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New England by Heart

Maine Lakes & Mountains

Spotlight map of Maine Lakes & Mountains region

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The Maine Lakes & Mountains region is an undeservedly poor cousin to the Maine coastline regions, and seems to get far less press than New Hampshire’s lakes and White Mountains. A 2020 study by the Maine Office of Tourism found that 67% of visitors came from the New England state, 33% from Maine alone. Might this be a well kept secret? Maybe. But one thing is sure: Its deep glacial lakes, fir swept peaks and rambling rivers are one of New Englanders’ beloved playgrounds, a draw in all seasons.

As the region name implies, the region is full of lakes, the major draws being Sebago Lake to the south, the second largest in the state, and Rangeley Lake to the north. But there are hundreds more, from large bodies like the fabulously named Mooselookmeguntic near Rangeley, to Sebago’s popular cousin Long Lake to the south. All that water also implies rivers, and there are plenty of those, as well. 

The king of these is the Androscoggin, which after flowing south for a bit from its headlands in the far northwest of the region, crosses the border into New Hampshire, and after wondering where it’s got to, makes a wide loop back across the border and heads toward the region’s eastern border, before veering off towards the Atlantic ocean. In the process, it drops over 1,200 vertical feet, and yes, that means waterfalls and rapids.

As for mountains, the Appalachian Mountains charge right through the region with 4,000 foot peaks, slashing their way through western and northern Maine on the way to their ultimate terminus in Newfoundland. Spruce, pine and Maine’s famous balsam fir blanket the mountains in deep green year round, while its maple, beech and birch fire up the slopes in fall with brilliant foliage.

The Comeback Kid
Photo of Androscoggin River near Leeds ME

As beautiful and wild as the region seems, it would be wrong to think it’s untouched. With its abundant fish and rushing waters, the Androscoggin early on became a magnet for commercial fisheries and mills and mill dams, and its tall, straight trees drew loggers. Later on, in the early 20th century, paper mills were built along the banks, proceeding to dump their toxic waste into the waters. By the 1960s, the river was one of the most polluted in the country. But this has a good ending! We can thank our lucky stars, and the efforts of U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie, who grew up in the area of Rumford, one of the major paper mill towns, for the passage of the 1972 Clean Water Act. It was a long road since then, but the river is now clean, welcoming anglers, kayakers and swimmers to its waters. Logging is also better controlled and mostly out of sight of visitors, and the region’s stewards are ensuring that these mountains and waterways remain precious natural assets for all visitors to enjoy.

What to experience

Here’s what you’ll want to experience in the Lakes & Mountains region, including “events not to miss”, those longstanding, beloved events for this region. Of course, in any given year, there are a multitude of events taking place. To find these, simply Google “events near <place>” or “events near me”, which will return an astonishingly comprehensive list of events. There are also apps you can download, like EventBrite. And it’s worth checking the Maine Tourism site

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