Piscataquis County visitors need only follow the chickadee to find nature-based fun this summer.
Local efforts to boost nature-based tourism have resulted in The Maine Highlands Woods and Waters Tour, complete with way-finding signage featuring the official state bird. The tour directs visitors to 17 sites throughout the Moose-head, southern Piscataquis, and Katahdin regions.
Piscataquis was one of three pilot regions in Maine to under-take creation of nature-based tourism tours and was the first to complete the process. Each site underwent an assessment and any necessary improvements before inclusion on the tour. Most feature interpretive signage that provides a deeper meaning than the scenery and geography alone might convey.
Little Moose Unit encompasses about 15,000 acres of land west of Greenville in Moosehead Junction and Big Moose townships. Visitors will find ample opportunities to hike, fish and watch wildlife. There are some remote camping opportunities, as well. Information about Maine’s public lands can be found at www.maine.gov/doc/parks/index.html.
Mount Kineo is impressive from the shores of Rockwood, but views of the 800-foot mountain jutting up out of Moose-head Lake don’t tell the whole tale. A launch carries visitors to Kineo, where they will find a nine-hole golf course and several hiking trails. At the sum-mit, a former fire watchtower now serves as an observation tower providing breathtaking views across Moosehead Lake.
For a grasp of how large Moosehead Lake really is, em-bark from the Moosehead Marine Museum on a cruise aboard the Katahdin. Built as a steamship in 1914, the “Kate” was later converted to diesel. Moosehead Lake is 40 miles wide and 20 miles long, and a cruise aboard the Katahdin provides plenty of time to hear the captain’s tales about the logging era and about colorful island residents.
About 15 minutes south of Greenville on Route 15 is the scenic tiny town of Monson. Follow chickadee signage here onto the Elliotsville Road to reach the Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary. Park across from the road entrance and head out on foot to hike Borestone Mountain.
About 1.5 miles up the trail on Borestone Mountain, hikers will find the Moore Nature Center. This little visitor’s center has fun interpretive displays and souvenirs. Hike three miles to the East Peak for panoramic 360-degree views of Lake Onawa, Barren Mountain, and Sebec Lake.
Visitors who haven’t stopped by Lily Bay or Peaks-Kenny state parks recently should take another look. Guest facilities at the parks, situated on Moose-head and Sebec lakes respectively, have been upgraded. Call 695-2700 for Lily Bay in-formation or 564-2003 for Peaks-Kenny information.
Both the Guilford Memorial River Walk and the Pleasant River Walk in Brownville provide scenic foot trails alongside flowing rivers. Guilford walkers are sometimes treated to a peek at American bald eagles, herons, and other wildlife. The Pleasant River Walk features interpretive signs about the trees and other sights along the trail.
The Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District’s 180-acre Demonstration Forest features two historic homestead sites, a working for-est in various stages of regeneration, interpretive signage, and a glacially-carved canyon that allows hikers a tree-top view for bird watching. Call 564-2321 or visit www.piscataquisswcd.org.
Katahdin Iron Works is a state-maintained historic site featuring the remains of a blast furnace and charcoal kiln built in 1843. Nearby is Gulf Hagas, also known as the “Grand Can-yon of Maine” due to the four-mile-long gorge with vertical slate walls nearly 150 feet tall. The area is also home to The Hermitage, a stand of old-growth white pine included in the National Landmark Registry since 1968.
Seboeis Unit is 13,000 acres managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. Seboeis is situated halfway between Brown-ville Junction and Millinocket off Route 11. This is another great destination for hiking, fishing, wildlife watching and rustic camping.
The Maine Highlands Woods and Waters Tour also features several driving trails that take visitors to interesting scenic spots along the region’s high-ways and byways. Visit www.themainehighlands.com and click on the chickadee for details!