A History of Moosehead’s Forests
August 3, 2021 by Destination Moosehead, Special thanks to Suzanne from the Moosehead Historical Society!
GETTING TO KNOW MOOSEHEAD’S FORESTS
Moosehead Lake forests were once home to Native American tribes, who thrived on the area’s abundance of food, water, and shelter. Mt. Kineo was prized for a rare rock type called rhyolite that indigenous peoples found ideal for flintknapping tools. The region was later settled by lumbermen who saw the value in bringing great wood to important markets. By the mid-1800s, steamboats were introduced, which fueled large-scale logging efforts. For example, steamboats towed thousands of logs corralled by boom chains to the East Outlet, which were then released down the Kennebec River to southerly markets.
Mt. Kineo also became a destination for well-to-do tourists who valued the stunning forest, mountain vistas, hunting, and fishing. The Kineo House, a grand hotel, fueled tourism beginning in the 1850s. Some remnants of the hotel are still visible, including the nine-hole golf course and some antique items that have been restored. Today, the Moosehead Lake area’s forestland continues to be a driving economic force for the region.
Photos provided by AMC
TODAY’S CONSERVATION METHODS
Tourism and timber remain the primary economic drivers of the Moosehead Lake region. Preservation is a strong focus in the region, with emphasis on protecting the area’s natural resources through conservation. . This means that some conserved land is held by the state, some by conservation groups, and some by private owners and/or corporations.
Lily Bay State Park, Mt. Kineo State Park, and nearly 1,000 acres of Farm Island (north of Kineo) are owned by Maine citizens but protected by deed restrictions that limit development, safeguard public access and, in some instances, make provisions for timber harvesting. Other parcels — adding up to hundreds of thousands of acres — are held by The Nature Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Forest Society of Maine, Weyerhaeuser,(a private timberland corporation), and The National Park Service.
There are some conservation guidelines in place that limit the use of forestlands around the Moosehead region. The restricted forestland might be an ecological reserve, designated deer yards, or just an area where cutting timber is forbidden. Some lake shores and rivers are off-limits to building as well.
This has not always been the case. In modern times, the land began to change ownership more frequently, often according to changing markets and investment opportunities. This created a sense of uncertainty locally, which eventually led to an increased focus on conserving the area’s assets in unique ways.
HOW ORGANIZATIONS ARE SHAPING MOOSEHEAD’S FORESTS
Today, the Forest Society of Maine, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and other select organizations have become instrumental in the conservation of Moosehead’s forests. Local landowners look to these organizations to help protect forestland. For example, one resident recently donated an 80-acre woodlot to the Forest Society in hopes that visitors will view it as a resource for learning about the area’s forests.
The Appalachian Mountain Club helped preserve the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, then shifted its focus to Maine, with the intention to become a partner in private ownership. Since its original acquisition of Little Lyford Pond and Camps, it expanded to include the conservation of large tracts of land on the east side of Moosehead region. Today, the operations include recreational lodges, cabins, and a forestry program, all of which offer area employment opportunities. AMC has also provided access to miles of hiking trails and new recreation opportunities.
Weyerhaeuser, the largest private forestland owner in the region, has been closely involved in both preservation and economic development efforts. Its work is focused on creating a sustainable forest-based economy.
BUILDING A PREDICTABLE FUTURE
With all of these efforts, locals and visitors alike can rest assured that the views and natural resources they have come to know and love will be here for years to come. Those who come to the forest for a sense of peace, stillness, and familiarity will continue to find a sanctuary from the chaos of everyday life. Conservation of Moosehead’s forestland is leading to a more stable, healthy, and predictable future for the people who choose to live and recreate among its stately trees.