By Josh Deakin
If you’re from the Pine Tree State, chances are you’ve heard of the infamous logging road known as The Golden Road – a 96-mile stretch of road leading from St. Zacharie Border Crossing and ending in Millinocket, Maine.
The road was constructed by Great Northern Paper Company in the late 1960s and into the early 1970s. It’s a private road, used primarily for wood transportation and as a result remains mostly unpaved with 65 miles covered in stone rather than tar.
It was a major convenience to be able to transport raw materials for the paper mill in Millinocket right to the site. Before the road was created, logs were floated downstream by workers known as “River Drivers.”
While the road is considered private, Great Northern Paper has always made the majority of the road available to the public for use. In fact, the road is greatly utilized by outdoor sportsmen looking for places to hunt and fish in addition to whitewater rafting expeditions looking for a place to drop into the West Branch of the Penobscot River.
The Golden Road’s name has two different origin stories depending on who you ask. It’s often said the name is related to the cost of the road, with Great Northern Paper stating in the 1980s it cost $6.8 million a year just to maintain. While this is a large cost, it was still considered savings when factoring in the time it took to float wood down river and the costs that come along with such a challenging endeavor.
Other people will say the name comes from the color of the road itself with it being full of dust and dirt that can cause the road to give off a golden color.
While Great Northern Paper Company no longer operates the mill, the road is still used today and is owned by four different companies. Many visitors journey along the Golden Road yearly for the scenic views it provides of the beautiful state we live in. The foliage in particular is a large attraction, especially for those tourists from “away.”
If you decide to take a trip down the infamous road, you’ll get a glimpse of Maine’s natural beauty as the road weaves its way through Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness as well as sections of the Appalachian Trail. You’ll pass through gorgeous sight-seeing opportunities of Maine’s tallest mountain as well as the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Katahdin sticks out through the trees and breaches the sky many times on the road’s winding curves and hills.
Once around Katahdin, you’ll pass through Caribou Lake where the Ripogenus Gorge waits. The Ripogenus Gorge is a small canyon where the West Branch of the Penobscot River enters Caribou Lake. The gorge extends 10 miles. You’ll also pass through Greenville and the Moosehead Lake region where you could visit the Indian Hill Trading Post or take a ferry ride across the lake.
In addition to the plethora of natural wonders that lie on the path of the Golden Road, you’ll also no doubt run into some wildlife along the way. All year long the road receives travel from people looking to see their first moose or bear. Since it does not receive the high travel of other routes in Maine, wildlife tends to stand out more on the path.
The Golden Road has served the Maine people for decades in a variety of ways and stands today as a special monument to the logging history of the state. While the Millinocket Mill isn’t taking in new lumber anymore, the road remains a popular destination and for good reason. If you’re looking for an out-of-the-way experience to see Maine’s natural beauty, look no further.
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