Dead River, Upper Kennebec and Moose River Regions

The Kennebec River’s headwaters are located near the Canadian border in western Maine where they are known as the Moose River, which flows east through Jackman, emptying into Moosehead Lake.  The river leaves the lake at both the East Outlet and West Outlet, which later rejoin and empty into Indian Pond, pass through a long high-walled gorge, coming to The Forks, where it is joined by the Dead River.

The Dead River, which is sometimes known as the West Branch of the Kennebec, has two branches.  The North Branch begins near the Canadian Border and flows south through the Chain of Ponds to Flagstaff, while the South Branch begins at Saddleback Lake and flows east.  The two branches converge, forming the Dead River, which got its name from the barely discernable current on its traverse through the valley and is well-known for Benedict Arnold’s trek in the fall of 1775.  Today the river is dammed up at Long Falls, producing Flagstaff Lake.  From here the river flows easterly, passing over Grand Falls and meeting the Kennebec at West Forks.

Bingham, which was settled in 1784, is the gateway to the Upper Kennebec Region and formerly had hotels and daily stagecoaches that ran to Moose River via Parlin Pond, where a large hotel also stood.  Later the Somerset Railway followed the Kennebec, ending at Rockwood, where it brought visitors to camps on Pleasant Pond, Bald Mountain Pond, Moxie Pond and Knight Pond.  Outer lying camps could be reached via buckboard at Rowe, East Carry, Pierce, Otter, Enchanted, Grace and Chase Ponds.

The Dead River Region was also known for its great trout fishing and moose hunting.  Originally it was approached through the Carrabassett Valley, which had a stagecoach that started in Kingfield.  Another daily stage was available from North Anson, approaching Dead River though New Portland.   Finally a narrow gauge railway was built up the Carrabasset to Bigelow, bringing more sportsmen to the region.     The first camps in the Dead River valley were opened by Kennedy Smith at Tim Pond in the spring of 1878 and by O. A. Hutchins at King and Bartlett Lake that fall; both were famous for their excellent trout fishing.  Other camps could be found at Tea Pond, Jim Pond, Deer Pond, Blakesley Lake, Spencer Lake, Spring Lake, Black Brook and West Carry Pond.  The Ledge House offered rooms and cabins on the road to New Portland.

In 1888 Gus Douglas, a Dead River guide, killed a large moose near Kibby Mountain, which was mounted and displayed in the Smithsonian Institute.  And in 1913 Joe Knowles, a former guide went into the woods naked at King and Bartlett Camps, to survive on his own, and adventures he told about in Alone in the Wilderness, but it is still argued whether it was truly survival or just a publicity stunt for the Boston Post, where he was employed as an artist.

Access to the Moose River Region was eased by the building of the Canada Road in the early nineteenth century and settlement was begun there in 1820 by Samuel Holden.  Later the Canadian American Railroad passed along the Moose River, affording access by rail.  Camps were located at Skinner, Holeb Pond, Attean Lake, Crocker Pond, Heald Pond, Long Pond, Mackamp and Misery stations.