BikeMaine 2018: Acadia in the St. John Valley

Join us for BikeMaine 2018 as we explore Acadia in the St. John Valley – La Terre Entre Deux.

2018 Route Information

PRESQUE ISLE

Presque Isle, derived from the French term for peninsula (presqu’île), as the courses of the Aroostook River and Presque Isle Stream form a peninsula, is considered the hub of Aroostook County, the largest county in Maine, and the geographically largest east of the Mississippi River.

The village was founded in 1828 by Dennis Fairbanks and was originally known as Fairbanks Mills, with deep-rooted traditions in forestry and agriculture. Maine produces 4% of the national potato crop and Aroostook County produces 96% of that. In fact, the very first acre of potatoes planted in Aroostook County was planted in Presque Isle. Presque Isle is home to a nationally recognized Native American Tribe, the Aroostook Band of MicMacs, and has strong Acadian French and Swedish communities and culture nearby. Presque Isle boasts the first state park in the State of Maine, was the site of the 1978 lift-off of the first successful transatlantic balloon flight, and was the location of the nation’s first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile – the SNARK.

Presque Isle to Caribou Route Description

“And they’re off!”The BikeMaine 2018 route begins by heading east to Fort Fairfield, which is located along the Canada–US border and features the Potato Blossom Festival in mid-July. From there, we travel north to Limestone, a small Maine community that is home to the #1 ranked high school in Maine (Maine School of Science and Mathematics), the #1 largest industrial park in Maine at Loring Commerce Centre, the #1 ranked best tasting public drinking water in Maine, and the #1 ranked most affordable place to live in Maine. Our final destination for the day is Collins Pond Park in Caribou, the most northeastern city in the United States.  

Mileage: 51.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,760 feet

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CARIBOU

The City of Caribou is not only the most northeastern city in the United States; it sits as the central jewel in the Crown of Maine, Aroostook County. Located 345 miles NE of Boston, Caribou boasts four seasons, three nations (America, Canada, and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs), two languages (English and French), and one fantastic way of life!

Although lumberjacks and trappers first came to Caribou in the early 1800s, it wasn’t until 1859 that this corner of The County was incorporated. In the 1890s, Caribou saw an influx of settlers and the establishment of the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad. This helped create a booming agricultural export business, making Caribou a worldwide name in the potato growing and shipping industries, and cementing our proud farming heritage.

Today, Caribou and Aroostook County farmers plant approximately 60,000 acres of potatoes and have become known as the largest grower of broccoli on the East Coast. In addition to farming, Caribou industries include medical, information technology, comprehensive customer care companies, wood products, and some pretty amazing homegrown entrepreneurs!

Caribou to Madawaska Route Description        

“The Heart of the St. John Valley” Heading due north, the Day 2 route takes us to Van Buren, another town located on the Canada–US border, and named after President Martin Van Buren. From there, we bike along the St. John River, through the small towns of Keegan, Notre Dame, Lille, Grand Isle, and St. David. Our home for two nights is Madawaska, which is well known for its friendly people and great hospitality. It serves as the center of Acadian culture in Maine and features easy access to its Canadian neighbor, Edmundston, and its extensive system of off-road bike paths.

Mileage: 49.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,980 feet

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MADAWASKA

Madawaska is home to many cultural and historical sites, all of which tell the story of its French-Acadian settlers. The spot where its ancestors first stepped foot in northern Maine is marked with a large cross, erected at the location where Acadians landed after fleeing from their Nova Scotia homeland in 1785 to avoid being deported by the British. During the early colonial period, Madawaska was a meeting place and hunting/fishing area for the Maliseet nation. Later, it was at the center of the bloodless Aroostook War.

The final border between the two countries was established with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, which gave Maine most of the disputed area, and gave the British a militarily vital connection between the province of Québec and the province of New Brunswick. Madawaska is the northernmost town in New England and its economy centers on the Saint John River paper industry. The Madawaska mill specializes in fine-grade papers. The town’s economy is highly dependent upon cross-border trade, to the extent that Madawaska and its larger sister city of Edmundston are considered by residents under many aspects, a single economic entity.

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Madawaska to Fort Kent Route Description      

“The little town that could” Today’s route will make you dizzy, as it heads south to Long Lake, north through Frenchville, back south through St. Agatha, southwest through Ouellette, and north to New Canada and Fort Kent, our home for two nights. Fort Kent is a vibrant and prosperous community where one can attend kindergarten through 8th grade, graduate from high school, complete a 4-year college degree, AND earn a PhD . . . all within the same block!  

Mileage: 47 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,690 feet

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FORT KENT

Fort Kent is a picturesque town located in Northern Maine on the Canadian Border. Known as the “Little Town That Could,” Fort Kent has a rich heritage in French Canadian background that is instilled in the community. The Wesget Sipu people who live here today are dedicated to preserving their native culture and traditions. Fort Kent’s French-speaking cultural origins pre-date – by 50 or more years – the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, which created the border between current day Maine and Canada. The Acadians and the Québécois comprised the French population during the years before a border existed in the region.

In the 19th Century, Maine was the breadbasket of the Northeast. By the 1850s, buckwheat emerged as the grain crop of choice in the St. John Valley, representing 40-45% of all grain production in the area. Buckwheat pancakes, known locally as ployes (rhymes with boys), became a three-meal-per-day staple for Valley families from the 1850s to the 1950s. Ployes are such a rich part of Acadian culture that Fort Kent has celebrated the Ploye Festival every August for the last 16 years, where the featured event is cooking the world’s largest ploye, about 12 feet in diameter.

Fort Kent to Allagash to Fort Kent Route Description

“Northern Maine moose country” Day 5 is an out-and-back that starts in Fort Kent, heads southwest to Allagash, and then back to Fort Kent. This is a “not to be missed” adventure that takes you through a part of Maine that few have experienced by car, no less by bike. And, since Allagash is the starting point of the St. John Valley Cultural Byway, there are many historic and cultural sites along the way that should pique your interests. With the confluence of the Allagash and St. John Rivers located in the heart of town, Allagash provides access to numerous camping, fishing, and canoeing activities. Additionally, this area also offers hunting adventures for partridge, moose, deer, and bear during the fall season. 

Mileage:  62.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet

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ALLAGASH

Despite its small population – 236 in the 2010 Census – Allagash boasts the largest total land area of any town in Maine. Located where the Allagash River and St. John River meet, Allagash is home to authors, artists, and musicians; crafters, quilters, and woodworkers; photographers, naturalists, and outfitters; and hardworking persons of many trades…an eclectic place.

Allagash was first inhabited by Algonguin Indians, who occupied all of the lands east of the Great Lakes, across New England, and into the Maritime regions. They were broken up into bands, which included the Mi’kmaq, the Passamaquoddy, the Maliseet, and the Penobscot. In the Allagash area, most of the Indians were from the Maliseet and the Mi’kmaq tribes, which eventually formed a loose group now called the Wabanaki.

Most of the early settlers were of Scotch-Irish descent. It is hard to pinpoint the exact year that the first settlers came to Allagash, and if you listen closely you can hear the touch of brogue that is uniquely Allagash.

Fort Kent to St. Agatha Route Description

“Camping in style”- Upon leaving Fort Kent, the route heads back east to Frenchville, a bit south to Long Lake, and farther east to explore the small but Acadian culture-rich communities of Fournier and Grand Isle. We then take a southwest tack, passing through Lavertue, on our way to Morin Farms, which is on the eastern shore of Long Lake. Pedaling north along Long Lake, we make our way around the northern end of the lake and head to our final 2018 BikeMaine Village, Lakeview Camping Resort, which is located high on a bluff overlooking the magnificent Long Lake in St. Agatha (pronounced Saint Ah-gaht).   

Mileage: 50 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,550 feet

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ST. AGATHA

The Town of St. Agatha, Maine is a small rural community located in northern Aroostook County. St. Agatha has a year round resident population of approximately 750, with seasonal increases in both summer and winter. The town is home to Long Lake, a 6,000-acre and 12-mile long body of water that attracts many tourists and part-time residents each year.

The first settler to build at the head of Long Lake was Menon Ouellette, who came from Canada and built a lumber camp on the Reginald Tardiff Farm in 1847. After cutting was completed in the spring of 1848, he decided to stay and clear land for a farm. The soil was so rich that by 1865 over thirty families had settled at the head of the lake. The town bears the name of the parish, which had been established ten years earlier. The religious influence, which the community represents, was given the name — Town of St. Agatha — after the Sicilian Saint of the third century.

St. Agatha to Presque Isle Route Description                  

“Navigating the Lakes of Aroostook”-The last morning of BikeMaine 2018 begins with a beautiful ride along the western shore of Long Lake and through the town of Guerette, which is nestled alongside the eastern shore of Cross Lake. Heading southeast, we pedal through St. Etropus Cemetery (where we’ll have the road to ourselves!) and enjoy some rolling hills as we approach the northeastern shore of Madawaska Lake. From there, we continue riding southeast to New Sweden, a Swedish colony established in 1870, Caribou, and back to where we started . . . Presque Isle, Maine, where a farewell luncheon awaits.  

Mileage: 61 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,470 feet

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