The Byway: a Journey to Maine’s Frontier

Katahdin WW Logo LayersWhat is a Scenic Byway?
The National Scenic Byways Program is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. The program is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve, and enhance selected roads throughout the United States. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways based on one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities.

America’s Byways® is the umbrella term used for marketing the collection of 150 distinct and diverse roads designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. America’s Byways include the National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads. The definition of “scenic” reaches beyond breathtaking vistas. All of America’s Byways® are “scenic”, representing the depth and breadth of scenery in America–natural and man-made panoramas; electrifying neon landscapes; ancient and modern history coming alive; native arts and culture; and scenes of friends, families and strangers sharing their stories

“Scenic Byways” is both a national and a state level program intended by governments at both levels to enhance the highway-based travel experience. Local groups convened in Maine and other parts of the country to support the byway development process have used the program in a variety of ways: to generate support for natural and cultural resource conservation within a byway corridor, to build consensus about key themes that underpin community identity and pride, to create travel experiences intended to attract and satisfy new visitors.

The 90-mile long Katahdin Woods & Waters Scenic Byway is located in northern Penobscot and Piscataquis Counties in north central Maine. It is the gateway to the fabled Maine Woods and the headwaters of the Penobscot River, a watershed of greater than 2 million acres of virtually undeveloped forest. The Byway has its major entry points from Interstate 95 Exits 244 and 264, in the towns of Medway and Sherman, respectively. These gateways to the Katahdin Woods & Waters Scenic Byway occur somewhat in the middle of the Byway while the terminal ends of the Byway are located at the Baxter State Park boundaries at Matagamon in the north and Togue Pond in the south. Baxter State Park is a quarter million acre Wilderness Park in which Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain, is located, all gifts to the people of the State of Maine by former Governor Percival P. Baxter.

In addition to providing access to Baxter State Park, the Katahdin Woods & Waters Scenic Byway is the primary entrance for most travelers and recreationists seeking the vast publicly accessible private lands which encompasses nearly a quarter of Maine. Located west of the Katahdin Woods & Waters Scenic Byway there are thousands of miles of unpaved roads available to the more seasoned traveler and adventurer.

The Corridor Partnership Plan for the Byway, developed and adopted by the KTP, focuses primarily on the recreational values available along and from the Byway. The significance of the recreational values of the region are followed closely by the historic and cultural stories to be told: dating back to the Paleo-Indian presence following the last glaciations nearly 12,000 years ago, to the early explorers and loggers, to the travels of Henry David Thoreau, to the emergence of the Magic City, Millinocket, where thousands of immigrant Italian stonemasons built a paper mill in the 1890s along with the town to support the mill.

Infrastructure development has been the primary focus of byway plans in the past, and the Katahdin Woods & Waters plan retains this element as a key aspect of its more comprehensive tourism development approach. Infrastructure development in this plan is primarily associated with improvements along the roadway itself citing specific needs for roadway improvements, suggesting establishment of gateway facilities at key locations along the byway intended to welcome and provide orientation to visitors, identifying opportunities for new scenic turnouts, and emphasizing the need for an effective signage plan.

The KTP has ensured that desired community outcomes have been taken into consideration when developing this plan and continues to advise the MaineDOT staff regarding location and type of informational signage and other improvements proposed for the Scenic Byway.

More information about the Katahdin Woods & Waters Scenic Byway can be found at the links below.


Corridor Partnership Plan
Infrastructure Projects
               Gateway Project
               Downtown Kiosks
               Scenic Turnouts
Interpretive Plan
               Scenic Qualities
               Recreational Qualities
               Natural Qualities
               Historical Qualities
               Cultural Qualities
Visitor Information
               Regional Map
               KW&W Scenic Byway Website (project in-process)
               Recreational Trails Map (project in-process)
               Video Tour (project in-process)


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