The first inhabitants of Moose Island and its adjoining peninsula, Sipayik, were the Passamaquoddy, “People of the Dawn.” Fishermen and traders visited the area in the 17th century. Finding the sea catch bountiful and with the 25 foot tides in an ice-free harbor, the island became more settled. Moose Island was incorporated as a town in 1798, and named Eastport for being the most eastern seaport on mainland United States. During the War of 1812, Eastport was captured by British forces. Due to the boundary dispute between the US and British North America (now known as Canada), the British inhabited Eastport until 1818.
In April of 1866, Eastport was the launching place for a failed attempt by 700 members of the Irish – American Fenian Brotherhood, who, under the command of John O’Mahony, attempted to seize Campobello Island from the British. British warships from Halifax, Nova Scotia were quickly on the scene and a military force dispersed the Fenians. General Meade, of Civil War fame, was dispatched to Eastport by the U.S Army to keep the peace. In 1886, a great fire destroyed most of the downtown buildings. A young architect, Henry L. Black, was hired to design new downtown buildings. He brought an Italianate architecture to the downtown structures, which can still be seen today.
The island’s economy has been, and continues to be, largely from the sea. The first sardine factory was built about 1875. Sardine packing would soon grow into a booming business with many more factories built. Herring boats filled the harbor. Surrounding industries of can manufacturing, transportation, and supporting services and stores helped to swell the population of Eastport to 5000 people at the turn of the century.
The Quoddy Dam Project, with its novel plan to capture power from the ocean’s tides, was proposed in the 1920’s by Dexter P. Cooper, a young engineer working in the hydroelectric power industry. The plan captured the attention of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who summered on nearby Campobello Island. In 1932, Roosevelt started looking for support for the project in Washington, D.C. and from private companies. In 1935, the project received $7 million from the Public Works Administration, funds by then President Roosevelt could allocate without Congressional approval. The money was spent on two dams across Cobscook Bay, a two-way navigation lock, a gate structure, a main generating station, and permanent and temporary housing at a nearby site named Quoddy Village. Critics at the state and federal level said that tidal power would be more expensive than steam-generated power. The project hit political and economic roadblocks and stalled before completion, closing permanently in 1936. A model of the Quoddy Dam project may be seen at the Quoddy Crafts Shop in the Barracks Museum, which houses the Border Historical Society.
With the sardine industry gone, Eastport business now is a blend of tourism, shipping from the Port of Eastport, small business, fishing, aquaculture, and a vital arts community. Off the northern tip of Eastport is Old Sow, the largest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere.
Annual celebrations, notably the Fourth of July Festival, the Eastport Salmon and Seafood Festival, and the infamous Eastport Pirate Festival, bring crowds to the small city. The Fourth of July celebration is jam-packed with activities enjoyed from July 1, Canada Day, to July 4th. It has been an Eastport tradition to host a U.S. Navy ship during the July 4th celebration. The Salmon Festival features a barbecued salmon dinner, with vendors, musicians, and a fiber arts show. The Eastport Pirate Festival is a fun-filled family weekend where the townspeople and guests turn out in pirate gear. Eastport has a unique New Year’s celebration sponsored by the Tides Institute. A maple leaf is dropped at Canadian midnight and, one hour later, an 8-foot sardine is dropped from the upper story of the Tides Institute to ring in the New Year.
A number of activities are available for BikeMaine riders to participate in on the layover day in Eastport.
Day 5: Eastport to Lubec
Elevation Gain: 3,095’
After a restful two nights in Eastport, we’ll head back towards Sipayik, crossing through Perry and then into Pembroke, where our first rest stop of the day is at the Pembroke Library.
After the rest stop, riders have the option of riding down to Reversing Falls, or heading directly to Lubec. Reversing Falls is a unique water feature created by the powerful currents of the tidal waters filling and draining in Cobscook Bay. As the tide dramatically rises or falls an average of 20 feet every 6.4 hours, the channel transforms from peaceful, still water to a raging torrent and back again. On the incoming tide, the water filling Dennys and Whiting bays passes through the narrow channel between Mahar Point and Falls Island. In this channel, a huge ledge impedes the current to create the falls, deep whirlpools, and high swells. On the outgoing tide, the process occurs in the reverse direction, hence the reversing falls. A 12-foot drop between the two ends of the falls occurs at mid-tide. Reversing Falls Park is paradise to those who love the sounds of rushing water, the sight of an eagle flying overhead, seals basking on the rocks, and the smell of the fresh salt air. This is the ideal place for photographers, picnickers, and anyone who appreciates the natural beauty of this area.
Our route takes us through Dennysville, home of the Academy/Vestry Museum, which is featuring an exhibit entitled Audubon Down East. Down East Maine hosted two visits from the celebrated 19th-century ornithologist and artist John James Audubon. Audubon twice stayed in this area while he was in the process of painting over 400 birds for his monumental collection, “The Birds of America.” In late August of 1832, Audubon, with his wife Lucy and their two sons, stayed in Dennysville for a month with the Lincoln family, scouring the woods and fields, drawing and finishing several birds, notably the Spruce Grouse, and writing about a remarkable event on the Dennys River in an essay entitled “The Force of the Waters.” After a winter in Boston and New York, he returned to Eastport the following spring. He hired the schooner “Ripley” under young Captain Emory, to take his party, including twenty-one-year-old Tom Lincoln, from Dennysville, to Labrador, where they collected over seventy bird specimens. Among a number of new species, Audubon discovered a small finch that he named the Lincoln Sparrow, in honor of his young companion and expert marksman, who collected the bird for him. In addition to the museum, the Dennysville Historical District includes 22 in Colonial Revival and Federal style on 300 acres.
We next travel through a section of one of the oldest national wildlife refuges, the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. Located along the Atlantic Flyway, a migratory route that follows the coast of North America , this 20,000-acre refuge has over 50 miles of dirt roads and trails and 3 self-guided interpretive trails. The refuge provides important feeding and nesting habitat for many bird species, including waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, upland game birds, songbirds and birds of prey.
As we pedal along South Edmunds Road, we pass through a section of Cobscook Bay State Park, an 888-acre park that is surrounded on three sides by Cobscook Bay. Cobscook, the Maliseet-Passamaquoddy tribal word for “boiling tides,” aptly describes this setting where the tidal range averages 24 feet and can reach 28 feet (compared to a 9-foot average tide along Maine’s southernmost coast). The state park has 106 campsites and a boat launch.
A brief spin on Route 1 brings us to Tide Mill Road and our lunch stop.
Eight generations of the Bell family have lived and worked on this land since the first family member arrived from Scotland in 1765. The farm got its name because of a gristmill that the early Bells built on the water’s edge. The mill, which was in operation by 1800, was powered by the tide. Members of the 7th generation of Bells sustainably manage the woodlands and blueberry fields. Members of the 8th generation produce organic foods: vegetables, fruit and berries, meat, eggs, and dairy. The family currently is raising the ninth generation of Bells on the property, and all three generations work together in November and December to create fragrant balsam fir arrangements for homes across the country.
Following lunch, we stay on Route 1 to Whiting, where we make a left turn and head east towards Lubec. On our way into Lubec we’ll pass Monica’s Chocolates on the right. Monica Elliott’s culinary passion began in the family home when she was a child in her native country of Peru. Monica’s father specialized in desserts and taught Monica how to create the traditional Peruvian filling used today in her bonbons and other chocolates. After moving to Maine, Monica experimented with her own creations. The first recipe she perfected was the bonbon, based on the Peruvian filling she learned to make as a child. The enthusiastic response she received from friends and family who sampled her bonbons inspired her to develop additional chocolate recipes. At that time, Monica was seeking a new business venture and decided to open a chocolate shop in Lubec. Her shop is well known for its delicious chocolates and imported Peruvian clothing and gifts.
The BikeMaine Village is located at the Lubec Elementary School. For those planning to continue on to Campobello, make sure you first stop at the Village to check in and pick up an afternoon snack and water (and don’t forget to take your passport). If you’ve had your fill of riding for the day, head into town to enjoy Lubec’s shops, beer garden, vistas, and people.