Jackman is a town in the Moose River Valley area of Maine. The area is called the "Switzerland of Maine" in local promotional literature as it's located in the western mountainous part of Maine. It represents an outpost of humanity in the sea of forest that engulfs the northwestern half of the state.
The economy of the Valley has historically been based in wood products and the railroad. Over the last hundred years tourism and border traffic with Canada has become increasingly important, since the town is a way station for travelers headed to and from Canada, being the only regular crossing into and from Quebec on the Maine border with Canada. As such, it has an interesting modern history. Most of the town's population is of French extraction, and many locals are fluent in French (On parle Francais, comme on dit.) It had an interesting Prohibition era experience--many of the town's oldest living inhabitants, as well as the parents and grandparents of most of the rest, were bootleggers. Since 9/11 the population of the town has increased as dozens more "homeland security" personnel have been assigned there. Muhammad Atta and one of the other hijackers purportedly came through the Jackman crossing on their way to Portland, where they flew to Boston to catch their final flight.
All that luridness aside, the primary reason most travelers come to Jackman herself (other than those en route to Quebec) is to enjoy the many outdoor recreation opportunities in the Valley.
The nearest large airport is in Bangor.
- Newton Field, 369 Main St, ☎ . Small paved airstrip with a 2900ft runway.
Jackman is located roughly 1.5 hrs by car north from Skowhegan/Madison on US Rt. 201; about an hour west from Greenville on Rt. 15, and perhaps 30 minutes south of Saint-Georges in Quebec via Route 173 and US 201.
Amtrak and Canadian Rail used to have service, but it has been discontinued.
There are no buses.
By car, snowmobile, boat, bike, ATV, floatplane, or on foot.
There are two main paved roads in town (201 & 15), many snowmobile trails, and dozens of dirt roads primarily built & used by the forest industry.
Today, most travel is of course motor driven. Historically, the Native Americans and European Colonists travelled by water, however, given the impassibility of the woods.
The Kennebec/Chaudière watersheds define the region. Jackman is set at the headwaters of the Kennebec River, which is the watershed that drains the center of the state. The two mains lakes in the town's boundaries, Attean Lake and Big Wood Lake are both a part of the Moose River, a tributary of the Kennebec. The Moose flows east from Jackman into Moosehead Lake (the largest in Maine, near Greenville) and then into the Kennebec which flows out of Moosehead to the southeast back past a small town called The Forks (year round population about 30, base for the rafting industry in the area, located about a half hour south of Jackman on Route 201, where the Dead River & Kennebec converge.) The Kennebec River then continues south to Skowhegan and Waterville, past the state capital Augusta, to the sea.
Immediately to the north is the Chaudière watershed, which flows into the St. Lawrence. There is a coalition of the Maine and Quebec Tourism offices which may be of interest, the Kennebec-Chaudière International Corridor.
The Native Americans would winter on the coast, and travel by canoe inland in the spring to the headwaters of the Kennebec to hunt and gather other resources. Mount Kineo on Mooosehead (near Rockwood, 30 minutes to the east of Jackman) was a primary source for flint, for example. Most of the Rivers (not to mention many other place names in Maine) are derived from Native American names that describe the place, as a sort of trip tik or description of the locale. The name "Kennebec" signifies "where alewives are cured" - in reference to a place on the river (probably near or on the coast) where the Native Americans dried fish. The many other names of Native American derivation in Maine have similar meanings.
The Post Colonial era just as fascinating. In 1775, Benedict Arnold led an expedition of 750 men by boat up the Kennebec by Jackman, then onto the Chaudiere in a failed attack on Quebec City.
In 1853, Henery David Thoreau took a train to Greenville, and then canoed from Greenville, by way of two mile long portages, to Bangor. His guide was a Penobscot Indian named Joe Attean, his name being the same as that of Attean Lake, in Jackman (the derivation of the name is probably from the French name Etienne, or Steven, which shows how the three cultures, Native, French and English, melded). Note that Jackman is at the head of that same watershed, and that if you are willing to portage two separate one mile portages, you can canoe from Jackman (or Greenville, say) all the way to either Bangor (down the Penobscot watershed) or St. John, New Brunswick ("up" the Allagash onto the St. John watershed) to the sea.
The above is only mentioned by way of describing what has been done by ancients and heroes. It is in no way an endorsement or suggestion.
It would take roughly two weeks & a bit of logistical support to canoe from Jackman to Bangor (say) - a radical trip. Just know it can be done.
It's all about the beauty of nature, especially in autumn when the trees are painted and the air is crisp. The winter is also sublime, with snow cloaking the spruce and fir, creating a winter wonderland to equal anything in Currier & Ives. The summer is very pleasant, warm, and usually sunny, and rarely very hot or humid. The spring, from April through early or mid June is perhaps the least interesting time of year, and historically has been black fly and mosquito spawning season. Lately, though, the bug season has been very mild.
Fishing in the area is also excellent. Trout (rainbow & touge) is the major gamefish locally, but landlocked salmon, pikerel and other species can be found as well. As for ice fishing, the lakes are frozen in from December through April or May, and are safe to cross until March, generally speaking. Check with the locals to avoid drowning yourself.
Hunting is also excellent: deer, moose, grouse, ducks, geese, etc. are all very common.
Which brings us to the point: the place is called the Moose River Valley for a reason. There are lots of meese here, folks. If they were rodents, it'd be called an infestation. So, if you are interested in "charismatic mega-fauna" (as opposed to the common, everyday stuff like trees and plankton that nobody ever cares about, but that ecologically matter far more) then Jackman is the place to visit. Just pay attention when driving, especially at night, because hitting a moose in your car can be - and usually is - deadly (and not just for the moose.) That caution aside, this is the best place in Maine, probably in the lower 48, to see a moose. Dawn & dusk are the best times to search, ask the locals for the best places to look. If all else fails, just drive 201 toward Canada in the evening, you'll see them.
Some of the best snowmobiling in New England is found in the greater Jackman area. The snow is usually good from December through March and the trail system is linked to Quebec's as well as the greater network in New England. There are hundreds of miles of trails in the immediate area. The word is that Jackman hasn't had a brown Christmas in 15,000 years, since before the last several glaciations at least. Unusually, the winter of 2006 offered only a disappointing glazing in December, but laid loads (as in feet) of snow down in March & April--effects of global climate change perhaps? Jackman Power Sports - Snowmobile & ATV sales & rentals, maintenance, accouterments, etc. Bishop's Store. Information (trail & snow conditions,anything else,) supplies, fuel. - Maine Snowmobile Association +1 207-622-6983
The same trails used by snowmobiles can be used in the summer as well. There are also hundreds of miles of logging roads that can also be ridden. DeLorme Atlas provides maps showing these roads.
On the Moose River there is a classic Class I & II rapid canoe trip, the Bow Trip, that hundreds of people make every year, starting at Holeb Pond, and looping in a bow into Attean. There's a guidebook "Quiet Water Canoe Guide," published by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Cry of the Loon Outfitters can equip & guide you.
- Rafting is a major tourist attraction on the Kennebec & Dead Rivers, and there are a dozen or so rafting companies in the area, mostly based 30 minutes or so south on US 201 in The Forks. One outfit is based in Jackman proper, Windfall Rafting, +1-800-683-2009. In The Forks there is Crabapple, +1-800-553-RAFT(7238), Magic Falls +1-800-207-7238, Northern Outdoors +1-800-765-7238, as well as several other companies. The Kennebec and Dead Rivers are both dam controlled, with class III rapids. The Kennebec has water released at a consistent high volume throughout the summer. Releases on the Dead are more rare, with major releases scheduled throughout the season. On normal days the Dead is class III - IV rapids, good for family outings. Contact the companies for more details.
Maine's geology is fascinating. Of particular interest are the state's fossils, which are mostly the traces of ancient marine animals that lived in the shallow tropical sea that submerged the area some 300 million years ago. Some of the best fossil hunting in Maine is in the Kennebec/Moosehead region. An ancient shellfish called the brachiopod is most common.
The area's leaves start turning in September, and usually peak around the end of the month, or the beginning of October. US Rt. 201 from Solon to Jackman is one of the most scenic routes in the state, and has been featured in places like Yankee magazine. Rt. 15 is also impressive, especially around Rockwood/Greenville, where Moosehead Lake & Mt. Kineo make for some astounding vistas.
- Bishop's Store, 462 Main St, ☎ . Hunting and fishing licenses and all the gear.
- The Four Seasons, 417 Main St, ☎ . Immediately on the right after passing the railroad tracks in the center of town. Diner/family fare. Reasonable quality & prices.
- Mama Bear's Den., 420 Main St, ☎ . Directly across from the Four Seasons, similar menu & prices to Four Seasons.
- Bigwood Steak House, 1 Forest St, ☎ . Turn left immediately before Mamma Bear's when heading north on Main Street. The street forks, bear right. The steak house is in a converted house immediately on the right. The word on this place, informally surveyed, is positive.
- Schmooses Pub & Grille, 513 Main St, ☎ . On right, less than a half mile past Bishop's. Pub/barfood.
- The Northland Bar, ☎ . On the left when headed north on Main Street/201. Next to the railroad tracks in the center of the town. The traditional choice of the locals.
- Schmooses Pub & Grille, 513 Main St, ☎ . Further down on the right when headed north on Main Street, maybe a half mile.
- Cozy Cove Cabins, 3 Elm St (on Big Wood Lake), toll-free: .
- Bishop's Motel, Main Street, ☎ . In the center of town, directly across from Bishop's store
- Attean Lake Lodge, 163 Attean Rd, ☎ . This is a special mention. The Lodge is on an island on Attean Lake. To stay or visit, you have to call ahead and make reservations. You have to be picked up at Attean landing and taken to the lodge by launch. The road to the landing is on your left when entering town on 201, directly across from where Route 15 merges. The stays are normally weeklong, and booked far in advance. Meals might be scheduled more freely, though. The food, service and ambiance are worth the visit.
Take Route 201 directly north or south, or else 15 to the east, or paddle or fly. Walking will get most of you nowhere (as in deep into the puckerbrush) fast, unless you walk the road. In the winter you can take a snowmobile nearly anywhere there is snow.
|Routes through Jackman|
|Quebec City ← Saint-Georges ← becomes ← ←||N S||→ West Forks → Augusta|
|merges with N ← ends ←||W/N E/S||→ Greenville → Topsfield / Bangor|