Let us take you back in time, Logging in America stretched all the way back to the early 1600s. The first log drives came to Maine in the 1800’s when loggers would harvest in the winter, stockpile, and then dump the logs in the river in the summer to float them downstream to the mills.
The Penobscot River was an early trade corridor to interior Maine from the Atlantic coast. Ocean ships could navigate upstream to Bangor. The river upstream of Bangor became an important transportation corridor for log driving to bring wooden logs and pulpwood from interior forests to sawmills and paper mills built to use water power. The Penobscot River, was home to log drives until 1973. However, with issues of river pollution and destruction of natural habitat, and the passing of the Clean Water Act of 1972, the log drives came to an end nationwide
Log movement on the West Branch of the Penobscot River stems for a Charter issued by the Legislature to the “West Branch Boom Company” in 1835. As logging operations moved up the river to the present locations, several buildings to house the men were built. The first of these was further down the lake below so called “Bears Point”. Written record describes this as a Log building in 1865. The record goes on to say that it was an old building at that time. From that time until 1972 when active transportation of wood on the West Branch came to an end, men lived and worked from the buildings that the Committee hopes to preserve as a physical record of their fortitude, ingenuity and courage.
The Penobscot River is a 109-mile-long – including the West Branch and South Branch increases the Penobscot's length to 264 miles (425 km), making it the second longest river system in Maine and the longest entirely in the state. It empties into the Atlantic Ocean in Penobscot Bay. It is home to the Penobscot people that live on Indian Island. The Penobscot River was an early trade corridor to interior Maine from the Atlantic coast. Ocean ships could navigate upstream to Bangor. The river upstream of Bangor became an important transportation corridor for log driving to bring wooden logs and pulpwood from interior forests to sawmills and paper mills built to use water power.
The first European known to have explored the river was Portugese in 1524, followed by the a French man in 1605. A few years later French settled Pentagouet, now Castine, at the point where the Penobscot river becomes Penobscot Bay and the Penobscot people made a permanent settlement at Indian Old Town, Maine on an island - now know as Indian Island. Throughout the first half of the 17th centuries, these were likely the only permanent settlements on the river, although the Penobscots considered the entire river and bay their hunting ground and maintained other seasonal villages along its banks.
History of Millinocket, the mills and their decline
Millinocket was first settled in 1829 by Thomas Fowler and his family, who cleared land for a farm. When the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad extended service to Houlton in 1894, the line ran through the area, opening it to development. The word "Millinocket", in the language of Maine's Abenaki people, roughly translates to "land with many islands" which described nearby Millinocket Lake. In 1898, the Great Northern Paper Company began construction of their paper mill. The Italian stone masons were largely responsible for the construction of the Millinocket mill. The mill became the largest of its kind in the world at that time. From this development, the town of Millinocket came to be. Because of the speed with which the town grew, it gained the nickname of “The Magic City.” In early 2003, however, Great Northern Paper announced it had filed bankruptcy, the mills had a couple of new owners in between. Both are now closed, permanently at least for paper making purposes. They may be repurposed at a future point.
The Golden Road
The Golden Road was constructed between 1969 and 1972 to access 2.1 million acres of working forests in the North Maine Woods. The road is privately owned and spans 96 miles. It’s mostly dirt with a few paved sections however it is often a rough ride. Traveling through wilderness you better have a spare tire and a few tools on hand on the Golden Road.