The earliest inhabitants of Jonesport were Native Americans, probably a part of the Passamaquoddy Tribe. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1789, granted land totaling 487,160 acres to John C. Jones, reportedly in payment for a sloop of his which was lost in the siege of the British at Castine. The grant, Plantation Number 22, comprised the districts of Bucks Harbor, Machiasport, Jonesboro, Jonesport, and Roque Bluffs, was incorporated as a Township in 1809.
Today, the town hosts a U.S. Coast Guard station, headquartered at the entrance to the Jonesport-Beals Bridge. The station was established in 1967. Facilities include a two-story brick building equipped with a third story observation tower, a two-slip boathouse, and a 120-ft pier. Tenant units include the Coast Guard Cutter Moray and Maine Marine Patrol. Coast Guard Station Jonesport’s area of responsibility runs from Long Point (20 miles east of Jonesport) east to Petit Manan Island. It encompasses all navigable waters and offshore islands.
Born as a seafaring community, Jonesport still retains much of its original character as families today continue the maritime traditions of their ancestors.
Day 2: Jonesport to Machias: The Heart of Downeast Maine
Elevation Gain: 2418 feet
We begin the day by riding to Beals and Great Wass Islands, two unique coastal communities at the center of the Downeast lobstering industry. Located at the base of the Jonesport/Beals bridge is the Nellie Chapin Marker. This marker memorializes the historic attempt by a group of missionaries from Jonesport who, under the leadership of George Jones Adams, founder of the Church of the Messiah, sailed on the Nellie Chapin to the town of Jaffa in Palestine. Their stated purpose was to await the second coming of Christ and reclaim the Holy Land, but they also intended to create a profitable colony. The colony was a disaster, beset by disease and drought, and the missionaries scattered far and wide, with only a couple of them returning to Jonesport.
Beals Island is home to Bayview Takeout, a seasonal lobster shack that received the 2016 USA Today and 10 Best Readers’ Choice Award for Best Lobster Roll in Maine and Massachusetts. Beals Island connects by bridge to Great Wass Island, home to the Great Wass Island Preserve, a 1,540-acre tract with 4.5 miles of trails winding through moss-floored forests, traversing open ledges, and skirting the shoreline with spectacular views of the islands of Eastern Bay.
Back on the mainland, we travel northeast along beautiful Chandler Bay then inland to our first rest stop at Sandy River Beach.
From here we head southeast to remote Roque Bluffs State Park, a 274-acre park offering miles of hiking trails, cliffs and rocky shores to explore, a picnic area, and pebbled beach perfect for swimming, beach combing, and paddling. You can take a dip in chilly Englishman Bay along a half-mile crescent beach or walk across the road to Simpson Pond for a warmer freshwater swim.
From Roque Bluffs we head north towards Machiasport for lunch at the Machiasport Fire Station, and then south on the Bucks Harbor peninsula to Jasper Beach. Jasper Beach will satisfy the inner geologist in each of us with its half-mile crescent beach comprised of millions of reddish brown rocks worn smooth by the tide. While the rocks may look like jasper, most of them are actually pebbles of fine-grained volcanic rock called rhyolite. The rocks form several terraces, best viewed at low tide. The terraces, called storm berms, are created by the fluctuating water levels that come with rough weather. Low tide also reveals not a smoothly curved shoreline but a series of indentations—called cusps—that give the waterline’s profile a scalloped look. When the tidewaters move in and out, the smooth-worn rocks moving against each other make eerie sounds.
A return trip back up the peninsula brings us again to Machiasport to Fort O’Brien. Fort O’Brien was named for Jeremiah O’Brien, who led a group of colonists in capturing a small British ship during the Battle of Machias, the first naval battle of the American Revolution, on June 11-12, 1775. After this event, a number of fortifications were erected on the Machias River, including a four-gun battery at this point. Fort O’Brien was destroyed when the British returned in force in 1777, sparking a second battle. The fort was rebuilt, and in the War of 1812, the British returned to Machias, again destroyed Fort O’Brien and burned its barracks. A five-gun battery was installed at the site in 1863, during the American Civil War, but saw no action. Although the fort’s military equipment has been removed, a Civil War-era 12-pound “Napoleon” cannon now stands on site. The fort was deeded to the state by the federal government in 1923.
Further up the road is the Nathan Gates House, built in 1810 and now home to the Machiasport Historical Society. The museum contains an extensive collection of old photographs, period furniture, housewares and other memorabilia. The Marine Room highlights the area’s seafaring and shipbuilding past. A model schoolroom and post office and a large collection of carpentry tools occupy the adjacent Cooper House, a utilitarian building constructed in 1850.
We follow the river north to Machias, where we camp along the banks of East Machias River.