Photo above: Portrait of Sarah Molasses, Penobscot woman, by Anna Eliza Hardy, circa 1886. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons, Peabody Museum, Harvard. Photo right: East branch of the Penobscot River. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
It's so new, think August 24, 2016, that there's no visitor center, no paved roads, but a plethora of outdoors activities and acreage that awaits. Yes, this is another national monument that the Obama administration has used the 1907 Antiquities Act to create, and its one of the largest at 87,000 plus acres. It's all part of Maine's Big Woods in the north central part of the state, about two hours away from Acadia National Park. We don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that within five years, when services and facilities begin to pop up about the woods and East Penobscot River area of Katahdin, that the attendance here will soar. So, for those that like to get in while the getting is sparse, take a drive up from your New England home and check out the new guy on the block. Might be good to have four wheel drive to do it.
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Much of the region of the North Big Woods, of which the land of the Katahdin park is part of, was lumber company land, floating logs down the Penobscot River to sawmills in Bangor. It was land visited by a number of famous folks, including James Audubon, Theodore Roosevelt, and Henry David Thoreau. When Roxanne Quimby sold her interest in Burt's Bees to Clorox, her interest in conservation took a turn into purchasing part of the Big Woods, up to one hundred and twenty thousand acres, and turning it into a national park or national monument. This effort was not without criticism, with worry about thwarting traditional recreation activities such as hunting and snowmobling at the forefront.
So what does the name mean and where did it come from? Katahdin was the name of the mountain in Baxter State Park, 5,267 feet high, meaning "The Greatest Mountain" in the language of the Penobscot Indians. The first recorded scaling of the mountain by European settlers was made in 1804 by Charles Turner, Jr., a United States Congressman from Massachusetts.
Famous residents of the Penobscot Indian Tribe include an Olympic athlete. In 1912, Andrew Sockalexis, born in Old Town, Maine who grew up in Indian Island, Maine, as a member of the Penobscot nation, competed in the Marathon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics for the United States as well as his Indian Nation. He finished fourth.
Photo above: Nature scene of the waters and Mount Katahdin. Courtesy Pixabay/Coffee. Below: Katahdin Star Party. Courtesy National Park Service.
As of August 24, 2016, seventy thousand acres of the Quimby land has been donated to the National Park Service and been designated a national monument by President Obama. Quimby has also donated $20 million dollars for its upkeep and facilities.
It is a park of diversity and donation. Culled from the private lands of the Elliotsville Plantation, owned by the Roxanne Quinby family and foundation. They are the founders of Burt's Bees, back in the 1980's, of a personal natural product based beauty company (candles, soap, personal hygeine products), which sold to Clorox in 2007 for $925 million dollars. The land they donated to the National Park Service for Katahdin was worth sixty million.
So what's the scoop now. The park borders the east side of Baxter State Park and includes a portion of the East Branch of the Penobscot River. It's two hours from Acadia National Park and one hour north of Bangor. There are few paved roads, actually none right now inside the park itself, but that doesn't mean you can't hike, camp, fish, kayak, or bird watch. It's a pretty rural backcountry place. Your outdoors agenda is pretty much up to you.
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Things You Should Not Miss
Much of what is available to do at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is still to come, of course, outside the nature and water that has been there for centuries.
1. Hiking, camping, birding, canoe and rafting are all available for your warm weather fun.
2. Snowmobiling and snowshoeing are allowed on various tracts of the monument. Check with the park for where you're allowed to do each activity.
3. It has been stated that hunting will be allowed in a portion of the park. Check with the park authority and take part in the planning phases of the park starting fall 2016 to make sure this activity continues to be part of the monument.
Photo above: Family at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, 2018. Courtesy National Park Service. Below: Penobscot River with Mount Katahdin in the background. Photo courtesy Bob Walker, Wikipedia Commons.