Machias, the Passamaquoddy phrase meaning “bad little falls,” is named for the powerful waterfall roaring through town. The first settlers came to Machias in 1762, looking for fresh grass for their livestock after a drought decimated the grasslands in southern Maine. The Machias River provided ample water and a tremendous source of hydropower, and settlement of the area progressed quickly. Several lumber mills were erected, and Machias quickly became a major supplier of lumber and masts.
In 1775, Machias played an important role in history when British demand for lumber led to the capture of the armed British schooner Margaretta, moored in the town’s port, in what was the first naval battle of the American Revolution. The battle plans were hatched in the town’s Burnham Tavern, now open as a museum.
Machias was incorporated as a town in 1784. By the mid-1800s it had developed into a major railroad center for northern lumber operations and was home to eight sawmills, a shipyard, and numerous wood manufacturers, grain mills and other factories.
Today, Machias is home to a thriving agriculture and aquaculture base, the University of Maine at Machias, and Down East Community Hospital. It is surrounded on all sides by natural resources, thousands of acres of preserved lands, hundreds of miles of trails and hiking opportunities, and, of course, the Atlantic Ocean, with its secluded, beautiful coves and beaches. Its major industries are blueberries, balsam wreaths, and education, and it is the seat of Washington County government.
The BikeMaine Village is located behind where the Middle River and Machias River meet, across the street from Helen’s Restaurant (world famous for its pies), at Middle River Park, owned by the Downeast Coastal Conservancy. The 2016 BikeMaine route provides opportunities to visit three of Downeast Coastal Conservancy’s most treasured conserved lands—places to stretch legs at in-town parks and experience the full magnitude of Cobscook Bay’s impressive tides. The two other properties are Mowry Beach, adjacent to the BikeMaine Village in Lubec, and Reversing Falls Park, which we visit on Day 5. The Downeast Coastal Conservancy is a non-profit, member-supported land conservation organization serving the coastal plain of far eastern Maine. Its mission is the conservation of the natural habitats and resources of the coastal watersheds, islands and communities of Washington County for present and future generations.
The Village site in Machias also is adjacent to the Down East Sunrise Trail, an 85-mile off road, multiuse gravel trail that extends from Calais to Ellsworth and serves as the northern terminus of the East Coast Greenway, which stretches along the eastern border of the United State to Key West, Florida.
The residents of Machias look forward to sharing their rich history, music, recreational activities and traditions with you upon your arrival.
Day 3: Machias to Eastport
Elevation Gain: 2,959’
Heading north on route 191, you’ll begin to feel as though we are riding towards the end of the civilized world. It isn’t the end of civilization, but we do enter Maine’s unorganized territory. The unorganized territory (UT) consists of over 400 townships, plus many coastal islands, that do not lie within municipal bounds. The UT land area is slightly over one-half the area of the entire State of Maine. There are approximately 9,000 year-round residents living in the UT, with many more people coming to spend a season or two. There is no local, incorporated municipal government in the UT. Duties related to providing services and property tax administration is shared among various state agencies and county government. The Maine Legislature serves as the “local governing body” for the UT, as it annually reviews and approves the various budgets from state agencies and county government necessary to provide services and property tax administration.
Our morning rest stop is at the public boat ramp on Cathance Lake. The lake, which is over 2900 acres in size and 75 feet deep at its deepest point, provides an excellent habitat for salmon. Salmon hooked in the lake typically range from 17 to 19-inches in length and from 2 to 3 pounds in weight. The lake also has an abundance of brook trout and small-mouth bass.
We’ll pass through Meddybemps, which sits at the southern end of Lake Meddybemps. Francis Joseph’s map of 1798 calls the lake, Madambontis and this looks very much like Madamiscontis, meaning “plenty of alewives.” Meddybemps is one of only a few Maine lakes where alewives and small-mouth bass cohabitate. At one time, alewives ran by the thousands and were a primary source of income for people in the town. According to local historian Edward Ketchen, “We use to dip alewives by the barrel, and we would sell them to Eastport for cat food.” This business was at its height in the 1950s and Ketchen said in a newspaper article that on his best day, he caught 265 barrels of alewives. He said that since then, the alewife runs have diminished, and the fish now serve mainly as food for the game fish in the lake.
After a long climb, we descend into the town of Charlotte, where lunch awaits.
Our Lunch Stop today is at the Charlotte Fire Station, hosted by the Charlotte Fire Department Auxiliary.
Following lunch, we pass between Round Lake and Pennamaquan Lake, then hug the edge of Boyden Lake. The lakes progressively increase in size, with Boyden Lake being the largest, covering more than 1700 acres. Before long, we catch our first glance of Passamaquoddy Bay and views of New Brunswick, Canada. Passamaquoddy Bay flows from the St. Croix River, which serves as the eastern border between Maine and Canada, into the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy is known for having the highest tidal range in the world, found at Burntcoat Head, Nova Scotia, where the mean spring tidal range is 47.5 feet and the extreme range is 53.5 feet.
This area was settled in 1758 by John Frost, who built a trading post beside the St. Croix River. The area was incorporated as the town of Perry on February 12, 1818, even as the British held Eastport 6 miles away. The town was named after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, known as the “Hero of Lake Erie” for leading American forces in a decisive naval victory at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.
We pedal south along Shore Road, with New Brunswick’s St. Andrews and Deer Island visible across the water. Don’t be surprised if your cell phone warns of roaming charges, as it may pick up a Canadian cell tower. We suggest that you turn roaming off on your phone while in this region to avoid roaming charges.
After a brief ride on Route 1 in order to cross Little River, we turn left onto the Sipayak Trail. This multiuse trail opened to the public in 2004,connecting Pleasant Point to Eastport. The paved rail trail is located on land owned by the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Maine and provides residents with an alternate walking route that bypasses busy Route 190. The 1.7 mile trail meanders through the woods, with the tidal Little River and Atlantic Ocean on one side and a grassy marsh on the other. Over much of its course, the Sipayik Trail overlooks a spectacular coastline, highlighted by views of nearby Deer Island. Beach access is permitted from the trail.
The Sipayik Trail ends in Pleasant Point, one of three distinct self-governing Passamaquoddy communities within the tribe’s ancestral homeland. The other two communities are in Indian Township, Maine and in St. Andrews New, Brunswick.
Passamaquoddy have lived and flourished in this region for at least 10 to 14 thousand years when the Laurentide Ice Glaciers melted away from this part of North America. The Pleasant Point peninsula is a traditional seasonal fishing village of the Passamaquoddy. Because of its unique location at the confluence of the Passamaquoddy and Cobscook Bays it was the perfect place to harvest salt-water resources such as shell fish and other fish. Today there are 3,611 individuals on the Passamaquoddy tribal census rolls.
From Pleasant Point, we cross a bridge onto a series of islands that make up the easternmost city in the United States, Eastport, and our home for two nights.