoric and historic archaeological sites in the Solon, Maine area. First identified in the 1960s as archaeologically significant, the site was mapped by state archaeologists in the early 1980s. At that time it was the single largest complex of archaeological significance in interior Maine, encompassing a period of human activity from the Archaic to the European contact period (and possibly later). The 16-acre (6.5 ha) area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
Jackman Armand Pomerleau Park
Elevation 1180 feet
Moxie Falls is one of Maine's highest waterfalls, including a single vertical drop of nearly 90 feet as well as other plunges and pools. A relatively easy walk of a little under one-mile brings visitors down to this scenic destination.
Elevation 1707 at entrance, 3499 at mountain peak
A two-mile long pond along U.S. Route 201 in the southern portion of the township. A hand-carry boat launch lies near the south end of the Pond in Johnson Mountain Township.
Jackman Historical Society
Exhibits related to the culture of the area.
Canadian Border crossing
Crossing from Maine into Canada.
Robbins Hill Scenic Overlook
The overlook marks the southernmost end of the Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway and has beautiful views of the upper Kennebec River Valley and the High Peaks Region
Hiking on the Old Canada Road Byway
Start in Solon near Lakewood on U.S. Route 201. Head north to Caratunk and Moxie Mountain. This mountain is a wonderful place to visit, and there are a number of trails. The southern trail which departs from Heald Pond Road, is very well marked with cairns, signs, and plastic blue tags. It starts off on an overgrown logging road before taking a sharp right (marked with a cairn and an arrow) into a low spruce forest interspersed with sections of loose rock. This trail goes steeply uphill. At about 1.2 miles, you see a side spur leading to an outlook. Shortly after that, you’ll reach the intersection with the West Trail heading down to Deer Bog. Go right at this point to reach the summit in .4 miles. It has fairly wide expanses of arid, rocky areas that look a bit like they could be the surface of the moon. Also, at the top, like many other mountains, there is a radio tower powered with solar panels and a helipad.
There are many restaurants around for a great lunch after a tiring morning hike. Wherever you stop for lunch, just continue north in the U.S. Route 201 up past Jackman for the second hike of the day. This is a beautiful trail with ledges, moss and spruce covered hillsides. The summit elevation is 2630 feet, and there are wonderful views of Bigelow, Katahdin, Sugarloaf and Abraham mountain ranges.
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