Moosehead Lake and Piscataquis Region

Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in Maine, is one of Maine’s greatest treasures. Along with the Rangeley Lakes, it was one of the most frequented areas by sportsmen in the nineteenth century.  The Piscataquis region, which stretches from Monson to Millinocket, includes many mountains and ponds and was the home of many sporting camps.

Halfway up the lake is an isthmus that projects out from the eastern shore and has a promontory, which rises over 700 feet above the lake and is known as Mount Kineo.

Historically the Penobscot and other nations visited Kineo annually for the flint-like rock, from which they could form tools and weapons.  Our earliest written description of Moosehead Lake comes from the journal of British Col. Montressor, who canoed down the Moose River, down the lake and then down the Kennebec River in 1767.  About 1804 John Ellis, a hunter and guide, visited the lake when he was a young man, remained there trapping, hunting and fishing, supplying the hotels with venison, moose-meat and partridge. He became the most popular guide for many years.

Greenville, located at the foot of the lake, was settled about 1827 and with its several hotels, became the starting point and base for supplies for lumbermen, tourists and sportsmen.  The Kineo House, first built as a tavern and store, mostly served the lumbermen who were coming in and out of the woods, and what few sportsmen who ventured by on their way to the West Branch.  This hotel burned down several times and was rebuilt until it boasted over one hundred rooms.  It finally closed in the 1960’s, but the golf course remains and it is the starting point for people who come over by boat or ferry to climb the mountain.  It formerly had a fire tower, which has been converted into a viewing platform, affording one of the best views in the entire State.  In years past there were also several hotels located at the top of the lake, known as Northeast Carry.

Starting in the 1840’, several sportsmen, including Thoreau, paddled in the Moosehead region and wrote accounts of their adventures. John Way of Boston created a small guide and map of Moosehead in 1874.   This was followed by more extensive guidebooks by A. J. Farrar and Lucius Hubbard. Besides the colorful Old Ellis, who told wonderful stories, one of Moosehead’s most famous sons was Chief Henry Red Eagle, who starred in western films and wrote many articles about the history of the region.

Due to its difficult access, the Piscataquis region was mostly frequented by lumbermen, but in 1882 Charlie Randall and his son opened sporting camps at Little Lyford Pond and West Branch Pond.  After this sporting camps flourished on many of the ponds, including Sebec Lake, Lake Onawa, Horseshoe Pond, Long Pond, Third Roach Pond, Yoke Pond, Houston Pond and Second Roach Pond.   Camps were also located on the many ponds whose waters flow into the West Branch of the Penobscot.

Katahdin Iron Works flourished in the mid nineteenth century a hotel was built on Silver Lake, eventually being accessed by railroad.   Further up the West Branch of the Pleasant River is Gulf Hagas, a deep ravine which is often called “The Little Grand Canyon of the East.”  The wildest and most remote section of the entire Appalachian Trail, known as the Hundred Mile Wilderness,” traverses across this region.

Recently there has been a lot effort to conserve this region, with large holdings purchased and maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Nature Conservancy, Elliotsville Plantation and the State of Maine.