Aroostook County, whose name is from a Mi’kmaq word meaning “Beautiful River” is the northernmost region in Maine, sharing a border with Quebec and New Brunswick provinces. Established in 1839, 187 years after the creation of York County in southern Maine, it was involved in a boundary conflict, the Aroostook War of 1838-39, between British New Brunswick and the State of Maine. The dispute was fortunately resolved without bloodshed after much saber rattling, with the boundary happily established via the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.
Known locally as “The County” (or the “Crown of Maine” in honor of its location sitting atop the rest of the state, and for that matter, all of New England), it is reportedly larger in size than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, though its total population is only slightly higher than that of Portland, a couple hundred miles down in lower Maine.
The eastern portion of the county is relatively flat with long views to the western hills and even glimpses of Mount Katahdin from the southern end of the county where Houlton serves as Aroostook’s County Seat. This marks the terminus of Interstate 95 as it encounters the Canadian Border. Route 1, however, keeps on trekking northward to the central Aroostook and the commercial center of Presque Isle, Caribou and Fort Fairfield. These are all surrounded by potato fields as far as the eye can see, which lights up July with white, pink, lavender and purple flowers (yes, they bloom!). Presque Isle is also home to one of seven campuses of the University of Maine, and boasts its unique Maine Solar System Model – a scale model that extends from Presque Isle (hosting the Sun), south along Route 1 to Pluto in Houlton, and Eris all the way down in the Acadia & Downeast region.
Route 1 continues north to the Acadia-rich St John Valley region, where it too, bumps hard against the Canadian border in Van Buren. Here, you are likely to hear as much French as English. Acadian Village, a living museum in Van Buren, tells the story of the first settlers, Acadians escaping the Great Expulsion from Acadia.
Route 11, which shadows Route 1 to the west for the entire length of the county, represents the boundary of civilization. Beyond that is the North Maine Woods, a great wilderness area that comprises two thirds of the county, about 3.5 million acres of commercial forest land that contains the legendary 92 mile long series of lakes, streams, ponds, and rivers known as the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. It also encompasses the Deboullie Public Reserved Land, and the headwaters of the St. John River. What it doesn’t have is much of any permanent population – it is said that you are more likely to run into a moose than a human. What you will find is plenty of waterfalls, splotches of old growth forest, ice caves and lots and lots of Wildlife. Henry David Thoreau, enthralled with the region, wrote The Maine Woods, a book bringing to life the natural wonder of this wild region of Maine.
Aroostook is a four-season playground. Summer is for ATVing, bass fishing, hunting, canoeing/kayaking, hiking, camping, wildlife watching and scenic drives. Fall is all that, with leaf peeping thrown in. Winter is about snow, of course, with the average season dumping about 10 feet. This means snowmobiling, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding, ice fishing, and even snow tubing. While spring may bring on the mud, there is no shortage of great fishing.
Come to Aroostook for nature at its wildest.