Recreational quality involves outdoor recreational activities directly association with and dependent upon the natural and cultural elements of the corridor’s landscape. The recreational activities provide opportunities for active and passive recreational experiences. They include, but are not limited to, downhill skiing, rafting, boating, fishing, and hiking. Driving the road itself may qualify as a pleasurable recreational experience. The recreational activities may be seasonal, but the quality and importance of the recreational activities as seasonal operations must be well recognized. (FHWA Interim Policy, May 18, 1995)
Description, Significance, Condition, Trend
It would be hard to overstate the quality of this area’s outdoor recreation resources. A combination of seasonal changes, varied topography, vast expanses of relatively undeveloped forestland, impressive and relatively undeveloped rivers and lakes, and a reasonably well developed infrastructure of trails, boat launches and camping areas allows this area to stand among the very best outdoor recreation destinations in the northeastern United States. Baxter State Park, with its extraordinary natural features and recreational infrastructure, plays a very significant role.
Seasonal Activities. Lodging sales figures suggest that summer is far and away the peak season for outdoor recreation in the Katahdin area. Summer activities include hiking and camping, wildlife viewing and photography. New ATV trails are in development. Area waterways offer exceptional opportunities for canoeing and motorized boating, and whitewater rafting is well developed on the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Freshwater fisheries are robust and well managed, with (per Natural Qualities section) several fly-fishing only ponds within Baxter and the West Branch of the Penobscot below Ripogenous Dam offering truly world class angling. Hunting takes the lead in the fall season with bear and moose as primary targets, and in winter, the area supports extensive snowmobile activity.
Infrastructure and Services. As noted, Katahdin represents the northern terminus of the internationally known Appalachian Trail and (not yet mentioned) the southern terminus of the relatively newly established International Appalachian Trail which now extends across Eastern Canada and, across the Atlantic through several European countries. It may eventually reach all the way to North Africa.
Baxter State Park offers outdoor recreationists a variety of rustic accommodations ranging from cabins to campsites. Areas outside the Park and along the corridor offer a wider array of lodging options, some including gourmet dining. Guide services and outfitters support excursions of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty, making the Katahdin area a true launch point for recreational excursions throughout what remains the largest expanse of undeveloped forest in the northeastern United States.
Access to land for recreational use. Among many issues, we note that a very large percentage of recreational activity in the Katahdin area occurs on privately owned land, and moreover, that much of this land is held for the purpose of growing timber. Much of this land is accessible because of an extensive road system that has been developed to gain access to timber, a development which occurred when the practice of river driving was made illegal to protect water quality. By informal convention, private lands in Maine are open to public access for most recreational purposes. Most large landowners abide by this convention, informally allowing recreational use of their roads as well.
As a result of extensive conservation activity in the north woods over the past two decades, recreational access to significant areas has been protected by legal covenants, which in most cases also prohibit future development (building), and thanks to Governor Percival Baxter, lands in Baxter State Park are protected and made available for public recreation, though with some restrictions to retain the wilderness character of the Park. Other public lands in the vicinity are managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.
Public lands, conservation easements and fee purchase conservation lands, privately held timberlands, and more developed areas create something of a patchwork of recreational access and use restrictions. At present, there is no formal coordination of policies and uses to insure long term accessibility for recreation.